Arts on Tour July 2013 – Duo Tapas – Wellington guitar and violin duo
Duo Tapas
Duo Tapas
Duo Tapas

Arts on Tour July 2013

I think it only started feeling real for me when the guy from Haggis Sandwich handed me the Arts on Tour banner a few days before we left. He was all smiles and said that they had had a fantastic tour and that we would too. The night before our departure, Owen and I load up the van. Most importantly we pack a heater, hot water bottle and a box of comfort food for me. Owen discovers that chocolate can be an essential part of every meal, including breakfast! Owen packs food too, a jute bag containing some odd bits and pieces from his fridge (which he dutifully unpacks and repacks at every point on the tour without apparently eating any of it!). It’s dark when Owen leaves that night, and equally dark when he comes to pick me up the next morning.
Friday July 5 Reefton
Well, I reckon it took about a day for Owen and I to recover from our early start on the Kaitaki ferry on July 4th (thanks for that, Steve) from Wellington to Picton. We even manage to fit in some fudge tasting in Havelock and pleasant conversation with a friendly, cricket bat-wielding dairy owner in Nelson. After years of hardly ever seeing a Pukeko in the wild, they seem to be everywhere as we head down the west coast.

The Shorts meet us in Reefton and take us to the venue, a very cosy and warm library in Reefton Area school. Mrs Short and I have the joyous task of putting up the AOTNZ flags and banner. There is a lot of time for chatting (because although I was very slick by the end of the tour, it takes me about half an hour that first time to figure out how all the parts fit together!) and I discover that I went to primary school with the Short boys in Dunedin! Don’t you just love the south island!
The Reefton audience is small but appreciative – a nice relaxed start to the tour.
I get back to the motel and pick up my email. The first of many bewildered email messages from my mum ‘hope your concert went well today. I hope you are keeping warm. I hear central Otago is very cold.’ Well, I wanted to break it to her gently, about the tour, and leaving my family for so long, so I might have been a bit vague when I told her about it before we left. “Dear Mum, no, we played in Reefton today and are playing in Westport tomorrow.”

Saturday July 6 Westport St Johns Church
The church in Westport is a beautiful venue and we are very well looked after by Mary. The Westport crowd are an enthusiastic group, especially a friendly and enthusiastic gentleman near the front. He and Owen have an ongoing conversation during the concert, mostly between items.
‘Dear Rupa, I hope your concert went well.’ Writes my Mum. ‘When are you going to Auckland with the girls?’ “A bit later on.” I write back.
The following morning, Owen and I stop for brunch with some old friends from Dunedin, who now live in a very remote part of the coast.
The scenery between Westport and Hokitika is stunning.

Sunday July 7 Hokitika St Andrews church Hall

By Hokitika, Owen and I have become experts in quickly sussing out the accomodation. Owen checks out the wifi situation, Sky channels and number of heaters. I hunt for mirrors, spare blankets and hot chocolate sachets. Owen usually makes sure there is a coffee plunger, which is considerate of him seeing as he doesn’t drink the stuff! This motel ticks all the boxes.

The residents of Hokitika are a hardy bunch! Amazingly, there is quite a good crowd on a very cold and stormy day. Ann helps us set up and turns all the heating on. To my relief, the AOTNZ flag which I placed outside the hall is still standing at the end of the concert although it is sopping wet. It is a 4pm concert, and after we play an encore, someone in the audience asks if we can tell them a bit more about us, and so we field a few questions. The informality and spontaneity of it all is quite liberating!
And because it is an afternoon concert, we don’t have to skip dinner! (This tour has confirmed my worst fears about Owen who never seems to need to eat, and I wonder if he is like Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, starving during the day and prowling the house at midnight to raid the larder).
My mum emails to say she is happy to hear we are on the West Coast. Have I bought any Jade jewellery yet? Am I taking the ferry home tomorrow? ‘No Mum, we’re playing in Cromwell on Wednesday.’

Monday July 8 Okarito

Absolutely gorgeous! Because we don’t have a formal concert arranged in this tiny township, we have all day to relax in a beautiful cottage in the middle of idyllic surroundings. I cook dinner, which is puzzling for Owen, but he eats it. That evening, some of the locals invite us for dessert and we play them a few of our more popular numbers. They reminisce about their lives on the west coast and about some of the interesting people they have met, about the various jobs they have had. By the end of the evening, I find myself talking about ‘Hoki’, ‘Franz’ and ‘Fox’ and I am convinced that the people on the West coast of the South Island are just the coolest!
There’s wifi in the cottage, so lots of chance to email. “Where exactly are you?’ asks my Mum in her daily email. That’s a tricky one to answer. I’m not sure most people have heard of Okarito.
Wednesday July 10th Cromwell
But first, we have to actually make it into central Otago. Before we leave Okarito, Owen and I have a practice run at putting on chains. ‘Anyone watching?’ mutters Owen, looking over his shoulder. By the end, with some help from an Okarito resident, we think that maybe we know how to put chains on, but ‘let’s just hope we don’t have to,’ I say to Owen.
When we get to ‘Franz’ and ‘Fox’ there is snow on the mountains and the air is icy cold. They tell us that the Haast road is still closed. ‘What sort of vehicle are you travelling in? Do you have sleeping bags with you?’ ask the man at the information centre. ‘There probably is accommodation at Haast’ he adds, seeing the look of horror on my face. I just want to get moving, but Owen insists on getting a photo of what is perhaps the only remaining ‘Email centre’ in this part of the world….

….and we are further delayed getting to Haast because Owen insists on continuing his search for the perfect pasty in NZ and so we have to stop at another bakery.
The Haast road opens just as we get to Haast….and chains won’t be needed. Phew!

The Cromwell concert venue is the Wild Earth restaurant. We have to make two trips across a bridge with our flags, music stands, CDs and instruments and banner. Fortunately for me, it is too dark to see how high up the bridge is. Peter Mead is already at the restaurant and makes sure we have what we need. I wait in the kitchen as the audience arrive, happily inhaling the aroma of mulled wine warming on the stove. The audience is generous with their smiles and appreciative noises, which is very heart warming. After the concert, a woman calls out my name and says she remembers me from preschool! Yep, don’t you just love the south island.
Another email from my mum. ‘Good to hear you are in central Otago. How many more places are you actually going to? How many more concerts do you have?’ Ah, now she is getting into the spirit of things….

Thursday July 11Timaru
The drive past the great lakes and through the Lindis pass is yet another chance for Owen to keep stopping the van to take photos. It is a pretty misty start to the morning though….

Happily for us, we are staying at the residence of famed Timaru guitar teacher ‘Loomy’ and his wife, Gwenyth. They make us a lovely dinner and ferry us to and from the concert venue. Val Hargreaves, from the Timaru Arts council has printed us a set of beautifully designed programmes, and so for once, we actually know what we are going to play before we get on stage. The Timaru Theatre Royal foyer is a beautiful venue….but it’s a cold night. I play standing dangerously close to our portable heater and have my hot water bottle on stage with me. This is a special concert for us, as we play the premiere of Ian Krouse’s great new work, Incantation and Fire Dance.
The concert is followed by the obligatory whiskey tasting at Loomy’s. I go to bed soon after taking this photo, so I never do find out how exactly much whiskey was drunk….

Yep, life on the road can be tough Owen. I know. Someone’s gotta do it.
The following morning we enjoyed the sights at Caroline bay before heading off for Oamaru.

Friday July 12 Oamaru
The Inkbox theatre in Oamaru is a recently done up theatre inside the Oamaru opera house building. It can seat more than a hundred, and with the colourful seats, the tiered seating, amazing support staff and wonderful lighting, this is a perfect venue for chamber music. Our concert is followed by Tapas at the Sip bar in the Opera house and I have my first taste of Sangria!
Saturday July 13 Travelling back to the North island
After lunch in Christchurch with my friend, Katy and her two very entertaining children, we make our way up the coast. By the time we get to Kaikoura it is dark and I am pretty hungry. Even though Owen has eaten lunch today, he agrees to accompany me to dinner and says he might even eat something himself! The choice of restaurants on the main road is bewildering. I tell Owen he might as well choose since he seems to always get his own way about our programmes. After much to-ing and fro-ing Owen chooses the most deserted restaurant on the street. Yep, definitely my turn to choose next time! But we are in good spirits by the time we get back to our motel and have even managed to agree on a dvd to watch…..until we receive an alarming email from Steve – our ferry from Picton to Wellington the next day has been cancelled due to an impending storm and we are booked instead to go 24 hours later. Major panic! Especially for me, because that means not having any time with my daughters before heading north!
July 14th -15th Rediscovering Blenheim and Picton, and again.
I catch what is possibly the last flight out of Blenheim on Sunday morning. After a calm, almost still start to the day, it is blowing a gale. The kind lady across the aisle from me lets me use her hand as stress ball as we bounce our way into Wellington. The pilot is my hero.
Poor Owen is left in Picton with the van. Nobody at the ferry terminal seems to know when the ferries will be sailing again. After spending the night in Picton, Owen winds his way back to Blenheim, and watches a movie and finally gets on a ferry late on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday 16th July. The desert road and Opotiki senior citizens hall.
More calendar shots, this time from our mammoth 7 hour drive from Wellington to Opotiki.
We get to Opotiki in the nick of time. Just enough time to clean up and get into concert gear (not enough time for Owen to have a shave, but I tell him that the half shaven look quite suits our music….). The Opotiki crowd is small but very receptive and warm. The hall gradually warms up, thanks to Dot’s efforts. We feel truly welcomed. After the concert, we are starving, and instead of driving far to find somewhere open, we go to the New World supermarket which is about to close, so we race around getting ‘dinner’ food items like crisps and hummus. The motel in Opotiki gets the thumbs up from Owen because it has a bath.

Wednesday July 17 Coromandel bowling club.
We set off early the next day, planning to lunch in Paeroa. I am determined to have L&P in Paeroa, but the cafe we go to isn’t serving hot food and we end up eating in Thames. It seems to take forever to wind our way into the Coromandel township, but the view as we come down the hill is very much worth the effort.

We are staying at the Jacaranda Lodge, owned by Robin who is also part of the music society and has been the one organising this Tapas evening. She is in the throes of food preparation when we arrive. We have a great audience and the atmosphere is warm and happy. They have wide-ranging tastes in music –one member of the audience requests something by Vivaldi and we very happily oblige!
My mum is really keeping up now, looking up all the places on her atlas, places she has never been to before either.

Thursday July 18 Hamilton

As we leave the Coromandel, we are treated to a display of performing dolphins.

On our way to Hamilton, we stop off at Marilyn’s place. Marilyn is the mother of Owen’s partner, guitarist Jane Curry. Marilyn makes us a lovely lunch and then we do some rehearsing. We are playing to the guitar society this evening so have a slightly different programme than usual. I’m a bit worried about playing the Polish pieces as there are alot of dissonances, but Owen assures me that ‘guitarists can handle that stuff.’
We drive to Hamilton, and I am pleased to note that Owen is finally treating my iphone with respect, as he asks for instructions about how to get to the house. The concert is at Harvey Indyk’s residence. He and Katya, both from the Hamilton guitar society, are very polished presenters. The chairs and cushions are laid out and the room is beautifully warm. It’s a nice space to play in and the room is totally packed. I don’t feel too out of place as there are quite a few non-guitarists in the audience. Ian Krouse’s new piece goes down really well.
After the concert, we jump in the van and drive to Auckland where Donald and the girls have spent the day. It is around midnight by the time we get in, and for a brief moment, I start to worry that we will never get out of this van, as the lifts aren’t working in the motel car park. Donald races down and meets us and sorts everything out. I peek in on the girls who are fast asleep after an exciting day at the Zoo. We let Owen have the master bedroom as he has been doing all the driving, and Donald and I sleep on the roll out couch bed in the lounge. It’s not too uncomfortable, but I am woken very early by sounds of heavy transport which not even my white noise app on my phone can mask. ‘Welcome to Auckland.’ Says Donald.

Friday July 19 Hokianga Copthorne Resort
The girls are under strict instructions to talk quietly until Owen wakes up from his beauty sleep. Owen does eventually wake up and then we get on the road again. The girls are set up with their portable DVD player which threatens to topple each time the van swerves.
We have to take a photo of the famous toilet in Kawakawa:

This ends up being a much longer and more confusing journey than we had anticipated. It seems to take forever –and then we are told we have taken the ‘longer’ route. Some of the roads are invisible on my maps app…
Eventually we get there…

The girls have a 5 second dip in the pool and play on the beach which they share with a member of the local rat population.
And a few hours later…..

Marcel and Norma help us get set up for the concert in a room next to the dining area of the hotel. This is the last concert of our tour, the last time we assemble those fiddly flags up, the last time we yank the banner out and set up the video recorder. It is a good venue, except that the ‘green room’ area is the space just outside the Ladies and Gents, an inauspicious backdrop for our encounters with the public before the concert and during the interval. Donald and the girls are at tonight’s concert. They have heard us play many times before and Gemma is continually asking Donald ‘is this the last piece, Daddy?’ But they enjoy Owen’s banter on stage and are happy when we play their favourites.

We drive south from Hokianga using the shorter route which winds through the Waipoua forest where the tallest tree in NZ is said to be found.

Donald and Owen drop me and the girls off at Auckland airport before they begin their long drive home.

Thanks to all the music societies who chose to have us and who looked after us so well. And thanks to Arts on tour, especially Steve, Michelle and Diana. It was a great tour. I loved the dramatic changes in scenery, the warmth of the audiences and intimacy of the concerts, which have enriched and deepened my love for New Zealand. And Owen, despite your eating habits, you’re a fantastic touring partner.