In September of that year I went on a two week trip to NZ and said city in Australia and took, as per usual, a slew of photos. This was a few years before I finally had a digital camera, though. But I’m working through scanning all sorts of old photos as has been mentioned and today finally went through a batch from that trip. The Flickr set is here and here’s a selection, with some accompanying text here and there from a series of posts elsewhere from the time:
My posts on Melbourne itself didn’t really match with the photos, mostly talking about hanging around with Tim, Amanda, Keith, Sasha, Andrew G and James D, but of the ones I have that I put up, most are from the Royal Botanic Gardens to the south of the city center:
Including a few shots of the flying foxes in the area:
Similarly my thoughts about Auckland were mostly about people there like Damian, Elizabeth, Andrew and others rather than what I took as photos but here’s some from-the-top-of-an-old-volcano shots:
Then off to Dunedin:
Where I hung out with friends like Di, Rainy and SK, among others:
And I posed in front of Robert Burns’ statue:
And enjoyed the local brews:
One night I got to see Martin Phillips do an ad-hoc Chills show:
And had this to say:
But I had been warned. Some had seen shows, some had said that it was like a bad cover version of the Chills, generally speaking I expected nothing. But they were playing a cheap ($2.50 American) benefit show, an afternoon one, on the University of Otago campus at the pub. Rainy, Di and I were sitting around at another pub nearby and we decided ‘why not?’ and gave it a whirl. At the very least one of the opening bands — the Lonesome Throats — was said to be entertaining, and they were.
And the Chills themselves? Di was dismissive of the most recent show, and I didn’t know what to think. But Phillips looked in good health, the band seemed to know what it was doing…and it turned out I was a lucky guy. The newer/less familiar songs sounded pretty good. The covers of the La’s “There She Goes” and Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” — the latter of which got Di up and shaking groove thang — were damn all right. And the classics? “I Love My Leather Jacket” had all that cool clear surge one could want, the other oldies were a blast and a half and “Pink Frost” ended everything just the way it should.
The dance floor was filled with people Phillips’ age, people Di’s age, kids only eight or so years old, or younger. A Dunedin celebration that was unexpected, and all the more wonderful. I got a bit of a blessing, and I can’t complain.
Another day we all went down to St. Clair Beach (that’s Liz walking along there):
And another day…well I’ll let my words from then do the talking:
Somedays you just get lucky. And yesterday was like that. I had thought I’d do the book store scrounge-around on that day, as muttered above, and had vague plans for same. But I had mentioned to Rainy and others about wanting to get out on the Otago peninsula at some point, and taking a bus tour was suggested. I think I’ve muttered elsewhere that I’m really not one for package tours of any kind — I prefer chatting with friends about interesting things and places in favor of patter and the obvious ‘sights’ sold as such.
But what the hey — this was going to be my best (and maybe my only?) chance to go out there, and the weather was slightly cloudly and breezy but not either terribly windy or massively rainy, so I took all that as a sign. I booked a ticket for a combination trip that buses folks out to the end of the peninsula and from there to a combination working sheep farm/nature preserve. The owners, canny people, realized that a good way to increase karma and profits would be eco-touring, and on their lands are various beaches where seals and a particular rare breed of penguin — the yellow-headed, I think it’s called — are found, among other beasties.
And me? Well, I grew up near the sea, Navy family and all. I’m always used to the edge of the land, as I like to think of it. I like knowing that a continent ends. For me, some of the greatest and most intense personal pleasures of my life have been found while standing out on the edge of the sea, looking out across the ocean separating Olympic Peninsula from Vancouver Island while standing in the sunset on a western cliff on San Juan Island, or gazing out towards the Outer Hebrides from the Isle of Skye, right near the edge. These to me are personal, almost holy places — societal programming via Romantic sensibilities and theories of the sublime, perhaps. But I cannot and will not deny the power and grace I feel there, where there is nothing but short trees if any, wind hissing through the grass, waves crashing on the shore and an endless blue vista reaching out to an infinity.
I got that yesterday, out on Taiaroa Head at the end of Otago Peninsula. There the land and sea all blend, while the mainland of New Zealand is just right there — the way down the water to Dunedin is a pocket of contained beauty, the founding of the city a logical consequence of colonial interest and personal practicality. I looked out, slightly to the north and west — I could see sudden cliffs and mountains almost rising out of the water, and deeper inland the snow-covered mountains still there at the heart of the island, while the ocean swept out like a dream. Cormorants nested or flew in the air, and I was at perfect peace with everything. I could only imagine was a cold winter’s night might be like, with howling winds and a storm rising, but my time there was quietly dramatic and haunting enough. Every last fantasy of building the ultimate getaway isolated from everything and surrounded on almost all sides by ocean came to mind — a silly idea, of course. But not one to be ignored by my psyche, at the cost of denying who I am and what impulses I can feel.
And that was only the beginning, though, in ways — for the tour of the penguin and seal beaches were both worthy. We were a small group — the bus driver, two English tourists, the guide and myself — and that helped. The driver himself hadn’t seen much of this particular tour, so there was enjoyment all around. On the way down to view the seal beach, we passed by where they often come up the cliff to sun themselves, and there in a small pool separated from the path only by a two strand rope fence were four small seals in a pool, learning to swim or otherwise just sunning themselves. Kick in every last anthropomorphic interpretation ever, and why not? Big bulbous seal eyes are frankly the cutest things on the planet. And they were just as curious about us — one, noting that we didn’t threaten, made his or her way up from the pool, followed by the rest. We didn’t touch them or feed them anything, we just enjoyed their presence. Logically, my camera had to get jammed at that point, but I still got in a couple of pictures before we moved on — some memories will happily stick forever, though, and that’ll be one of them.
Then to the penguin beach — an even more dramatic setting, the photographs won’t be able to capture the sheer sweep up from the beach along the various cliffs. They’re shy ones, these kind of penguins, but they’re loud — you could hear their calls from across the beach as we stood in the hide clinging to one side of the small bay formed there. At a distance, one then another penguin would emerge from the surf, determinedly climbing the sandy slopes with a waddle, pausing every so often to stretch and relax. Near us, two penguins were in some low bracken and might well have begun to nest. Like the headland itself, like the seal beach, I could have stayed there forever.
On the drive back I drunk it all in, going over the memories in my mind. I hadn’t planned this, at all — I just got lucky, like I said. And for that, I treasure it all the more.
Well, there was more after that — Di leading the International Telepaths for a couple of shows:
Space Dust doing a reunion show:
Ducklingmonster and Di showing their impeccable DJ taste:
And then back to Auckland for a brief visit before heading home:
Yeah, I’ll be back. One day, soon.