A Travellerspoint blog

March 2010

New Zealand musings, New Zealand rains...

whats going down further South..



I've been in Wellington for five days now. This is the capital city of New Zealand, but as my friend Sarah, who I'm staying with says, "Its the Brighton to Auckland's London".....! I can see why its also drawn comparisons to San Francisco. Theres all these steep and heavily tree lined streets and avenues from which white weatherboard houses stand. From where I am in Brooklyn theres the most beautiful views I have ever seen, of Central Park, which dips down from here in a kind of deep foliage basin, after which you look out over a harbour and you can see the islands not far from the coast and far off mountain ranges turning blue in the distance. Theres a freshness to the air and I've felt authentically chilly here, for the first time in months and I love it. The walk from here into town is the most rejuvanating one ever, the view lifts your soul, the air lifts your headstate.

I travelled here on the Overlander train from Auckland. This is a twelve hour long train journey that runs pretty centrally down the North Island, top to bottom. Its a sweet train, quite small, with these massive huge windows so you can see the views. You have a tour guide type person announcing when you go through areas of historical or spiritual significance. Or anything at all really. Theres a guy called Dennis who waves to the train at the same time every day and he gets a mention too ("Hey theres Dennis, he's here every day, lets all give him a little wave!"). And you can also stand outside on a viewing platform which is amazing. You can get lost in the landscape, or laugh at all the people trying to have sneaky cigarettes and failing dismally in the wind. Its like going through a film set, all these buildings from the 1950's, farms and dairies, people out in the fields raise their hats and wave as you go past. Theres like this innocence which is born of all this space. The fact that actually, there still aren't that many people here in New Zealand outside of the cities. And part of you thrills to it. And another slightly cynical part going "My God, I've landed in a place where they still point at planes". Its wonderful.

The landscapes like nothing I've ever seen. Its like the most beautiful parts of Wales and the West country of England- that is, rolling green hills, scrubby moorland, deciduous forests. You also go along these amazing viaducts and two rivers- which are always prefixed by 'The Mighty' and you get a sense of the river spirits being alive and well here. Then you get to something completely new, like some tree you've never seen before. there are all these trees that resemble Tuscan cypresses that ascend upwards, that are seemingly randomly placed in rows, like part of a stage set with scenery that just needed using. Its weird. Sometimes you look out and the scenery's like a two dimensional Surrealist painting with these odd aspects. I used to work in a print gallery and we used to sell some really tacky and horrible abstract landscape pictures, but seeing this scenery I understood what it was some of those artists must have been trying to emulate. And I remembered this conversation I had with an artist in South Africa once, when we were looking at the darkening sky over Table Mountain and I said to him that you could never hope to emulate it. And he said "Thats no reason not to try...".

Wellingtons a relief after Auckland. It has its fair share of nasty Milton Keynes style architecture also but is smaller, prettier, more compact. I spent all afternoon in the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand yesterday. It is incredible- it is built on a huge scale, taking into account Maori planning principles, and is full of the most wonderful items. They have a real Maori Meeting House like in the picture above, in there. And several boats. I never knew catamarans were based on the double-hulled boat design of the Pacific Islanders. And all these interactive exhibitions you can play on. And the history of the Maoris, the Treaty of Waitangi, is all covered. I sat inside the Maori Meeting House for a while, looking at the carvings. The continuous spiral patterns have something in common with Celtic La Tene art, maybe coming from the same ethos that all life is continuous, it shape shifts rather than ends. And when you look at the rows of carved statues sitting next to one another, for one moment, they all look identical, like uniform rows of Storm Troopers. And then the next moment they all have their individuality back and they keep changing from one to the other. As if again underlining that all separation, all character individuality is fleeting and illusory. I also learnt that reproductions of Maori art is quite strictly monitored these days, as it is considered sacred. Any depiction of the head specifically. The head, as in Asian culture, is considered sacred, as it is the sea of the intellect, the springboard to growth.

And as this is a Yoga blog I should tell you what I've come across so far in the Wellington Ashtanga scene. A really beautiful shala, just off Cuba Street, called Te Aro astanga (www.astanga.co.nz) where I went to a Mysore class led by Mike Berghan. Like all the other Astanga teachers I've met here he was brilliant. Another student of Pattabhi Jois with a friendly and workable approach. I had a very exciting moment... After aiming to understand and be able to do Supta Kurmasana for quite a while now, I had sort of given up on it. I got into the full posture here, ankles crossed behind the head, the classical postion. The thing was though, it didn't feel that exciting. Another lesson, I was attaching too much to it before. And excitingly enough, Pete Sansons doing workshops here next week! So I get to work some more with him which is amazing. Very early mornings again so I"ll have to quit the late night wine and meals I've been enjoying here. Sarah's partner, Jen, is the most beautiful and hearty cook. Its good to spend time with them again, they are two friends from the Brighton days and I used to work with Sarah. They have a lovely house here, and a lovely ginger cat called Zsa Zsa. Makes me nostalgic for a bit of domesticity.

There is something magical here. I lost my Tarot cards last week but it didn't bother me. I thought I'd go looking for some more. And I found the most amazing set here, the Aura Soma cards by Pamela Matthews. There are a few versions of these and if you google them you don't find them, just some dodgy soft focus angel/aromatherapy type stuff so you''ll just have to take my word for it that these cards are beautiful. And she's reproduced the Major Cards so you have 22 cards 'returning' as well, as lessons learnt. And they seem to work. I met a woman called Maria who's a local clairvoyant and reader here and she says that this land is really something special. a very healing place. And I've had a series of dreams, almost like a catalogue of things I didn't want to think about. And its like with each dream, somethings being let go of, more than just wishful thinking because they don't seem to come in order of personal importance and old memories I never gave a thought are being held up for scrutiny. Hmmmmmmm. All very cosmic......... Three weeks to go before my course starts. I'm just going to focus on doing lots of reading and practice, and start doing some writing again. Proper writing.

Happily its been the Wellington Arts Festival while I've been here and I was lucky enough to see Neil Gaiman yesterday!!! I've loved his work since I was a little Sandman goth/fan in my late teens, and more recently I really enjoyed 'American Gods', as a book it really excited me. And he read an excerpt from it which was wicked. He is a fantastic speaker, very funny, very quick and he was speaking for an hour or so, dressed in his trademark black. And a member of the audience asked him what advice he would give to an aspiring writer and he said "Write. Write and write and make sure you finish stuff. And get t published because nothing makes your weaknesses more apparent than seeing them in print. This is my advice. I know that some people would like something else. Like 'Slaughter the Goat..... Then wait until midnight when you will hear three raps at the door..... For the love of God do NOT open it then..... A little later you will hear FIVE raps at the door..... at which point you must open it and I will be standing there holding a scroll for you. With Stephen King and JK Rowling on either side...' I am sorry, it doesn't happen that way. You just have to write." So inspired by that, I have lots of reading to do, for as I sat there a few ideas came my way.

Visit Wellington. Amazing place.

Posted by victoria8 12:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged women Comments (1)

Ashtanga in the Southern Hemisphere... New Zealand.....

new teachings, new inspiration....

sunny 24 °C


I have been in New Zealand for thirteen days now. Its not a bad flight fom Thailand, I got to wander around Hong Kong airport for quite a while as I danced on the jet lag tightrope- that late night/early morning hour that seems suspended for quite a while. It was about ten hours from Hong Kong, so all in all, bearable...

My first impression of the country was looking out of the big picture windows of the airport and seeing these hump-like velvety hills in the distance, like 'Lord of the Rings'. And how tall everyone seemed after Asia. And how loud and friendly people were. In a sense New Zealand reminds me a lot of South Africa, with the same kind of Southern hemisphere vibe and the kind of manners you don't often get in my age group in the UK. Almost a retro '50's vibe in a sense. Which I don't have a problem with. I got myself a wash and went off looking for internet access and when I couldn't get my card to work on the pay as you go internet this girl just gave me a two dollar coin and wished me a good day! And everyone talks to you. And then on the bus journey into Auckland when it was time to disembark, everyone thanked the driver on the way out. Which I haven't seen since Sheffield. I found the ferry terminal ok and jumped on the ferry to Baywater to meet my friend Nadia. I struggled with my rucksack and this big strapping guy carried it for me, both ends. And so I met up with Nadia, my friend from school who I hadn't seen in over five years, who's living here with her husband, and two kids now. It was good to see she hasn't really changed, still the same creative, wise, and kind of regal soul, who is ever so slightly batty (we were having a conversation about people who talk too much and she quoted some deep comment from Genghis Khan, of all people, I was amazed he had such a sensitive streak until later in the conversation, when it transpired she actually meant Kahlil Gibran...!).

And we had a little bit of a walk around as the sun shone down on us in a temperate and pleasant kind of way, away from the relentless heat I've had for months. And I clocked the happy badly dressed people eating BIG ice creams and plates of sushi. Well, not everyone dresses badly but you do see knee socks and sandals. And the kind of jeans/ shorts that are a bit 'Joe Bloggs '88'. And you find sushi everywhere which I love. So the first day we went back to her beautiful house in Baywater which is a 1930's weatherboard construction. Its funny, the houses here look almost 'hut like', like Edward Hopper images or something, but are so lovely inside, often with deco stained glass detail and that kind of thing. And we spent a happy day sitting out in the garden with a bottle of wine and caught up on all the gossip. I beat the jetlag by just staying up for as long as I could but it still takes a while to settle. The first day or two was just spent exploring the North Shore area a little, swimming, and finding my bearings. And I checked into a hostel near Queen Street, central Auckland that I could dump my stuff in and explore from.

Its hard keeping up a regular practice when your situation changes so much but I managed to fit in a couple of practices the first week at the Ashtanga shala on the Great North Road which had a visiting teacher from Wellington- Pete Sanson, in the photo above. He was recommended to me by someone I got talking to in Mysore and he is a fabulous teacher. I managed to do Supta Kurmasana and Garbha Pindasana under his tutelage- and he gave me a practical demo in how the arms weave through and make this possible. So my form was ragged- but much improved. I wish I had made it to all the classes as he was only there a week but fatigue got the better of me a little. He has a very calm and gentle teaching manner and has the eagle instinct of someone so completely in tune with the form that he can run a class of 40 and every single person benefits in their own practice. And he has a touch of the Indian English so you know he's studied long ("You wait, I come") and hard in the centre so to speak (though the real centres not geographical). And the Ashtanga Centre is run by a guy called Dik who I thought looked familiar- and then it turned out he was in Mysore in October last year and we met in the Sthalam 8 cafe! Small world! He is Pattabhi Jois certificated and a beautiful teacher also. I went and did an evening Mysore session with him and really benefitted there too. The shala is in Grey Lynn on the Great North Road (www.astangayoga.co.nz) and is spacious and clean, with a sense of the sacred there, that I really had missed in Thailand. It reminds me a little of Yoga Shala in Sheffield. To be honest the Absolute Yoga studio in Bangkok to me, had no SOUL.

However, Grey Lynn is a long walk from Queen Street for a morning practice so at Diks recommendation I checked out the Yoga Academy (www.yoga.co.nz) on Federal Street, next to the big huge hypodermic needle style Sky Tower in the centre of town. And was blown away by that too. I went and did a Mysore class yesterday under the tutelage of Jude Hynes- another Pattabhi Jois certified teacher- I am so spoilt here (!) who is a kind and wonderful teacher and made Marichyasana D deeper and easier and more logical and meditative than it has ever been... And their rates are so reasonable and I was fortuitous enough to go in on a day where they had some promotions and so picked up a ten class card. And so I can step up the practice again, back to a minimum of four times a week, any less, you don't really benefit, the continuity is so very important. So its good to have my rituals sorted.

Rituals are going to be important because I have changed my travel plans yet again. Its all good. If you read my travel blogs you may recall I was thinking about applying for work on a cruise ship. Well I contacted the company and they need an international REPS fitness qualification that as far as I was aware you could only do in the UK. And I was turning over some other ideas too, like studying for it in the USA... But as luck would have it I got a recommendation for a personal training course here from a Pilates teacher who really rated this school. And so I called them up and did some research. And it turns out that these guys are the company the top end cruise liners recruit directly from. How weird is that? Because for the moment I can't imagine settling, I want to keep moving, but obviously its not good to drain all your resources through travel, so this would be a way to keep funding my exploits. Plus the fact that I do genuinely love and care about exercise, I enjoy working with people, and I can teach Yoga with this too. I had to bite my tongue when I saw the ferry blurb to fitness staff though- all about the three week course they send you on in London so you can learn the 'Yoga and Pilates' bit.... If only Krishnamacharya had known about the cruise ship courses eh? He never would have needed to spend all those years in a cave in the Himalayas with his guru..... I mean really...

So I went along for my interview at the fitness college- they take fitness very seriously in New Zealand- it is the home of Pump and Combat- when I do the classes in the Les Mills gym here I sort of feel like a young Jedi in the presence of Yoda... Auckland is to the fitness industry what Mysore is to Ashtanga Yoga. Classes of over 75 people!!! All whooping and cheering in the most painful parts!!!!! Crazy, i love it so much. Anyway, the college is really good- they have great facilities, and there was a great atmosphere too- and they are very big on good manners. I may need to work on cultivating that attitude of relentless cheerfulness but it shouldn't be too hard! You have to smile BIG and say "Awesome!!!!" a lot- and MEAN IT!!! I got talking to some of the staff and they're cool, so it should be a good ten weeks. And I'm sure it'll be useful to go over my A and P again and do some business related study too. The course starts the beginning of April so I'm heading down to Wellington to catch up with a couple of old friends from Brighton, on the scenic train on Monday, and a bit of exploration before I'm back to the grindstone for a while. It feels so good to have something to work on again, I'm a typical Capricorn in the respect that without work, or a project, I feel sort of lost.... like a doozer with no doozer construction.........

I've also got out and about and met some people locally- I went to a talk on meditation the other night, which was great actually, and met a fellow Sheffielder(!) and met some guy called Jonathon too, and went on a bit of a fun Auckland pub crawl. And remembered the next day what a hangover feels like... no fun....

I'm spending this weekend in Auckland, going to some Hare Krishna thing in Albert Park on Sunday. And doing more people watching. One thing that sticks out here is how totally gorgeus some of the people are, theres quite a few people of Samoan and Maori descent, so different looking. And you see some amazing tattoos, on everyone. Theres a distinctly tribal/Pacific edge to the work. Most tattoos you see are monochromatic black. And I love the way you get these beautiful feminine girls with big bad strong looking tattoos. No messing about with names and butterflies here. And they don't seem to be so 'counter culture' here, like, you can be in some posh shop and there'll be a woman in her 50's with a tribal design etched on her wrist and its beautiful. There seems to be a good ethos here, on tattoos. That is, plan them, make them fit the part of the body they're going to be, and wear them with pride, as a totem, an expression of your journey. And bigger is always better with tattoos. If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly..........
Anyway, on that note, I'll leave it there for now.....

Posted by victoria8 00:35 Archived in New Zealand Tagged women Comments (0)

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