While staying at the haunted Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans, I took the time to wander around the Blue Lake. Situated directly across the road from the pub, the lake is 800 metres long, 50 metres deep and completely man made. During the Otago gold rush, around the time of 1887, Saint Bathans transformed into a bustling town with nearly 2,000 miners living in the immediate vicinity. When the town was flooded with miners during the gold rush, the nearby Kildare Hill was transformed into a pit due to extensive sluicing operations. The pit was later filled with water and man into a lake.
The lake really is amazing and it was while walking along one of the tracks that I started to ponder what St Bathans would be like without the lake. Would the town still hold the attractive quality it does if it didn’t have the lake? I think it would!
All around the Wellington Waterfront there are these pieces of poetry, made in concert. I really like them, it’s like finding a wee bit of creative surprise when you’re least expect it. One morning as the sea mist was rising over the harbour, I was photographing some buildings as they emerged from their covered veil. During my wanderings I found amongst a group of plants a quotation from New Zealand Playwrite. I can’t remember what it was or who had written it, but after that I started noticing them everywhere! I later discovered they are part of the Wellington Writers Walk which was started in March, 2002.
‘Blue rain from a clear sky. Our world a cube of sunlight – but to the south the violet admonition of thunder.’
The other day, I found myself carefully and conscientiously navigating the Dunedin one way system. It was raining, and having left the Otago University area and heading south in my car, it was as I passed the Dunedin Railway Station that I began to ponder. You see, the Dunedin Railway Station is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar upgrade and has been surrounded by scaffolding and covered in white plastic wrap to allow workmen to complete the restoration without being impeded by the weather. So, as I drove past the railway station, I took a moment to look at the covered building and tried to figure out what it used to look like without all the white wrapping paper. Not being able to remember, I went in search of a photo to remind myself.
Let’s take a moment to summarise the current situation at the Gore District Council shall we. In October 2022, Ben Bell became mayor of Gore when he defeated incumbent Tracy Hicks by 8 votes. When that happened, he became the youngest mayor in New Zealand at 23 years of age and ended Hick’s six terms as mayor of the town.
Following his election win, the relationship between Bell and chief executive Stephen Parry broke down to the point where they no longer talk. Then, the city council brought forward a motion of no confidence in the mayor. However, at the time of the council meeting, no one would move the motion against the mayor and thus the motion of no confidence was not passed. A clear case of the wheels of local body politics working smoothly as always.
What a tranquil place Lake Hayes is. For the life of me, I can’t recall ever seeing it anything but placid and serene. Even when the weather has been miserable, all around the lake manages to remain reposeful. I’ve seen it when it’s windy, when it’s raining, when it’s hailing and snowing. I’ve seen it in the morning and the evening, at dawn and at dusk yet it really is quite remarkable how untroubled it always seems. I wonder why that is!
I drove to Cargills Castle on the cliffs above St Clair. Well, to be precise, I drove to the area that Cargills Castle is located in and walked around the neighbourhood looking for a good view of the historic building. That’s because the house is now completely surrounded by suburban homes. To get to the building you need to trespass across multiple driveways and properties, something the neighbourhood is clearly sick of as the whole suburb is filled with signs like ‘Private Driveway’, ‘No Trespassing – Private Property’ and ‘Private Property – Keep out!’ The Castle is actually nothing like a castle, is more of a stately home that has fallen into ruin through years of neglect. In the mid 1990’s the building was so derelict that the ballroom was demolished and the rest would have followed suit if the Cargill’s Castle Trust had not been formed and bought the building for $180,000.
Second Beach was covered with the usual accompaniment of small boulders, countless amounts of seaweed and washed up driftwood. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t enjoy a visit there. Made up completely of rock, the beach is nearly impossible to walk on since your feet sink with each step as years of consistent wave movement have created great drifts of raggedly oval stones worn to a polished smoothness. At the same time, the sea crashes into the shore creating a seemingly endless musical score of stones clattering on the shoreline while the air is filled with the smell of seaweed and spray from saltwater. It has tidal rock pools, unstable cliffs, disused quarry structures that are nearly eighty years old and occasionally you’ll see Sea Lions or Fur Seals basking on the shoreline. It’s one of the most glorious places in Dunedin.
Standing on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, looking out over the Octagon several thoughts occurred to me in a very random, scattered sort of way.
I stood facing the main entrance, my thoughts marveling at how Cathedral’s such as the one in front of me were built. If the task was left to me (despite that being a mass mistake) I wouldn’t know where to begin, let alone successfully designing and constructing a grand vaulted ceiling made of stone.
Turning to see the city, standing on the steps of the Cathedral looking out towards the harbour, it occurred to me what a glorious outlook it once would have been. Not that it’s a bad view now, but with a few less buildings and tall trees the view would have been superb.
My thoughts then focused on the stone steps that lead up to the main entrance and how many famous people and events had walked the same path. It’s no wonder Cathedrals were often considered the heart of a city I thought to myself.
At first glance the low cloud that was covering the city in the morning looked like it could clear. However, several hours later it was apparent that the gray rain clouds weren’t going to move anywhere soon, so with that, I decided a trip to the library was in order. Also, just like the large pile of books by the front door, somewhat overdue!
When I got to the library car park it was hard not to notice a 2017 Suzki Swift that seemed to be having a little trouble with steering, reversing, braking, finding the accelerator, doing three point turns and generally not blocking traffic! Parking with caution, I took some time to admire one of the many scaffolding features that seem to be a permanent feature of the inner city before heading for the depth of the library.
My plan for the day was simple: walk to Oriental Bay in Wellington to see the famous Carter Water Fountain. I was staying near the top end of Cuba Street in the city centre, and set out by first heading to the lower end of the street, before arriving at the waterfront. Once there, I passed the National Museum of Te Papa and the Naked Man Statue which linked up with the Wellington Waterfront Walk. This would lead me to the famous fountain which I was quite looking forward to seeing in action. Passing in front of Waitangi Park, I detoured around Clyde Quay Wharf and joined up with the road Oriental Parade. From there, I enjoyed a casual stroll which eventually led me to my destination of Freyberg Beach, Oriental Bay – home of the Carter Water Fountain.
Upon arriving in Oriental Bay, I came across something that I wasn’t expecting. The Fountain wasn’t working. This is something that hadn’t occurred to me before now. After a moment’s reflection, I decided that my first clue should have been the lack of a 16 meter high water spout 150 metres out into the bay.
Feeling slightly disappointed that I wasn’t going to see a Water Fountain, I turned my attention to a strangely shaped half circular Band Rotunda come Restaurant style building that was at the end of the bay. Consisting of three levels, with the bottom two being closed, I found my way to the open air, top level of the building. So, while I wasn’t able to see the Carter Water Fountain in action I was able to enjoy a view across the bay and harbour.
Strolling around Wellington, it doesn’t take long to come across some of the sculptures that are placed around the city. In fact, if you so desire you could spend an entire day finding all the various and interesting artworks around the place. One of these is a giant 6½-metre-high tripod sculpture that was created by Weta Workshop. The bronze sculpture is made from recycled mechanical parts including old camera reels, Nintendo controllers, Gameboys, a toasted sandwich maker, among other objects. Unveiled in 2005 at the end of Courtney Place, it was commissioned by the Wellington City Council to celebrate the film industry.
I was out among the hills around Dunedin, exploring the remains of some buildings that weren’t really standing yet hadn’t completely collapsed. After a bit, I came along a disused path which ran up along a fenceline that eventually opened out to overlook a small valley. It was while taking in the view, that I completely forgot I was standing right next to a paddock of horses. That was, until one came up behind me, nudged me in the back and scared me half to death!
While in Wellington, I found this statue/sculpture in Midland Park on Lambton Quay which celebrates the life and work of author Katherine Mansfield. Made entirely out of stainless steel, the sculpture is covered with quotes from her writing which becomes illuminated at night.
Born in Wellington, Mansfield went on to be considered one of the world’s most important authors of the modernist movement with her work having been published in 25 languages. To think, she achieved all that by the age of 34 when she passed away in Paris, France.
My destination was Lovers Leap and the Chasm. Both places I hadn’t been to in some years. I was looking forward to a nice walk with my reward being a pleasant peninsula view at the end of it. At one point I did notice that the track signs seemed to have changed, however, confident I knew where I was going I ignored these and set off under the watchful eye of the local sheep population.
Several Spotify songs later, I arrived at the spot where the viewing platform should be, only to find it wasn’t there. Replaced, with an unstable land warning. Confused, I backtracked and headed to the other viewing platform, which I quickly learnt had also disappeared.
Deciding it would now be prudent to follow the signs, I discovered a new track and viewing platform had been built and placed looking northeast over Allans Beach, Hoopers Inlet, Mt Charles and inland to Harbour Cone. Offloading my pack, I had to admit that this was probably a better view. I also realised that I was being watched by a very smug group of sheep that seemed to be saying “told ya so!”.
In 2019 The Department of Conservation removed the viewing platforms overlooking Lover’s Leap and the Chasm due to concerns over unstable land.
Spend some time thinking about the Albatross for a moment. These wonderful creatures have a lifespan of at least 50 years, spend up to 85% of it at sea and can go up to six years without touching land. They live off a diet of fish, squids, and crustaceans and once they find a mate they pair-up for life, producing one egg every two years. One fully grown, they weigh around 12 kilograms, have a wingspan of 3.5 meters, can fly up to 40km per hour and can travel up to 15,000 kilometers. In fact, the Northern Royal Albatross has been known to fly 190,000 kilometers a year.
If that’s not enough, there is only one place in the world where the Northern Royal Albatross breeds on the mainland and that is Taiaroa Head, on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin. A place that is home to more than 250 albatrosses. Isn’t that remarkable and just a little bit special.
I’m not sure about you, but recently I’ve been suffering from an overwhelming feeling that I’ve done all this before. This inkling of having previously experienced the present situation began last Wednesday when New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield appeared on TV at 1pm and announced the latest Covid 19 figures. Since then, my deja vu has only escalated. Prime Minister Jacdina Arden appears on TV with Dr Bloomfield most days at 1pm, former All Black John Kirwan is interviewed reminding us to look after our mental health, I have to queue to go to the supermarket (which I’m still banned from doing), I’m now in need of a haircut having missed my last appointment, I find myself checking the supply of toilet more than usual, my cookbooks have been dusted off, I’ve reacquainted myself with Zoom and people cross the street when they see me coming. This abrupt change in direction from my fellow walkers is by far the most unsettling of my deja vu symptoms.
The latest occurrence of this automatic person swerve happened this morning while out walking in my local neighbourhood. Having gotten several blocks into my walk, I looked up the footpath and around a slight bend to see a lady powering towards me. She automatically stepped into the middle of the road, gave me a look that said something along the lines of ‘I don’t know if you have the plague but I’m gonna assume you do’. Then, moments later we exchanged a friendly hello that suggested we had known each other for many years before disappearing down the empty street. However, the strangest thing about this interaction is the fact that it is especially common.
Later on, as my walk was reaching its termination and I had successfully slalomed around the dog poo on the footpaths, I began to wonder if I should be keeping a pointless lockdown diary to monitor my daily movements for moments of symptoms of deja vu. Take today for example, my diary entry world read as follows;
Diary Entry:Wednesday, 25th August. Walked around the neighborhood and avoided dog poo. Weather mild.
Of all the things I’ve learnt from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the last 24 hours, by far the most interesting and useful is that the Coromandel has a Bead Shop. Taras Beads to be precise. After the PM suddenly announced that we were going into lockdown for three days, and while the rest of the country dashed out the front door to restock the booze cabinet and beer fridge before grabbing a takeaway, I raced for my keyboard. You see, I have a very bad track record of buying dud Christmas presents for my wife and a Bead shop voucher would just be the item needed to avoid a 2021 disaster. After a quick search online, I found the Ministry of Health locations of interest list, leading me to Taras Beads, Arts and Crafts. Unfortunately, I discovered that Taras Beads didn’t have a website. This raised a further question; why was a 58 year old man in a Bead shop in the first place? I could only assume that he was wandering with his wife in the hope that they would soon give up lingering around, comparing prices, discussing and haggling and go for a drink. It was 3:00pm after all.
A bit of a change today from my usual creative adventures on the Esplanade. This is St Paul’s Anglican Church in Arrowtown, which is inland from Dunedin in Central Otago. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a road trip so I might need to organise one once the weekends become free. St Paul’s in Arrowtown was built at the time of the Otago gold rush in September 1871 which makes it 150 years old. Before it was the built many of the miners wanted a dedicated Anglican Community and once they had raised the necessary funds and found a piece of land, the church was built. It has been holding services in the same place ever since. @johncaswellnz#lovindunners#majesticdunedin#johncaswellnz
It seems lots of people had the same idea around 4pm today, head to the beach. While it’s still winter and the temperatures is sitting in the low range, there’s a just a fraction more light at the end of the day. It’s almost as if mother nature is hinting at spring!! @johncaswellnz#lovindunners#majesticdunedin#johncaswellnz
This is an image from my series titled ‘from the Esplanade – 30 images in 30 days’. It wasn’t included in the initial series of images, however it’s an image that I wanted to give life too. This spot is at the Long Dog Cafe which is at the end of the Esplanade also the entrance to the Salt Water Pool which is currently closed for the winter. It’s also an amazingly stunning spot to start the day at. @johncaswellnz#lovindunners#majesticdunedin#johncaswellnz
Back at Easter I had the pleasure and delight of watching the original 1939 movie the Wizard of Oz. It reminded me that there’s something quite wonderful and charming about watching a movie that was actually filmed on a set with real actors, backdrops that ever so slightly moved, props that wobbled and most of all no overly complicated storyline that seems to be the feature of any modern day classic film. Yes, I must confess to having enjoyed every second of the 101 minutes that Dorothy spent trying to get back home to her Kansas farm with her dog Toto to see her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. I even found myself quite delighted when she clicked her heels together and said “there’s no place like home.”
It suddenly occurred to me the other day that Wednesday was quickly rolling around and I didn’t have anything to write for my blog. Without realising it, I had once again unbalanced myself and spent a bit too much time taking photos while not really thinking about what to write about. This happens to me from time to time, grasshopper brain I think it’s called.
To reconnect with my fascinating weekly insights into life in Dunedin I took a quick glance back over my blog. The intention had been to explore the themes of culture and identity in Aotearoa by investigating if Ōtepoti reflect it’s Scotish roots of Kilts, Haggis and Robbie Burns poetry? Are we a nation still obsessed with Fush & Chups, The Edmonds Cookbook and Hokey Pokey Ice Cream? Do we still have a No 8 Wire mentality? Are these items symbolic of life in Aotearoa or just of an urban myth sold off to tourists who drive on the wrong side of the road and decorate bushes with loo paper?