Friday, 29 July 2011

Film Festival Plans

I have become too precious about this blog, waiting 'til I have something really brilliant to say, and pictures to go with it. As this blog is really about keeping friends and family in touch with what's going on in my life here in New Zealand, I'm going to try for regular (perhaps weekly?) short, and imperfect posts about what's going on with me. So here goes.

I'm watching an orange-salmon-electric pink sunset over the hills of Johnsonville, and sipping my tea, and feeling self-satisfied for having gotten my Wellington International Film Festival tickets sorted this year.

Last year we were in 'hibernation' mode, exacerbated by the fact that we'd moved to the suburbs but hadn't yet accepted that we needed to buy a car. We ended up missing the Film Festival entirely, and this made me sad. So this year I got myself organised, reading the festival guide and picking out films ahead of time. I bought my tickets today, the first day of the festival, and still struggled to find good seats, and twice had picked something that was sold out and had to go with my second pick. Now, for some this would be considered leaving it to the last minute, but it was far more organised and planned out than anything I'd done in the past.

I love the film festival because I've never lived in a place that has one. Actually Wellington has more film festivals than I can keep track of, but this is The Big One, the one everyone looks forward to, a bright spot in an otherwise cold, rainy, windy antipodian Winter bereft of holidays. Loren and I don't tend to see many movies in the theatre the rest of the year. Movies are so expensive, and so often not worth the money. But the film festival is a far better bet; any movie you pick is likely to be quite good, even if it isn't your kind of movie.

I've picked four films this year. A Japanese animated film based on the children's book The Borrowers, which I am looking forward to seeing by myself. A rom-com about a son and father and their respective romantic entanglements, which I will be seeing with friends. And two documentaries - one about the portrayal of women in media, the other about the nefarious things corporations do to protect themselves from lawsuits - which I will be seeing with Loren next weekend.

I ended up with a range of genre, which I is a good thing. It was hard to restrain myself from buying twice as many tickets. Indeed there are folks who take weeks off of work to see as much of the Film Festival as they can. I am not that crazy, but flipping through all the possibilities on offer, I can understand the urge.

Despite the fact that we don't go to the movies much, I like the move theatre experience. I am looking forward to spending some time eating popcorn (or scoffing jaffas, or sipping flat whites) in dark theatres this weekend.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Day Five: Hamilton to Rotorua

In the morning we asked our host at the backpackers what there was to see in Hamilton. The only sight I knew of was the Riff Raff statue, but our host was clearly unimpressed by both the statue and the movie it represents, and stated that the botanic gardens were the best attraction Hamilton had to offer. Having already seen the Riff Raff statue in all its splendour the night before, I was dubious of this claim, but we decided to check it out on the way out of town.

It did not disappoint. I have never before experienced a garden that appeared not just planned and tended, but actually curated. We entered a central courtyard, and picked one of many doorways labelled as various garden collections. We chose the "Paradise Collection" which took us to a hedge-walled courtyard with a plaque explaining what the collection was about. There were archways in the hedge walls, labelled with the names of six different gardens, each representative of the style of a particular place and time. Following the one to the far right, we started with the Japanese Garden of Contemplation, and found that by simply following the paths, one garden lead eventually on to the next. Walking through a gate or archway to each new garden felt like entering a separate place, complete with architectural features representative of the culture and era. And each garden had a plaque, putting the garden in both cultural and philosophical context. It's hard to explain the effect of this. I'll have to rely on a few of the many pictures I took:

Indian Garden Hamilton Gardens

Indian Char Bagh Garden

Italian Renaissance Garden

Italian Renaissance Garden

Chinese Scholars Garden Hamilton Gardens

Chinese Scholars Garden

As you can see, this is no mere display of plants; it is an exhibition of the art of gardens themselves. The Waikato River runs right behind much of these gardens, and river outlooks are incorporated into many of them, so that you can alternately imagine the Waikato is any one of a number of famous rivers around the world.

From here we pushed on all the way to Rotorua. We stayed at a holiday park right on the lake, which we were pleased to discover made good use of the geothermal activity in the area. The bathrooms, and all common rooms were heated by geothermal steam directed through radiators, and the same treatment was given to the cabin Loren and I stayed in. They also had several thermal hot pools available, and a thermal hangi. A hangi is a Maori tern for an oven made constructed by heating stones in a pit in the ground, similar to the Hawaiian imu. But a thermal hangi uses thermal steam for heat. And in this case the structures the steam diverted into were built above ground level:

steam hangi at dawn 2

Steam rising from the hangi catches the morning sunlight

We were fortunate enough to find an excellent South American restaurant that evening called Sabroso, which featured dishes from various countries of that continent. And of course we had a lovely soak in the thermal hot pools before heading to bed in our delightfully thermal-heated cabin.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Day Four: Sheep World to Hamilton

When we woke, it was still raining. I could hear it quite loudly from my bunk-bed; it was hitting the roof approximately one foot above my head. We cosidered checking out Sheep World, but didn't make it past the gift shop. Entry was somewhere in the $20+ range, which seemed a bit steep for an attraction which appeared to consist mainly of watching people sheer sheep.

Back on the road, our plan was to make it as far as Auckland by the end of the day to pick up Loren. We picked a nice beach park to visit along the way, involving a short detour along scenic ridge of land, one of many little peninsulas making up the convoluted coastline along the Maharangi Harbour. We ended up at a lovely little beach near the mouth of the harbour. Retracing our steps, my best guess puts us at Otarawao Bay. We had picked it more or less at random, but it was a beautiful spot, with little islands dotting the harbour. The rain and clounds cleared out for a little while, and we had ourselves a nice walk on the beach.

A Beach, Northland

Mom and I spent some time exploring the interesting cliffs along one end of the beach

cliff formations and Mom

The surrounding area was mostly farmland, so we felt pretty lucky to find a cafe along our path, and even luckier when the food turned out to be good. I had a memorable twice-baked kumera - the guy was reluctant to divulge the secret recipe but would admit it involved sour cream and curry. We were the only patrons in the place and the owner (who turned out to be the guy behind the counter) came out and chatted with us. Dad soon discovered that the motorbike out front was his, which gave them something to talk about. He described the dangers of not only the winding roads, but also the pukeko - a colourful native bird that doesn't always have the good sense to get out of the way of a speeding motorbike. We had spotted a few in the pastures on our drive; we would encounter them in greater abundance when we got to Rotorua.

Our next stop was Orewa so I could pick up a pair of pants I had so cleverly left in the laundry room during our stay. We were in an internet cafe plotting our route through Auckland to pick up Loren at the convention centre when he text-ed to say he'd had some bad luck and dropped out of the running early, and couldn't wait to get out of Auckland. So we made one more daunting trip through Auckland's motorways in our campervan, picked up Loren, and promptly got back on the road again, putting Auckland behind us without a second thought. We had thought to stop at the nearest holiday park, but the appeal of a real bed for the night was too great, and we pushed on to Hamilton. It was a long trip for us drivers (me and Dad) but we did appreciate cozy Eagle's Nest Backpackers where we landed at the end of our day's journey.