Waikouaiti: Day 22

It rained on Saturday when we walked from the Blueskin Bay Library to Waikouaiti. I am very familiar with this territory but as always I was amazed at the shift in perspective that comes from changing the mode of transport from 4 wheels to 2 feet. We began at about 8:00 am with some of the Waitati locals walking the first couple of km and then as we crossed the Warrington Bridge, we were joined by a Catholic priest and two sisters from different Dunedin communities.

It bucketed down. My Goretex jacket kept most of it out and managed to breathe in the way it was designed to do, but no raincoat can keep you perfectly dry and by the time we reached St. Barnabas' church I was a little damp. St. Barnabas is one of my favourite places. It is a tiny wooden church set in a churchyard at the end of a long leafy path. It is beautifully maintained and the colours of the interior fittings are all well chosen. It has a golden woody glow offset by highlights of brass and the shifting colours of stained glass. It is architecturally spare: a small wooden box, essentially and it would be just another tiny, pretty, wooden country church apart from one thing; and that one thing is the rear wall.

In the 1920s an Anglican church in Brisbane ordered a new set of stained glass windows. When they were complete and almost ready to be installed the locals, still reacting from the animosities of the First World War, discovered that they had been manufactured in Germany and refused to take them. The supplier, wishing to save the cost of sending them back to the factory had them sent across the Tasman to contacts he had in New Zealand, and by a quite hazily documented process they were installed in St. Barnabas. St. Augustines, for which the windows were designed is a large Gothic church. St. Barnabas a very small wooden one, and the windows don't actually fit, but the result is glorious: one of the best mistakes you're ever going to see. The entire rear wall of the little church is pretty much made of stained glass. The windows are excellent: the colours rich and deep, the painting skillfully and subtly executed, the craftsmanship faultless. The coloured light fills the small space giving a golden quality to the light even when you are not looking directly at the windows. This uniquely beautiful little space is to me a lovely expression of redemption: of the animosities of the 1920s being resolved in something that is vastly better than if the windows had joined myriad others in their intended location. The church is always unlocked and stopping by is always well worth the effort.

St. Barnabas congregation are an innovative and, of course, law abiding lot. Behind the church is a utility building. Realising that the red tape for constructing a hall would be time consuming and expensive they erected instead a perfectly legal toolshed - which didn't require quite the same administrative permissions. It is carpeted, very tastefully painted and, so I am informed, does in fact contain a tool.  The shed is large enough for a couple of dozen people to sit warmly around  and have a cup of tea, and it was in here that we enjoyed hot soup and rolls before making our way slowly along the coast.

We were joined at Warrington by another couple of people, and we all arrived at the Puketeraki Marae around lunchtime. We were welcomed on and given yet another sumptuous meal. This is a small marae with the a single building being divided down the middle to form the  Wharenui and wharekai. It has some very imaginative carving in the forecourt and is decorated inside with many framed pictures of  recent tupuna. It is a welcoming a relaxed place and provided a good resting place to dry out a bit before the last leg of the day's walk.

We made it to Waikouaiti at about 3:00 pm. We called briefly at the historic church, and saw the meticulously planned preparations for the regional event the next day before we drove South to spend the night in Dunedin.