OK! Here goes. The last 3 months have been so incredibly packed with beautiful experiences, amazing people, creative expression, freedom, excitement, massive learning curves, fun... I could not possibly explain it all here, especially since right now I am being distracted by other people's conversations. I would listen to music but 2 days ago my mp3 player's hard drive packed in so now I have no music to take on my travels. Looks like I will be spending more time playing harmonica then! Which is cool because I bought a new one, in a different key to my last one. At first I thought it sounded really sad when I played it and was gutted that I hadn't just got the same key as before, however I persisted and now think it sounds even better and I am constantly surprising myself with my ability to come out with great sounds!
So...let's go back in time, back to where my Parihaka blog left off (though if you haven't read the other short blog I posted recently then do that before starting here). I am really excited to be able to tell you loudly and proudly about all the things I have been doing, it's been immense....
I return to Auckland to write the epic Parihaka blog and also work at Big Day Out, a one day touring festival where I take part in the first year of their Eco Team, aiding the public with making decisions about which bin to put their waste in (recycling/compost/refuse). The festival featured The Prodigy as headliners; the first band I ever saw way back when I was about 16. And that gig led on to so much for me, in fact it was a seminal event in my life when I look back and see what choices I made and experiences I had as a result of it. So to see them again with all this new perspective on life is amazing. I get right to the front section of the Boiler Room (a huge hot and sweaty dance marquee!) and fully let go with all the sweaty crowd, massive elation is felt by all!
I travel to Wilderland, an organic farm / hippy commune in the Coromandel Peninsula. Full of beautiful old plum and apple and orange and avocado trees, a huge variety of different vegetables. I get to stay in my own little wooden house which has plants growing into it through the walls and a deck overlooking the estuary. It was serene and beautiful, a total wonderland. Great to be out of the city and back looking after plants and swimming in the sea to keep clean.
At Wilderland I assist a fellow called Tim with the construction of a giant fabric pyramid for the festival Kiwiburn. Kiwiburn is the New Zealand regional version of Burning Man. Burning Man is a huge arts festival lasting 6 days in the middle of the Nevada desert, where the theme is community, radical self reliance, creative 'anything goes' expression and fun! It also involves absolutely no commerce, people take what they need and give to each other, the only thing you can buy there is ice. I really want to go to Burning Man so thought Kiwiburn would be a great way to get my head around the concept and reality of what Burning Man would be like. Burning Man is about 60000 people, Kiwiburn is 250 - a perfect starting point and way to experience the root essence of Burning Man!
I take driver's seat for the 4-hour van mission from Wilderland, we arrive at night, one of the first vehicles to arrive for set-up. Over the course of the next few days we finish the pyramid, sewing fabric together with an OLD and almost dead sewing machine. Its base measures 13 metres and the fabric is bright white so sunglasses are essential! The pyramid construction is an EPIC mission, and once it's actually up, which takes about 3 days, I am exhausted and proceed to get stupidly drunk at the free bar night held by next-door neighbour camp SkullFuck. Someone shows up with a soundsystem for our pyramid, a guy called Owen who becomes a very important character in my life - Owen is the only person with the patience to listen to my moans and give me lots of cuddles, on the one day I feel really drained and vacant. The following day I get up early and go all out with decorating the inside of the pyramid with strips of fabric, silver ribbons, balloons, and other people show up with lights, lasers etc. It looks so beautiful! It's impossible to describe, or explain it all, I could write 10,000 words on the festival. It included such activities as a tea party full of cakes and chocolate and men dressed up as women, naked jelly wrestling (which I take part in!), a sail upon a makeshift pirate ship on a lake, a giant circle of people watching as the huge wooden 'man' burnt on the last night, fire spinning (I now own my own fire staff). Beautiful people, giving, partying, expressing themselves. It is also my first experience of San Pedro cactus juice - mescalin. This is a naturally produced perception opening substance that gives me a wonderful insight into my ability to create my reality as I wish it to be, to remember that this life of mine is my own experience and it's all about the choices I make and what I want to see in the world is what I can create. Like I keep saying, this is impossible to explain without many many more words!!! One thing I will say is it gave me the 'what the hell' attitude and confidence to stand in a field singing at the top of my lungs the verse of Guillemots song 'We're Here' which goes as follows:
"Oh yes we're here, free to run and cry, obliged to try and nothing is worth winning without a fight, oh yes we're here, free to go insane, joy and pain I'll find it in the corridors inside, cause we are just seconds, seconds in a day....."
Applause breaks out as I come to the end of my singing and I run away sheepishly but laughing and feeling super chuffed with my free expression!
I stick around til well after the official festival ending during which time I assist with the packing up, the MOOP patrol (Matter Out Of Place - ie. litter - the Burning Man ethos includes an absolute Leave No Trace attitude), and the consumption of all the food and drink that had been donated by people as they had left. A LOT of fun was had! Another important part of the ethos by the way is 'If you see something that needs doing, do it!'....
You can see a great photo album of the festival at the following address:
From Kiwiburn I travel back to Auckland and then jump on the ferry to Great Barrier Island, a 5 hour journey offshore. It's a huge island (do not associate with Great Barrier Reef!) with no connection to the main power grid. People are pretty much self sufficient over here and make their own power via solar panels, wood and hydro-wheels, there's some tar sealed roads but mainly they're gravel. SO it's rough and rustic and just what I need ... The landscape is big, the nature is dominant (only 600 people live here and it's a huge island), I stay somewhere where I have my own little cabin and separate outdoor kitchen and toilet, there's a creek running through the property which all the water I drink comes from and which I access by climbing down a bank through some trees, to find massive purple boulders, a waterfall, and a tiny cave with glow-worms in, a beautiful place to bathe and find solitude. One day I decide to scale the ridge on the other side of the creek as I am desperate to get up high and see some views. So barefoot I climb this steep bank through all manner of trees and shrubs til I reach the top and see stunning views of the tropical blue oceans and green mountains all around. I then find a different way down and go skinny dipping off a pier I find, then, still barefoot, climb round a load of rocks in search of the sunset but alas, the headland is too big to make it. On return to the house I meet the lovely Andy, one of the locals who a few days later I hook up with and spend a beautiful weekend with which involves getting a wonderful guided tour of the island and climbing to the highest point, Mount Hobson, from which the views of the island and the east coast of New Zealand are STUNNING. A very special connection was made with Andy and with the island. Oh gosh I nearly forgot, oh man how did I almost forget to add this...on the way to our little mountain climbing trip we drove past a bay where dolphins were swimming. So I stripped and got in and swam with them. Just me and about 8 dolphins playing in the waves. At times they were SO close I thought they might crash into me. I jumped around with them and stuck my head underwater and heard them calling. At one point the water went really still and they were circling me. Craziest thing is that when I was on the ferry on the way to the island I remembered having had a dream the night before in which I was swimming with dolphins, then a week later, it's what I am doing. The sunset from the mountain that evening is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and, wow I am gushing with the memory and wishing I could express my excitement more!
After 10 days on The Barrier and a much needed return to nature, space, time with myself and lots of amazing ornagic food, including heaps of fresh fish, some of which I caught and gutted myself, I return to Auckland and the next morning go to the airport to meet Mum, who is flying over to see me. I make her a sign and scream and make a massive fuss when she walks through the gate. She's just done a massive thing to fly over here on her own so deserves a big fuss, none of this quiet polite hello stuff you normally see at airports!
During the space of 2 weeks Mum and I drive 3000km in our beautifully spray-painted rental camper van. Our journey takes us first to Tauranga where we spend some time with Owen who is such a beautiful positive inspiring person: when him and I are together we create this wonderful loop of inspiring ourselves to be ourselves more and it's all so positive and magical! Owen assists me in helping Mum to relax into the mode of freedom I am currently existing in and how to embrace change and be excited like a child at all moments you encounter. We take her to a bar to watch a big fire spinning performance put on by the fire performance crew he's involved with (many of whom were at Kiwiburn so it's good for me to see them again!).
Mum and I then travel to Rotorua and vist all the steamy lakes there (it's a very volcanic region). We go to the natural hot pools, I teach Mum how to dig a hole in the bush to poo in (when you gotta go you gotta go, it's NATURAL) and then I learn how to breath fire. Mum watches as I stand naked in the hot pool at night blowing flames across the water. Epic! Next day we vist a beautiful volcanic valley and watch geysers and gorgeous rainbow coloured stones and visit a massive cave. Then after the short boat ride back to the van a heap of rain comes through the valley and once it's passed us we see what I'd rate as the most intense rainbow I have ever seen. A full rainbow that is so bright and whose ends actually go into the water that is only a few hundred metres away from us. Magic!
The next day the impossible occurs. Mum does a skydive! I do one too, of course, and even manage to persuade them to let me do it barefoot (yes I have a bit of an obsession about learning to do things barefoot, and naked, as you will have gathered. Trying to be more natural!).... but yeh, wow, GO MUM! Needless to say she loved it! The next day we go on a trip to White Island which is an active volcano off the east coast that you can ONLY vist with a guided tour because it's actually the crater of an active volcano. No molten lava here but instead a multitude of different coloured stone, steam, acid lakes, wow it was so beautiful. The living Earth. Oh how I love it!
We then drive to Gisborne, in order to see the sunrise over the sea the next morning from what is the first city in the world to see sunrise. We don't actually make it out of the van to watch it properly but are parked on a clifftop and at least peer out the window at it before drifting back to sleep.
Heading to the south we stop in a town and pick up bakery delights from the place that won New Zealand's Best Cake Award. Pick up a hitch-hiker who tells us some wonderful stories of his travels, then visit a friend I made at Parihaka, in Otaki on the west coast. Spend an afternoon beach combing for driftwood, pebbles and watching birds and the ocean. Next day we hit Wellington and catch the ferry to the South Island. By the next morning we are in Nelson stocking up with organic veggies and beautiful food at the market. We take the drive to Golden Bay which is gorgeous and visit Pupu springs - the clearest natural spring in the world! Then we head to the west coast. Rough, rugged and stunningly beautiful. The South Island landscape is HUGE! We visit a seal colony, some incredible rock formations, camp by the beach, see some stunning coastal scenery and head south to the main destination for Mum - the Franz Josef Glacier. The day our glacier trip is booked for is rained off so we get kitted out with waterproofs and do the riverbed walk to the glacier face and get SOAKED, spend the rest of the afternoon drying out and drinking tea and the next day.....THIS happens:
Awaken to sunrise looking at Mount Cook and the Fox Glacier, go for a walk around Lake Matheson, the famous 'mirror lake' which you see beautiful mountain reflections in...go and get kitted out and jump on a helicopter which takes us half way up the Franz Josef Glacier, where we get our cramp-ons (spiky ice feet) on and spend the next few hours stomping around on the ice, climbing through holes, surrounded by gorgeous bluey white ice and steep rock faces. It isn't even that cold, we're only just inland from the rainforest and here we are walking on a massive glacier. It's insane. It's beautiful. The helicopter ride back takes us over a ridge at a rate which pulls more G force than I have felt on any rollercoaster and invokes some intense screams of laughter!
After the trip we head north again and stop in time to watch a beautiful sunset over the ocean. A perfect day. In the morning we see Kiwi birds in the local sancturary then head east accross the country through a massive variety of neverendingly beautiful scenery til we hit Christchurch and stay at Tim's house. Next day Mum catches the plane home after an action packed few weeks and here's me, back almost to where I began my last blog from.
In Christchurch there has been a load of stuff happenening for me. First off is the realisation 'Oh my god it's COLD!!" ...it's Autumn time, the clocks go back, there are a lot of English trees around here so I get to experience the Autumn colours after a summer which has lasted since last May/June time. It's nice to experience the seasonal change and the casting off of old and looking towards the cosiness and dealing with coldness of winter. I am excited by it. The cold is difficult to deal with but it's a challenge I relish along with all others. Life is here to be enjoyed regardless of what is thrown at you you can make good and fun out of it...
I spend my first week in Christchurch feeling a little vacant after Mum has left and take the opportunity to contact friends and family and catch up on emails etc. I also get involved in helping a beautiful couple to pack their shipping container - they are in the process of moving from Oregon to the Pacific island of Tonga. Out of this I make $200 and inherit a bike, which proves to be a great use to me as Christchurch is a flat city so with a bike I am totally sorted for getting around. I proceed to spend a few days relaxing in the Botanical Gardens which are full of a multitude of amazing trees, plants and flowers. It is in these gardens that I finally crack the art of bending notes on my harmonica.
I learn how to dumpster dive (ie. fish out all the perfectly edible food that supermarkets throw away each day, from the dumpsters at night-time), I visit the art gallery, socialise with the array of lovely people I am currently living with and then have the absolute pleasure of watching the pianist David Helfgott performing in a tiny venue in the city.
This is an epic night, I travelled alone on a bus to the Royal Albert Hall in London at the age of 17 to see this guy play, such was his level of inspiration to me, and now he's here doing an informal recital in Christchurch. What are the chances?!! There's an amazing story behind this but I might leave that for a while to keep the length of this blog down (it's long enough already I know!). Suffice to say; I not only get to speak to and hug him, but also am privileged enough to kneel beside him at the piano whilst he plays the piece by Rachmaninoff that I used to be able to play myself. His words to me are "Keep on smiling, and seeing into the future to keep on smiling! Positive is the key"... I am gushing and crying with joy when I leave the place!
And next on the story is one that will surprise people the most - I'm sitting outside the library one day and look over the road to the sign saying 'Striptease'. The idea pops into my head 'hey I wonder what it would be like' followed shortly by 'maybe I should give it a go'... I sit on the idea for a few days until I realise I have thought about it too much to NOT attempt it! So I rock up to the strip club and ask if they need anyone to work. They say sure and I am welcomed in. What proceeds is such an interesting and enjoyable evening that completely defies all the negative warnings and advice I had been given by people and all the judgements I can almost read your mind that you are having right now as you read this! The place is beautiful and the people I work with are lovely. They really help me out and make me feel welcome and when it comes to getting up on stage I just go 'okay, here I am, it can't be that hard, just get up there and dance and feel sexy and take off your clothes and people will give you money'. Doing any moves on the poles is extremely hard and I have utter respect for the girls who can do it! I have so many interesting conversations that night, no sleazy men, just grown-ups having fun, it's exploitation of men more than women I reckon but regardless it's a whole lot of fun and a real confidence booster and yet another step in my learning curve of becoming comfortable with my own body. Also I walk away with about $200. I was actually doing it more for the experience than the money but of course it's a bonus! The girls are really into my individuality which is fantastic.
A few days later I go on a camping trip to Mount Cook with another Kiwiburn friend called Munk. He's a DJ from San Francisco and is a beautiful soul I'm delighted to have got to know, and we have a fantastic time getting out of the city and spending some time next to the snow capped mountains, walking along a river bed next to glaciers and coming across a glacial lake with icebergs floating around it. Despite the hot ginger wine with cinnamon we freeze at night and wake up to frost but are blessed with beautiful sunshine throughout the days. We then head back towards Christchurch driving past this incredible glacial lake that is HUGE and the most intense blue it's almost the same colour as the sky, I am ecstatic at its beauty; we meet up with yet more Kiwiburn friends on the way. Party time at the weekend involves going to my first outdoor dance party, which is about an hour out of town in beautiful surroundings in a gorge. I take acid and dance (listening to trance music going 'I cannot believe I am not hating this!') and look at the stars and laugh and fall in love with nature yet again! Watching the sunrise and the scenery unfold is so joyous, I am walking around with such a grin on my face and such excitement and wonder about life and existence and the beauty of nature. Acid is an amazing drug and anyone with preconceptions about it due to lack of knowledge or experience would do well to try it, or at least read some of the positive stories about it and keep an open mind because my experience of it has been one of complete and utter beauty, joy, wonder and happiness!
Back in town I am being indecisive about what to do next, and consider staying around since there's now a spare room in the house that I could actually call my own for a week and after some really helpful chats with a lovely man named Phil, I decide to stick around for another week to further my progression and save some money. So Kitten the stripper continues to play! I am glad of returning to the club because there is more to learn - more moves, more physical exercise, more opinions and interesting conversations, more to learn about myself, more feeling sexy and confident, and reconnecting with my music (I get to pick my own songs to dance to). I spend a wonderful week dancing and having fun at the club and also connecting with Phil, a wonderful soul who writes fantastic creative philosophical poetry that I gel with very intensely. "Freedom is past that wall in your mind. So why not go there and see what you find?!" ... We go through a lot together in a very short time and learn from each other and inspire each other and do a lot of positive goodness for each other. I love the fact that I keep on making amazing connections with people over here!
And that pretty much brings things to right here right now sitting finally typing this up and figuring out what next. Do I stay and strip some more and earn more money (I have completed my initial goal of saving enough to pay for my visa extension, bungee jump and new harmonica) or do I head south, to the mountains, which are calling me to go pretty darn soon. They are so beautiful, I have never before in my life seen proper snow capped mountains until the last month.
So we shall see.
Thanks for your patience. I wish I could write more, actually I will....
In conclusion what I will say is that I have really only touched upon the depth of my experience and learning and fun by describing what I have done over the last few months. Most of the REALLY interesting stuff ie. the big stories and emotions behind it all, are not really there in the list of happenings. People who read this might be a bit surprised at the variety and intensity of all the experiences listed here and wonder how on earth such things are possible and how do I get the courage and the time or how do I manage to find out about this or that etc. All I can say to that is that the more you believe in yourself the more good comes to you, the more you push yourself the more you learn and progress, the more positively you look at each situation the more you can gain from it. Also the more you desire to do good to others and look after them and to look after the planet, the more you get looked after! Of COURSE there have been times of sadness and doubt and indecision and confusion but they're all there to be embraced and learnt from and enjoyed as well. I am free and loving it. Anyone can do this if they want to. Your life is yours to make up as you go along. It's so much fucking fun!!!!
I love you all