Final postcard from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Dotted with sheep and ridged with tiny tracks, the hills around Hawke’s Bay seem to roll on forever, like a rumpled duvet. For the most part the slopes are without trees, those having lost their ground centuries earlier to humans. The tallest of the peaks in that region is Te Mata, from where I took this photograph during my visit in June 2022.

On one of the days I was there, I was taken for a drive through the hills. For part of the way we followed the Tukituki River, along an almost empty, winding road towards the coast, to visit a beautiful old homestead. The day – so special – began grey and cold, and ended with bright sunshine.

We drove back in the evening, the last of the sun picking out the tracks left by livestock as they walked the hills in search of the sweetest pastures. The sheep, dotted far and wide, seemed so small against the geography of it all, and I could imagine, barely hidden beneath them, the restless shift of tectonic plates. Occasionally there were farm houses, and closer to Havelock North, some immaculate vineyards, but for the most part it was a quiet road. The distances between neighbours were not huge, but the hills added an isolating feel. I wondered how it was for the farmers.

The next day I flew out of Napier, to Auckland, the carpet of crewcut hills tumbling away beneath us.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Postcard about Birdwoods, New Zealand

I saw elephants in New Zealand, at Birdwoods, strolling across the frosty grass. It felt strangely right, to see them in Havelock North, at the home/gallery/cafe/shop, of Zimbabwean friends of mine, Louise and Bruce Stobart.

At the end of June 2022, I spent three days with them, surrounded by art and hospitality. It was fascinating and wonderful, and full of bounce, despite the low ebb of tourists and seasonal workers that winter. New Zealand had just re-opened its borders post-pandemic and, like everywhere else, was trying to adjust to a new reality.

My memories of my stay, are of laughter, of greenery, and of art. And for me, what added that little extra, was the white waddle of the ducks beneath the trees as they went about their day, ignoring the visitors, the masterpieces, and the gentle bongs of the giant windchime. Every so often they would splash into the pond, unphased by the lifesize metal crocodile who kept watch by the fountain. I hope they, and all at Birdwoods, have had a good summer.

(Snow Queen below is by Zimbabwean sculptor, Lovemore Bonjisi. She may since have found new owners, but she looked completely at home in the Birdwoods garden, surrounded by other Zimbabwean carvings and sculptures).

Here is a link to Birdwoods with more information

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Thoughts on a postcard – volcanic land

This is about my New Zealand bus trip from Tauranga to Hastings, at the end of June last year.

The map told me I’d be travelling through the heart of volcano land. I imagined towering peaks, and dark valleys, with the bus winding along a lonely road, cold in the shadows. Well, I was wrong.

Our bus trip, especially the Rotorua to Taupō section was volcanic – but it wasn’t the lofty, Vesuvius kind of volcanic. It was understated and unexpected, for me at least. I was nodding off, head against the window, when I realised the bush on the edge of the road was smoking. And it wasn’t a bonfire. Steam seeped through the earth, sometimes in plumes, other times shifting in veils.

Then came Taupō, the town on the edge of the massive lake by the same name. We never saw much of the lake from the bus, but during the stop I found this view at the end of the street, with the type of peaks I’d been expecting. The lake looks tranquil, yet the land over which it is lying is not. Beneath the water is the restless caldera of a supervolcano, one that has erupted with enough force to earn it the top score (8) on the VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index). Vesuvius only managed a 5. Thankfully there has been no massive eruption since 232CE, although there have been some shaky bouts.

I took my photograph of the beautiful lake, bought a coffee, then climbed back on to the bus, and we headed on to Hastings, winding down through endless slopes of pine plantations, some freshly planted, some reaching maturity, others just stumps.

By the time we reached Hastings it was dark.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023