Communion Of Dreams

Scenes from a trip: beyond standing room only.
December 12, 2011, 9:11 am
Filed under: Music, N. Am. Welsh Choir, New Zealand, Travel

The cold made the clouds that much more threatening. And sure enough, we had snow as we headed into the Southern Alps.

* * * * * * *

Dunedin is on the Eastern shore of the South Island. We headed almost due west towards Queenstown, which is on Lake Wakatipu, just a little ways inland from the West Coast, on the lee side of the bulk of the mountains. Getting there means winding on a lot of mountain roads, all of it through beautiful country. I was glad I wasn’t driving and could just enjoy the scenery (and not worry about road conditions).

We stopped at the small town of Arrowtown, an old gold-mining community not that far outside of Queenstown. It’s now mostly a tourist/vacation destination, and they’ve done a lot to maintain the historic feeling of the place. Many of the buildings date back to the early days of the town (mid-late 1800s), and there’s a ton of great little shops and restaurants/bars there.

* * * * * * *

I had been waiting to get to Arrowtown for one primary reason: Pounamu, the New Zealand nephrite jade which is also colloquially called ‘greenstone’. I mentioned that I had been on the lookout for some of this stone while in Dunedin. But Helen (our tour-guide) had said that Arrowtown was one of the best places to get the stone, and jewelry/art created from it.

I wanted a couple of pieces of jewelry as gifts. But I also wanted a rougher piece for my own, to fashion into a tool.

Pounamu was highly prized by the Maori for use in making tools and weapons. For generations it was fashioned into chisels, axes, and adzes. While I very much appreciated the beauty of the many pieces of art I had seen created using Pounamu, for me the most memorable souvenir of the trip would be a bookbinding tool called a ‘folder’ made of greenstone. I didn’t expect to find one ready-made, but rather to find a piece of the stone which I could shape to my own use.

And I did. It’s about 5″ long, roughly an inch tall and an inch wide, slightly tapered towards the ends. One side is already highly polished, the others relatively smooth. I’ve already used it as is, and need to spend some more time with it before I decide whether it needs more shaping or not.

Another good thing – while a small piece of greenstone fashioned into jewelry can be quite expensive, this large and relatively unworked piece was about $25. The perfect memento of the trip, as far as I’m concerned.

* * * * * * *

After doing our shopping, Martha and I settled into a nice little cafe and had a late lunch. The weather had mostly cleared off, and it was a pleasant time just sitting there and relaxing before rejoining the rest of the tour group.

* * * * * * *

We made one last stop on the way into Queenstown, at the Kawarau River bridge. It’s a gorgeous place, and also the first commercial bungee-jumping operation. No, I did not jump. Over 50 + over-weight + high blood pressure = bad idea to seek out high-G forces for fun. I’ve gone sky diving and done other crazy things when I was younger, and am happy to enjoy those memories as memories.

* * * * * * *

Queenstown is a lovely place. The city is well known as New Zealand’s center for adventure tourism. Its location on the edge of the Southern Alps means that it is well positioned for skiing, jet-boats, white-water rafting, and so forth, not to mention such mundane activities as hunting and fishing. It very much has the feeling of being a university town, say like Boulder CO, though there isn’t a university there.

We rolled into town, got to our hotel, located right on the lakefront. Got settled, then did a bit of exploring in the downtown area (which is quite small – just a few blocks total.) The choir had a rehearsal.

* * * * * * *

ML and I went over to where the choir was rehearsing, to get set up to sell CDs. It was a small but very warm & friendly church by the name of St. Peter’s. It was clear from the outset that the local Welsh community had gotten the word out about the performance, and a number of the church members were there to help us get settled into place.

This was to be the “farewell” concert for the tour. We couldn’t have asked for a better venue or crowd. The space was small enough that it felt very intimate. And it was packed to the gills. All the pews were filled. Extra chairs were put in the aisles. People crowded in the back, standing. One of the church members had to actually put a sign on the door announcing that the church was over-filled, and no one else would be admitted.

Not only was the space full, but the crowd was very enthusiastic, both with their applause and with their participation. I swear, the Welsh must have an extra gene which compels them to sing at any opportunity. That church was bursting with sound and love.

And we sold a bunch of CDs.

* * * * * * *

Following the concert, the choir was hosted to an informal reception in the church meeting hall. Refreshments and good company were served and savored.

I was exhausted as we walked the couple of blocks back to the hotel. Nonetheless, we stopped for a bit and enjoyed the fireworks being set off on the lakefront. It was Guy Fawkes Night.

Tomorrow would be our last full day in New Zealand.

Jim Downey

1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

[…] One additional note — see that thing there in the lower right? It’s this: […]

Pingback by Looking backwards. « Communion Of Dreams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: