22 February 2013

The Other " Wild West "

As a native from America's west coast, my mind doesn't naturally conjure up images of what kiwis consider their "Wild West" as THE "Wild West".  It's a section of coast line that stretches for 600 kilometers and is rated as one of the top 10 drives in the world - not a bad start - and wraps around through a national park, gorges, rain forests, ocean, caves, and such.  Part of Paparoa National Park in Punakaiki is where the famous Pancake Rocks exist.  I’d like to think it’s pretty self explanatory as to why.  Hard and soft rock formations eroded by the sea and wind… or so I’m told (clearly I would never have figured that out).  I simply thought they were beautiful and interesting.  Unfortunately my photos don’t give this place much justice… and really no scale as to how big these formations really are.  They’re big.  And I definitely wouldn’t want to swim down in that as huge waves come rushing through constantly.  To me, a place like this is so beautiful simply because it possesses so many textures and colors between the horizontal layers of gray rock, crashing dark blue of the sea, soft edges of green plants, hazy, white sea air, rainforest taking over rock, and straight and solid meets cold fluidity. 

I wish that I had stayed in Punakaiki for a few days.  While there really isn’t anything to do but walk around the rain forest and beach, that’s all I wanted to do.  The lodge we stayed in was absolutely wonderful.  Tucked away in the rainforest just off of the beach, it was a foggy wonderland with low overhanging trees, gravel pathways, and warm cabins with an old wood burning fireplace, wooden floors, a rustic kitchen, plaid blankets, and lots of board games.  If only I had known about this place sooner and I would have arranged for me to stay there longer… oh well!

The next morning, I got up early to take a green stone (aka Pounamu in Maori) carving class for a few hours.  Green stone is carved into various shapes, often for necklaces, and is meant to be given to someone special.  According to Wikipedia, this is what they have to say on pounamu:

Pounamu plays a very important role in Maori culture. It is considered a taonga (treasure). Pounamu taonga increase in mana (prestige) as they pass from one generation to another. The most prized taonga are those with known histories going back many generations. These are believed to have their own mana and were often given as gifts to seal important agreements. Pounamu taonga include tools such as chisels (whao) and adzes (toki), fishing hooks and lures, and bird leg rings; weapons such as mere (short handled clubs); and ornaments such as pendants (hei-tikihei matau and pekapeka), ear pendents, and cloak pins. It is found only in the South Island of New Zealand, known in Maori as Te Wai Pounamu ("The [land of] Greenstone Water") or Te Wahi Pounamu ("The Place of Greenstone").  

Frankly, I didn’t know who I would be giving mine to, but thought the experience would be fun and I love me some arts and crafts!  I’m here to tell you, it’s harder than it looks.  I chose I fish hook design, partly because I thought it was pretty and partly because it was all we had time for.

Our instructor is a man who is the salt of the earth.  In his spare time he goes to the nearby river to look for green stone.  Now, they don’t look like green stone on the outside, they really just look like typical rocks.  But he’s got an eye that knows what to look for, and to tell us, he would have had to kill us.  So he selected a small, already sliced piece of stone, hand-drew a few designs on them, we each selected one, he then loosely cut them out and then showed us how to do the rest – sanding it down using various tools, wheels, etc.  I’ve got mad respect for people who do this day in and day out.  Like all tasks that require you to focus on the smallest detail, I found it to be very zen-like and watched this small, flat piece of stone turn into something green, curved and beautiful.

Not awful for my first time!


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