Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The romantic aura of the artistic recluse

Since my last post, I got my grad school diploma, managed to get hired as a full time children's librarian, and moved back to America. More on those things later.

Here now are some images from the Driving Creek Railway, located in the Coromandel Penninsula home and studio grounds of Barry Brickell. He uses the clay to make his pottery. He built a small 15" railroad, himself, to transport clay out of the hills, and to move the finished pottery around. Check him out!

Even though he only needs to go about 200m into the property to get the clay, he continued building the railway.

He built bridges over gullies, including this double decker,

tunnels through hills,

and used a clever system of switchbacks to climb the hills. Then he lined the hills with sculptures.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Danger Danger Danger

Aotea Island signs are full of helpful warnings about how to deal with hazardous situations:

Do not put your head underwater in the hot springs. The impulse to do so is strong, definitely, but only in a morbid kind of way. Like when you are driving and you have the notion to put your head in the steering wheel. Why do humans have these thoughts? I don't know.

I hated color-coded fear in America, and I'm sad it has made it to New Zealand. I thought about burning this sign down in a neatly ironic protest.

My favorite danger sign was really just warning me about how much I would enjoy crossing this deep gully on a swing bridge made out of metal and chainlink, Indiana Jones style.

Aotea Island is a dangerous place but, like most danger, only if you bother to read. What, me worry?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Go North

North of Auckland, about four and a half hours by boat, is a fantastic island called Aotea, aka Great Barrier Island. A mere 600 people live in this paradise of rocky mountains, forested valleys, naturals hot springs and cool, wide beaches. I got off the ferry at Tryphena harbor where I got a ride up to where I started hiking. Jill (or Gell) the van driver had lived on the island for 12 years. When I told her how fresh it felt, so free of electric lights or pollution in the air she said "Well, sometimes the dust can be a problem." I found it hard to agree with this being a problem.

Quite a lot to see from the precipices of the coastal track along the east coast. Looking here at Rakitu (Arid) Island from Aotea.

The forest has trees that grow at all levels, and it would seem at different levels of sunlight. This makes it really dense, and muggy when it's wet.

Have you ever camped close to cows? It's scary. Quit lookin' at me, cow.

From the front door (only door, really) of my tent Thursday night.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Finding Aotea - we interrupt this broadcast -

image from

So much going on today that it's hard to know where to start. Yesterday, a huge earthquake hit Christchurch. It was a 6.3 which was not as strong as last September's 7.something, but it was much closer to the surface (only 7 km deep compared to 33km). This, and the fact that the city was already weakened, meant that it was much more deadly and costly. Get updates and see pictures in the New Zealand Herald online. And if you feel generous, you can donate by specifying the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal (which the U.S. is supporting with an urban search and rescue team) in addition to scores from other countries.

This disaster is devastating. 80% of New Zealand's second largest city is without water, and a significant portion, at least half, is without power. The city has been closed for what will probably be the week, with schools being turned into emergency shelter and distribution centers. In a show of kiwi spirit, the mayor has arranged for emergency cash distribution since all the ATMs are not working. I find this trusting and rational response very heartening, even though it is being made with a huge amount of grief and sorrow.

I'm safe and everyone I know in Christchurch is safe. I was going to blog about my recent trip to Aotea (Great Barrier) Island, accounting for why I was even further away from Christchurch than I normally am, but I'll save it for the next post.