En Hakkore

In the hills up behind Ranfurly there used to be a town, Hamilton, which at one stage was home to 5,000 people. All that remains of it now is a graveyard, fenced off and baking in the lonely brown hills. Near it, in the 1930s a large Sanitorium was built for the treatment of tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. It was a substantial complex of buildings with wards, a nurses hostel, impressive houses for the manager and superintendent and all the utility buildings needed for such a large operation.

The treatment offered consisted of isolation, views and weather. Patients were exposed to the air, the tons of it which whistled past, often at great speed, the warmth of the sun and the cold. They were housed in small cubicles opening onto huge glassed verandas where they cooked in the summer and froze in the winter and often, what with the wholesome food and the exercise, got better. When advances in antibiotics rendered the Sanitorium obsolete it was turned into a Borstal and then was more or less abandoned.

During the past couple of decades it has become a Christian Community and retreat centre. About 10 families live here and are gradually restoring it all. The 60 hectares of grounds supply vegetables and eggs and meat. The residents occupy various parts of the rambling complex and there seems to be plenty more buildings sitting around waiting for someone to think up a use for them. It is spacious enough for me to get adequate exercise this week just walking between the meeting room, the dining room and my bedroom.The sky in this valley is huge as is the landscape and sitting here in the brown tussock and pine trees even this sprawling settlement is dwarfed.

We arrived mid morning and were shown to our rooms. The retreatants are in Spartan but comfortable quarters in one of the old patients' blocks and we three leaders have charming rooms, all appropriately and tastefully fitted out in a huge, glassy 1930s wooden house. We have been fed and have begun the six days of silence. My role is to offer spiritual direction and to help lead the program of worship and brief talks. We have left long spaces for people to be by themselves and there are any amount of places to walk under the vast Maniototo sky.

I am writing this on a patchy cellphone connection. It won't handle photos, but I'm hopeful I can continue to post daily. 


Tony Butcher said…
Hope to visit this retreat one day. Sounds a good place to freshen up and contemplate
Tony Butcher said…
Sounds like a good place to refresh and renew. I will try it sometime