Friday, March 28, 2014

Moeraki Boulders: Who Stopped Payment On My Reality Check!?

  I had mentioned before that Jeff and I rented a van for the next 2 weeks, what I haven't told you yet is how amazing this particular van was.  The camper van comes equipped with a sink, cooking stove, utensils, table that converts to a bed, etc.  An essential living quarters on wheels.  What's even better is that the best deal we could find was from a company called Wicked Vans who specialize in craziness and hilarity.  Their vans are all clad with unique paintings, often sporting famous bands and quotes.  I saw a Black Sabbath van, a Dark Crystal, a Led Zeppelin, a Guns N' Roses, the list goes on.  You don't get the novelty of picking the van design so it's a very exciting thing to see what you end up with.
  Wicked Van also gives discounts for very interesting things.  For example, if you walk into the rental establishment completely naked, you get a free day of rental.  Apparently they flex the rules a bit and allow you to also strip down to your skivvies at the counter, and you will still get the savings.  Stay calm folks!  I am not that brave, and am much too pale to ever even consider trying for this particular discount.  You can imagine though, that this company often attracts interesting and light hearted patrons, so it wasn't at all shocking to find that renting from Wicked was like joining a secret society.  Any time the Wicked passed the Wicked en route, there was an exchange of waves or arm flails and honks.

  Now, as I said before, there were so many impressive murals driving around the island and I could not wait to see which van we were going to be rocking the next two weeks.  Boy was I surprised at what we ended up with!

 Behold the Pimp named Slickback!

And Cristal…you know, like the champagne.

  What!?  Are you kidding me!? I could have been traveling around in a David Bowie-mobile and this is what we get stuck with!?  One side has a pimp, which is kind of funny in a strange way, but the other side has Boobs McGee a.k.a. Cristal, and there is no way you can miss her with a bright pink background, try as you might to blend in to your surroundings.  The best part?  The pimp was on the driver side, which is where Jeff was, because to be honest I was a pretty big chicken and wasn't too quick to jump at the chance to drive on the left side of the road, although I feel I did an alright job in constantly reminding him to drive on the left side, let's face it, old habits die hard and sometimes cars just drift to the right a bit :)  Anyway, Jeff had a pimp on his side, and I had a hussy on mine.  I wonder how many people looked over at me and thought my actual name was Cristal.  How embarrassing!!!! and funny.  If you can't laugh at life, you'll just end up crying.   Written across the back of the van it said "Who stopped payment on my reality check?"  A valid question.  

  Imagine yourself on vacation with your family, pulling over to the side of the road to take a picture among other tourists and motorists, maybe your photo can't quite frame out the other cars, but the general idea of the shot is still there, giving a prime example of the beauties you saw while traveling.  Now imagine this van is one of those cars in the frame.  Photo Op officially ruined!!!  Wicked vans, tainting vacation photos and memories across the world! Ha! Life is fun.
  With 2 weeks we had a general plan of places we wanted to see, but otherwise no solid timeline to follow, so we just headed south down the coast toward New Zealand's famous Moeraki Boulders.  On the way we drove through Oamaru and stopped to stretch our legs which could not have been a more rewarding random find.  Welcome to Oamaru, the steampunk capital of NZ.  For those unfamiliar with the term, steampunk is a reference to a sub-genre of science fiction, often with a post-apocalyptic feel in which industrialized analog inventions rule the technological world rather than digital.  It often also is a style with references to Victorian Era style…remember the steampunk society we saw dressed up at the Greg Broadmore exhibit in Christchurch?  A fine example.

  In my over-active imagination this steampunk train is also a ghost train, and when the good people of Oamaru are sleeping the slumber of wee babes in their beds, this train takes off from these tracks and travels the rails of the sky through a thick blanket of fog, the daunting glow of red light filling the conductors cabin.  How could it possibly fly without a caboose? Magic and spells of course!!!  Welcome to the fun inner workings of my brain. I like it in here.

Clearly it's a magic ghost train.  It has a dragon head!

Nothing makes me feel more welcome anywhere, than bones and metal.

Mad max mobile.

The gate keeper. Gargoyles and rust.

    Our legs were stretched and we carried on down the road as I stared out the window, my imagination aflutter with steampunk visions.  We spent the night in Glencoe Camp, the first in a series of DOC (Department of Conservation) campsites that we would harass with the hideousness of Slickback and Cristal.

  It was so incredible to get use to living in a van, for several reasons.  First, I didn't have to set up and take down the van every day, like I did my tent.  At most I just had to push backpacks around to make room for sleeping, and I didn't have to roll up my sleeping bag every morning.  Have you heard the term glamping? Glamor camping.  This must be it!!!  Secondly, I wasn't solo in my venture, now responsibilities were shared.  It's wonderful how quickly two people can deduce their roles in daily routines of food preparation and van maintenance.  Who brews coffee, makes food, does dishes, fills the gas tank, navigates, drives, etc.  One day on the road was all it took and the rhythms of co-travel were founded.

  It was a smooth ride to the Moeraki Boulders.  These rock formations are layers of clay and calcite that have formed over millions of years, and have slowly been exhumed from coastal erosion, to reveal themselves, delicate, beautiful, and almost perfectly round.  God's marbles.


  This rock was about 12 inches thick, and crumbled beneath my weight with a little too much ease if you ask me!  Also note, the beginning of toenails are finally presenting themselves :)

Science sees the evolution of a boulder.
Logic sees physical evidence of the effects of time.
My brain sees an Everlasting Gobstopper.

  It's been estimated that the larger of the Moeraki boulders took somewhere between 4 and 5.5 million years to grow.

Emerging boulders.

There is a holiness here.  You feel it in your bones.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Christchurch: Reveling Amid the Rubble

  I hitched a few rides into Christchurch.  The first person who pulled over to the side of the road apologized for misleading me, but she was actually just pulling over to allow her young son an opportunity to be sick.  Poor little guy. I'm sure his favorite part of the whole ordeal was having an extra onlooker around for the fun.  Luckily, before he was too involved in what was happening a second car pulled over, this time to give me a lift. And away we went!
  It took 3 rides to get me to Christchurch, if I remember correctly.  Once in a city I do my best to make sense of the maps and directions, keeping them for reference in my head, memorizing the main streets as I cross them.  Generally I have a very keen sense of direction, and eventually I did have a clear understanding of the downtown region of Christchurch, but it took quite a bit longer than usual.  Even though the earthquake that shook Christchurch to the ground was 3 years prior, it looked as though it happened just a week ago.  Instead of using a tall building as a marker, or a unique set of shops, I found myself memorizing piles of rubble, and stacked railroad cars to differentiate between streets and landmarks.
  I was dropped at the side of one of the main roads and found the first 2 hostels along it to be fully booked, so I made my way toward the center of downtown, hoping to find better luck.  After three more hostels I finally found one with a room, which I booked for the next 3 nights, until my friend arrived.  I was getting tired, and a persistent headache was strengthening its way toward a migraine.  I checked in, and decided to take a small stroll around the park and Botanic Gardens, located merely one block from my hostel.  I wanted to see a bit before the migraine took over.  Within two blocks I found this 3 story painting.

I would have loved a more panned out photo, but there was a second building right next to it, so I couldn't back up any further for a better vantage point.

  It's an amazing painting, but the thing that excited me most about it most, was the fact that I had seen 3 of the artists other works in Nelson, while I was traveling around with Manu.  We had stopped to take our photo in front of one of them, when the couple who captured that the picture told us where to find the other two in town.  I never did find out the artists name, because he didn't sign any of them, but apparently he is a Belgian.  This is enough information for me to spend some time on the computer tracking him down, when I have time, but for now I will enjoy it as a series of luckily found beauties along my path.
  Here are the other three paintings by said Belgian artist which we found while in Nelson.

3 stories tall

3 stories tall

1 story tall

  After my stroll I headed back to the hostel to prepare for a night of being a pile of miserable migraine goo.  I drank a ridiculous amount of water, took a pain pill, prepped for my next days adventure of strolling through the city, and I went to bed by 9:30.  I wore thermals, which is what I generally wear when in a co-ed hostel dorm, because I didn't have the novelty of carrying around pajamas.   I ignored my roommates as best as I could to try and catch some sleep.  At 10:17 a fire alarm sounded, waking me, barely, into a fog of confusion in which I showed absolutely no sign of urgency.  I may as well have been trying to pick a book off the shelf of a library wall.

  My roommates were aflutter and scattered from the building in no time.  I wonder if my multiple run-ins with emergencies have thwarted me from panicking completely when the threat doesn't seem eminent, after all, it was only a 2 story building, I could have easily jumped out if need be.  So while in this state of slow-motion lackadaisical consciousness I grabbed what I deemed imperative, and made my way down to the street to gather with the hostel crowd, noticing an odor of burnt toast in the air as I descended the stairs.

  It wasn't until I got outside, that I realized just exactly how confused I was.  Picture the last person out of the building wearing thermals, a coat (mind you it was quite warm weather so it already seemed out of place), hiking boots untied straggling shoelaces drug behind and stepped on several times much to my and the steppers chagrin, thick black glasses clad on the female face also wearing an afro the color of fire, a small daypack which contained my camera, go pro, and a toiletry bag.  Then picture her glazed eyes turn to confused orbs as she realized she held a pair of pants in her hand.  Why?  Well, obviously my wallet was in the back pocket, and I might be needing that in case the building did in fact go up in flames.  What I apparently didn't think was essential to grab in this potential catastrophe, was my main backpack, which had all of my possessions in it, including my passport. Nope! Not necessary!

  The moral of this lesson, folks, is that although pain meds have their purpose, sometimes they make you a little too relaxed.

  Thankfully all the excitement was due to an overly sensitive alarm system responding to someones charred dinner.  After the fire department gave the okay, we filed our way back inside, and I quickly returned to my slumber while my dorm mates discussed the nights unexpected event.

  The next day I met with my friend Anthony, whom I was not expecting to see again, but he had gotten to Chich (short for Christchurch) the night before as well.  We travelled the city, both having left the trail due to injuries, and decided if we couldn't hike, we might as well have at least one set of normal clothes to travel in.  So while searching out thrift stores for a couple T-shirts and one pair of pants we saw some pretty beautiful things.

  These penguins are found outside the Re-Style mall downtown.  It's very innovative and quite fun, being that it's made of stacked railroad cars, which very commonly has been used to replace buildings that have been demolished or crumbled.  The train cars are also seen stacked in from of buildings along the street, which I initially thought was for storage for their reconstruction, but Anthony helped me deduce that they were actually a deflecting device.  In the case than another quake were to strike the area, the train cars would block the rubble of an already partially collapsed building from falling into the street.

  Parts of downtown were newly erected modern buildings, but their pristine, clean, new beauty was set to the backdrops of partially collapsed structures lined with train cars.  More than half of the downtown area was imprisoned behind chain link fence and construction barricades, waiting their turns in line for reconstruction.

A theatre

  In the above photo please note the steal structure erected to help maintain that one remaining wall facade from complete collapse.  And this is essentially what half of downtown looked like.

  I spent two days in Christchurch with Anthony and don't think he realizes what a help he was.  We talked life, love, friendship, travels, societal conformity and our personal lack therein.  We kept it light hearted and flew by the seat of our pants…while shopping for pants.  And for the record, if you want to know how expensive it is in NZ, just as an example, know that I shopped for two days before I found a pair of pants for less than $200…thank goodness for clearance racks!  I was about to become a nudist out of necessity rather than life-style choice.

  My departure from Anthony's company was no less sad than any of my other separations, but at this point I was very well practiced at saying goodbye.  I know everyone always boasts of intentions to keep in touch, but I am more stubborn than most, and when I meet a person worth keeping in my life, I will do whatever I can to keep them.  So I don't think of them as "goodbyes", but rather, "until the next adventures."

  Speaking of adventure, that evening my career as Life's jester struck again!  Christchurch really likes to force social gatherings on you via smoke alarms and evacuation procedures. Fire department responds to burnt kitchen food round 2.  This time I grabbed my wallet.  I didn't take it seriously at all.  It turns out I responded with the appropriate fervor.  Honestly though, an evacuation procedure is great place to meet people :)

  The afternoon of the 15th I went to the airport to meet Jeff, whom you will be seeing on a regular basis throughout the rest of the stories because I spent my last 2 weeks adventuring the rest of the south island with him in a rental van.  He is from Boise, but happens to work in Antarctica!!!! How awesome, for so many reasons.  First, I know someone who works in Antarctica, and that's impressive. Second, in knowing someone who works there I get to ask all the ridiculous questions you can imagine about the cold. For example, "When blowing bubbles in such drastically cold temperatures, do the bubbles freeze before they hit the ground?"  I know the answer to that question now, but I am not going to tell you. You have to get your own ice friend :)  Third, I get pictures and videos of penguins much more than the average person, and I feel like you can never have too many pictures or videos of penguins.  Cute little buggers!

  Originally my plan was to take a break from the trail and meet up with Jeff when he was finished with his season on the ice, play a few days, then return to the trail for the finish, but as you know nothing in life goes as planned.  Now that I had all the time in the world, we decided to meet up and travel the rest of the south island by van for 2 weeks.  2 weeks doesn't seem like that long, but just because you have all the time in the world doesn't mean you have all the funds in the world.  I was ready for the next chapter of this adventure.
  Jeff and I had 2 days in Christchurch to travel around, get the rental van, stock it with supplies, and be on our way.  During those two days, we took in as much of the city streets as we could.

Anton Parsons
Passing Time

Squares to the right….?

A great graffiti painting
and a pointing man sculpture on the roof…?

This is a pretty close example of what my studio usually looks like

So much street art!!!

To the masses the city is rubble. To an artist it is a canvas waiting to be repainted.

  I had mentioned meeting the artist Greg Broadmore while in Wellington.  When we met he had just returned to the capital city from traveling overseas, as well as from installing this show in Christchurch, which I of course went out of my way to see.

Maybe my favorite sculpture in the whole exhibit.

What you see when you peer inside is a whole other world!

...but be warned.

Peering into device may cause permanent eye joy.
Boy did it!!!
  It just so happened that the evening we went to see Greg's exhibit the local Steampunk Christchurch group had also gathered to see it.  So we ventured to the nearby bar where they were dining before heading to the exhibition so we could ogle their fine costumes, and sneak a photo :) Fancy lads!  Proof yet again that timing is everything, and to listen to the universe because she will guide you to the most wonderful things.

More street art

A blunt reminder in the journey through life

 We finished our tour of the city at (what use to be but is now the faint reminder of) the cathedral in the center of downtown.  And the next day the adventure would continue!!