WINE and ART ENTWINED
Spurred on by a sunny start to the day and the procession of locals who are power walking , jogging, running or cycling along the beach path we are up and doing our constitutional brisk walk early this morning. Marilyn goes left and, a little later, I go right. It is an ideal mile that just does enough to get the juices going. I fall into conversation along the way with a couple of old timers who have been out fishing the night before. I hear the same old fishing story,
“Caught seventeen mate but only kept three gooduns. But yeah mate they were THIS big.”
They tell me about the local storks that roost in the trees outside our house. The point out the gannets diving in the bay.
“ Surprised they don’t mash their brains in, the speed they crash into the water,” says one.
“ Yeah mate but it makes them go blind eventually,” replies the other sagely.
Some other local old boys have spread a net in a small row boat and are pulling in a catch of silver fish for bait and breakfast. They are mobbed by the seagulls as they put fistfuls of small fish into their catch bucket. And all this before breakfast!
We decide to stay local today and visit the vineyard ( winery in New Zealand speak ) that is perched on the hill above us. ‘The Brick Bay Winery and Sculpture Trail’ boasts a two km. walk through its land where one can admire strategically placed works of art.
‘Art and Wine entwined’ we are promised. It is a great idea but we are reminded of Mark Twain’s quote about golf – that it is ‘a good walk spoilt’ – and we wish that most of the artefacts had been left in the studio and the lovely natural environment had been left to speak for itself. At one point we walk through a semi-tropical forest and the Kauri trees present as a work of art to put all the person-made efforts in the shade. (Especially the row of trees with their trunks painted blue or the giant versions of childrens’ beach windmills – cost $75,000).
The walk is lovely – lakes, water lilies, forest and ferns and the glass of wine to finish off was fine. I admire the vineyard’s entrepreneurial spirit and its support for the Arts and I actually enjoy one or two of the installations but leave feeling that someone somewhere is taking the michael.
On the subject of wine rather than art I have to say that the New Zealand whites have been exceptional but the reds so far are a little disappointing. However, Marilyn manages to make excellent use of a Hawkes Bay ‘Matua Valley’ Merlot in a rather delicious coq au vin that we demolish as the sun sets.
Now that Coq au Vin IS a work of art………
Another Day Another Beach….
Today we decide to explore further afield in the North Lands and set off fairly early for us towards Whangarei Head and Ocean Beach. It is a spit away by NZ standards, a mere 300 km round trip. And what a lovely drive. The road is quiet despite it being the main highway1 north and it is the holidays. The views change as we pass through valleys and rolling hills that are rich in fruit ,vegetables and some livestock. We then have to climb over a pass before descending into the series of bays that lead to Whangarei. The hills are covered in ancient forest of unfamiliar trees and some that we are familiar with in Cornwall – the large Dicksonia ferns that grow to 30 feet here is common in Cornwall. The roads here are fringed with giant Agapanthus that we know well in Truro in summer. And Crocosmia is everywhere here as it might be back in Devon and Cornwall. They mix in with other less familiar sub-tropical plants to create a strangely comforting background to our journey. As in the States we are struck with the huge distances between habitation and the views from the tops of the hills seem to scan for miles and miles. Sea and cliffs and hills for ever it seems.
We have picnic lunch at Urquhart Bay. The name is a hint of the strong Scottish influences here. Apparently many settlers arrived in this region from Nova Scotia as well as Scotland and as the hills grow larger the similarities with Scotland become apparent.
This beach has a few families enjoying their picnics and the kids play in the shallows or swim out to moored boats. They are like fish in the water and very confident in this environment even as toddlers. This is a fantastic country to bring up children I imagine. We notice how many ‘childrens’ centres’ there are even in the smallest of towns. The kids around us in Snells Beach can run around carefree and it seems most of them are barefoot. They live most of their lives outdoors surrounded by countryside, sea and sand and are drawn into sports from the earliest age. We read today of a local boy of four who is playing under six rugby in a local club and is already giving the older boys the runaround.
We arrive at Ocean Beach eventually – a magnificent surf beach nestling below the impressive volcanic hills that tower above with their ragged summits that look like ancient heads or a primitive fort. Surf crashes in and the brave few are trying to tame it. The beach is carefully monitored by lifeguards and we notice one small lad loses his board and it gets whipped away in a rip current that he narrowly avoids getting caught up with as he tries to rescue his board. The guard is there quickly and is herding people into a small area in which it is safe to swim. As the tide falls the rip currents become very dangerous and somehow this does look like a very big and dangerous sea.
We walk the length of the beach and start to climb the hill above it. We don’t have time to do the full three hour walk and satisfy ourselves with a small climb and some clambering among the rocks before the two hour return drive through Mt Tiger Road and some more stunning views East and West.
Home at the Beach House a supper of local caught monkfish is washed down with one of the Sawmill wheat beers and, on Itunes, Warren Zevon plays ‘Lawyers Guns and Money’, a song we play in the band at home. And it all somehow seems a very long way away.