Monday, 14 April 2014

Day 30

photo (c) Valerie Swatridge 2014

It felt strange, yesterday, to be getting ready for the day by ironing a purple shirt and polishing my black shoes. Stranger still to be getting into a car and driving through the city to the Cathedral. This was the day when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in town and I needed to be at the Cathedral earlyish, although I had precious little to do in the service. The inoffensive looking young cop was embarrassed as he told me I couldn't park in my accustomed spot, but we found one fairly near and I had an hour or more of thumb twiddling and heel cooling as the cathedral filled with the faithful and the curious. The motorcade was late, the service started 20 minutes after its alloted time and rolled on its well rehearsed way for the requisite hour and ten minutes. The choir was large and sang beautifully. The dean preached well and Clemency quite enjoyed wearing a hat and sitting next to the royals. There was coffee and champagne in the crypt afterwards and then home with time for me to think about the next event.

We met in the Octagon at 4:00 pm with the Nor' Easter starting to bite with some ferocity. Benjamin had excelled himself in putting the event together, with live music on a decent stage and with a good sound system. The cold wind mitigated against a large crowd forming although there were about 150 there from most of the Dunedin parishes and from North Otago and Southland. Dion, who had seemed so quiet and considered when driving the Hikoi van, MCed with energy and wit and style. We followed the practice which had grown on the road: Phil and I spoke and John prayed. At the alloted time the good folks from The Best Cafe showed up with fish and chips and we closed by releasing 200 biodegradeable, environmentally friendly balloons. Some of us walked the hundred metres or so back to the Cathedral and evensong and I spoke again and then it was all over.

The van was returned today. I had a day off and, not quite able to break the habit, walked the 9km round trip into town and back. Easter is looming with a whole suite of services to prepare before I leave for Queenstown on Thursday and there is no doubt a pile of obligations waiting in my office. Before the next Diocesan Council meeting I want to write some sort of interim report on Te Harinui, giving some indication of where we need to be heading as a diocese. There is much to be glad about. But there is also much to be careful of and the time to act is now.

 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Finish: Day 29

We got away almost on time for the final leg from Duntroon to Kurow. We were joined by Mary, who had walked some of the way with us a few days previously, and Jane, Mary's daughter. The weather was dull; not actually raining but always promising to. The road was flat, and for most of the way, devoid of corners.

We stopped at the rock drawing site just out of Duntroon and looked at the barely visible artworks left for goodness knows what purpose during the 18th and 19th Centuries by groups of roving Maori. More visible than the works themselves were the works of Pakeha plonkers - the 19th Century ones who had removed the best works, ruining the limestone surface and making the survival of the rest problematic and the 20th Century ones who thought we needed to know their names and those of their assorted girlfriends.

We walked past many soldier trees. After the first world war the locals planted  oaks on the roadside near the places where fallen soldiers had lived or worked. These trees, now about a century old, each has a little white cross beside it inscribed with the name of the young man and the place he died. Together they form the largest war memorial in the country, spreading over much of North Otago. They are well maintained. Sometimes two or three close together inscribed with the same surname bear witness to unspeakable family tragedy, but all are testimony to the foolishness of our institutions and the courage of our youth.

I walked for an hour or two with Jane, who is vegan and was using the 25km walk as a little warm up for the marathon she is running tomorrow. And then in a short while she is off to the Blue Mountains in Australia for a 100km (!) race uphill and downdale.  I had, privately,  made a rough guess at her age but had underestimated by a good 30%. Her appearance and her level of fitness convinced me that I should take notice of what she had to say about diet and lifestyle options. The conversation with her was an unexpected and most welcome gift, moving me back to the insights I had gained from the Gawler Institute, and which, although they had probably saved my life had been compromised of late. I doubt that Jane would consider herself to be a messenger of God, but today she was an apostle - one sent - to bring me timely messages and answers to questions I didn't even know I was asking.

Which is the story of the Hikoi. This has been a month of such incidents: revelatory and powerful and groundbreaking. I have been faced with the reality of my diocese: the incredible depth and generosity and faith of our people, and the precariousness of many of our parishes. I have been faced with myself and my choices. I have been presented, in growing clarity and detail, with a map for the path ahead.

We arrived at the Kurow Vicarage at about 12:30 pm. This lovely complex of buildings ( a six bedroom Victorian stone mansion, a chapel, a stable block converted into a 3 bedroom holiday home and 30+ acres of land) is an asset crying out for us to find a use for it. We had a pot luck lunch with the local congregation and walked the last 2 km to the Waitaki River.

It was cold and a few spots of rain were beginning to fall as we gathered, 15 of us, at the riverbank. Benjamin Brock-Smith had prepared a little liturgy. We prayed and walked back to the van. The little team that had gelled so well - Phil, John and myself, Dion and Tash, Graham and Benjamin - sorted out the gear, climbed into our various vehicles and dispersed. We began as acquaintances but ended as friends. It has been a month but with the amount of incidents that we have packed into it, it seems more like a year. I am glad to be home, and glad I have done it. But I am more than a little disappointed that it is over.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Duntroon: Days 27&28

The last couple of days have been across the undulating hill country on the South side of the Waitaki Valley. I have driven this route many times but, again, the difference in perspective gained from viewing the familiar landscape at 6 kph and with no intermediary metal and glass has been revelatory.

We have been joined at various points over the last couple of days by people from the local parishes who have walked with us. We have stayed the last two nights with Alison, widowed 21 years ago and who continued farming on her own account since. She is intelligent and well informed and all of us - Phil, John, Graham, Tash, Dion and myself - are sharing her house and her conversation. It has been wonderful. We have been ferried to and from our starting and ending points in the van which has provided our mobile headquarters over the past month.

Yesterday it was overcast and cool; today clear, still and warm. On both days there has been a succession of tiny rural hamlets on a road which yesterday ran for miles in long flat straights and today rose and fell and turned. Much of the land, even in the hill country, is irrigated and is given over to new dairy developments. We have passed immense acreages of fodder crops and in places the groundworks for great new circular milking sheds.

Today we passed Anatini where some of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe was filmed. We stopped for a bit to inspect Aslan's camp. There is a piece of Mr and Mrs. Beaver's house sitting in a field and starting to delaminate in the weather. There is also evidence of a much deeper and older life: a fossil whale under a protective plastic shield and an ancient Kowhai tree, reputed to be, at 2,000 years old, the oldest in the country (and indeed, the world). We stopped at Elephant Rocks where immense limestone outcroppings sit in neatly cropped pasture making a landscape as bizarrely odd as any I've seen; but it was not alien. There is something beautifully satisfying in the proportions of rock and open space and the way the huge rounded shapes sit in relation to one another I found it a peaceful, serene place.

We walked into Duntroon around three this afternoon, an event filmed by the local TV channel. After an interview in St Martin's church we retired to the Flying Pig cafe for excellent coffee before driving in a creatively navigated route back to Alison's to shower for a pot luck dinner this evening.

So we passed the last evening of the Hikoi eating fish pie, talking farming and watching the Highlanders beat the Bulls. Phil and I spoke and John prayed and we returned, a little more directly to sleep in borrowed beds for the last time. I feel great affection and respect for each of these people who have shared this adventure with me and I will be sorry to break up our team in the Octagon on Sunday; but I am aware of how much has shifted and gelled within me in the last month and am eager to get on with the task that Te Harinui has been preparing me for.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Maheno: Day 26

I took this photo as I waited in Hampden for the van to appear with the others so we could begin our day's walk. The sky continued this blue and the wind continued this still. It was a beautiful day for walking. From Hampden we journeyed North along SHW1, accompanied for a short way by one or two of the locals. Then near the Mill House we stopped for coffee before heading down the coast road towards the distant sea. 19 km later we arrived at All Day Bay just South of Kakanui, and took the gravel road straight to Maheno, arriving at St. Andrews Church just before 2:00, having covered 27 km.

We are on the last leg now. Since All Day Bay we have been heading inland, and we continue for another 3 days until we reach Kurow on Saturday afternoon. This evening we met with the people of this lovely village for a pot luck dinner and I spent some time talking with a local farmer who has walked the Camino Santiago twice. As we talked I thought again of one of the characteristics of the Camino, that it draws you into a constant engagement with Now; how very early in the walk you begin to live entirely in the present. I realised that this has also happened on this hikoi. I know we will shortly be finishing but the end still seems remote; what is important is this piece of land, these people, this process of engaging and dining, and the furthest ahead we are thinking is tomorrow and the arrangements for meeting and starting in the morning. Performing this symbolic action of walking has, in other words, a profound effect on us who are making the journey.

I know that this engagement with the now is only possible because Benjamin Brock Smith is thinking ahead for us, and making the detailed decisions on how the week will unfold, particularly the events around the closing of the Hikoi on Sunday afternoon. It sounds like an exciting event. We have been given the use of the lower Octagon. We will have live musicians including the incomparable Mark Wilson who has written a hymn especially for the event. We will release 200 balloons (biodegradable environmentally friendly ones) to mark the 200 years since Samuel Marsden and Ruatara. I will speak and my address will centre on the post resurrection appearance of Jesus on the beach, as recorded in John 21. At that meeting Jesus shared fish with the disciples and we too will share, with anyone who is there, a meal of fish and chips. We will conclude with evensong in the cathedral.

This has been a transformational event for all of us who have walked, and I expect that our closing service will reflect that. I hope that many can be present to celebrate together, eat together and worship together as we mark the transition from the symbolic action of the hikoi to the lived action of the Diocese's continuing life.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Hampden: Day 25

We set off in the rain just before 8:30. Threading our way through Palmerston we found the road to Trotters Gorge and followed it for the next 13 or 14 km. It wound its way up through hills covered in exotic forest, reaching a 240m summit in the steepest climb we have encountered to date. It was one of those annoying roads which promises the end of the uphill just a few metres ahead, until a corner is turned or a crest reached and another climb is revealed with another promised ending. We stopped for a break at what we fondly imagined to be the top just before 12 before climbing a another 50 metres or so and descending into Trotters Gorge.

The gorge has high limestone cliffs rising tortuously on each side of a narrow river. Occasional house sized boulders lying on the bank show that the combined effects of rainwater on the hills above us. Wilding pines grow everywhere giving it a very un-New Zealand appearance but it is nevertheless beautiful. Walking is definitely the right way to see it as there are tiny details of vegetation and rock formations that would be missed when viewed at speed and through glass.

By 12:30 we had emerged onto SHW1 and walked along to the start of the Millennium track at the beginning of the Moeraki peninsula. Here we were joined by Jan and Jane from the Hampden church and we turned left along the beach and walked the final 4 km into Hampden past the famous Moeraki Boulders. Some of us hadn't seen them before, and for me who had, it was interesting to see the other collections of rocks lying along the beach. North of the main group, the ones in the photo above, is a f Moeraki Boulder graveyard, where hundred of them have disintegrated, leaving old fractured cores and pieces of their outer layers lying everywhere. South of the main group are a collection of them made of softer material; these have eroded into large open circles, sitting on the beach like giant broken eggshells.

At Hampden we were greeted by a very welcome sight. At a picture table on the beach were 4 huge paper bags of fish 'n' chips, supplied by Lockies' Takeaways. he proprietor had heard of the Hikoi and wanted to help. He certainly did. Lots of people sell fish 'n' chips but not many people sell good ones. These, quite seriously, were amongst the best I've ever tasted: perfectly cooked blue cod with just a hint of crisp golden batter; great thick chips hard and crusty on the outside and soft crumbly white in the middle; none of it with any excess grease. The trip advisor review has 24 customer reviewers each giving the shop a five star rating, and it's pretty easy to see why.

So tonight we sleep in this quiet little town and tomorrow will walk to Maheno. We have, with local advice, changed our route away from the main road and along the coast road, adding another hour and considerably more scenery to the journey, and significantly reducing our chances of encountering semi trailers. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Palmerston: Day 24

It's only about 17 km from St. John's Waikouaiti to St. Mary's Palmerston, so we were finished by lunchtime. We set out just after 8, just the three of us and Mary who wouldn't mind me telling you she is not in the first bloom of youth. She walked briskly all the way, conversing with each of us in turn. It was great to have her along.  We walked out through the town and spent most of the trip walking on the shoulder of SHW1. We passed prosperous looking North Otago farms, a few forests and the occasional stylish house with a B&B notice at the gate. There are a few small hills and several bridges, most of which, oddly, seem to cross the Pleasant River.

We walked steadily, stopping around 10 for a breather, and arrived in Palmerston around mid day. We were met by Juan Kinnear, the the priest in charge of Waikouaiti and a small group from the local parish who had prepared a tasty lunch of sandwiches and savouries. St. Mary's is a pretty stone church with a surrounding garden and a snug little parish hall. We prayed in the church, dined and then headed South again to spend a last night at home.

For the last few days we have been returning to Dunedin when the day's walking is done, but the return trip to the starting point has been getting, obviously, longer and longer and tomorrow we will need to be on the road at 7:00 to gather up the team and the luggage and make it back to St. Mary's for an 8:00 am start, so for the rest of the Hikoi we will be billeted. This afternoon, with time to spare I managed a few tasks I had been wanting to get on with. I had a profound conversation, made a hospital visit and delivered my car to Benjamin for use during the next few days. I skyped my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter and conversed with her while she ate macaroni cheese. It was a full and satisfying afternoon, but it was a distraction. As much as I enjoyed the various tasks of the afternoon I do feel the need to be concentrated wholly on the journey as we enter the last few days.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Waikouaiti: Day 23

photo (c) Phil Clark 2014
In Oamaru our diocese has a couple of strong congregations, but the rural churches making up the rest of the North Eastern corner of our patch are small. Over the past few weeks they have come together to plan this morning's regional event and the result of the hard work involved was readily apparent today. What an event they put on!

We met at St. John's Waikouaiti, the first church built in the Diocese of Dunedin. A large gazebo had been erected and fitted out with a sound system and the necessities for a Eucharist. Around the tent were a couple of hundred chairs and behind it was the lagoon: a beautiful still and stilling backdrop. We arrived in time to walk the 1 km or so from the main road to the church accompanied by about a dozen people. In the parish hall coffee and tea and the customary well filled tables were waiting. People arrived and chatted and moved slowly over to the gazebo. The service was due to start at 11:00 but the old double decker London bus bringing folk from Oamaru didn't arrive until slightly after that, so we delayed til 11:30 to let them have some refreshments first. It simply didn't matter that we were a bit late. The preparation had been made well, everybody knew that when the time was right it would all happen flawlessly and there was a security in that which allowed us all to relax and just enjoy being there.

The theme was Victorian, in keeping with the commemorative  aspects of the Hikoi. Many people dressed up in appropriate 19th Century garb, which is apparently easy enough to do if you live in Oamaru, but many of the women had made their own very authentic looking outfits. There were top hats and mutton-chop whiskers and bustles and bonnets everywhere you looked.

The Eucharist was formally relaxed. We sang, prayed, opened the scriptures and broke bread together. The congregation was fairly large, which was in itself an encouraging and invigorating novelty for the many from very small churches.We ended the day, of course, with lunch.

Behind the parish hall a whole pig and a whole sheep had been barbecued and there was an array of salads and bread and other foodstuffs in case we ran short of pork or mutton; we didn't. We  had prizes for the best costumes and gifts for the children. The bus rumbled back to Oamaru about 1:30 pm and I took my leave soon afterwards. Each of the regional events has been very different, and each has been memorable. he small churches of Coastal Otago worked together and today achieved a remarkable result. I was proud and encouraged to be part of it.