As we are headed into the town centre we spot signs for Puke Ariki which is the towns i site (information centre) There is a car park opposite so I swing in, we have barely come to a stop when someone walks over. He owns the campervan behind us and explains that this is a pay car park but he is just leaving and he has an hour left, all we have to do is pull into his numbered bay when he leaves. We thank him for his kindness and reverse the bike back to go and take a look. Not far away is a fascinating piece of sculpture that bends in the wind, inside the i site we discover it’s called the wind wand and is the brainchild of a NZ artist called Len Lye. There is a free exhibition of some of his other work at the Govett-Brewster art gallery. I add this to our to do list and we take a look around the free museum above the i site. It soon becomes obvious that there is heaps to do so we decide to find a campsite and stay so we can have more time here. We continue along the coast a little way until we get to belt road campsite. We pitch up and get our shorts and sandals on so we can walk back into town along the beachfront walkway. It’s a pleasant walk into town and it’s nice to get out of the bike gear, it also gives us a chance to look around the rest of Puke Ariki, the museum and an exhibition of Maori culture which is also on show there.
While we are there we discover there is a free festival of lights show on all this month in Pukekura park with bands as well. We wander back to the campsite through town this time taking in some more of the sights. Once we have had dinner we put our long trousers back on and wander back across town stopping to pick up a bottle of wine on route. It’s not quite dark as we walk through through the park but it looks beautiful already with a boating lake and waterfalls. We stroll through the park and after a while come across the first band on one of the lawns. Shenanigans play Irish style music and there is a big crowd jiggling on the lawn. We watch for a while and then wander on through the park to the next venue. This is two guitarists (whose name I forget), they played some good music which we both liked so we stayed and watched them for most of the evening. Just as they were finishing their set the lights around the park were switched on and out on the lake Captain Hook appeared in a rowing boat accompanied by some crew and proceded to row around the lake amusing the kids by stopping off at every island searching for treasure. There was lots of audience participation and it was well done with lots of tomfoolery. We wandered back to the first lawn and watched the end of Shenanigans before taking a stroll around the park to look at the lights. The whole park is based a round a long thin boating lake and the lights are on the paths around it’s circumference. The lights are really well done, there are colour changing leds on the different layers of the waterfall and a myriad of different lights around the park. We especially liked the dragonflys on the bridge these were made from plastic drink bottles with etched plastic wings and antanae lit up with leds. It sounds amateurish but the appearance is very effective.
As the evening is drawing to a close we take one last stroll around the lake to see the far side of the illuminations. There is one really surreal setup with fluorescent planets hanging from the trees and hidden uv lamps that make it all glow as you walk through it.
We wander back to our campsite through town, it has been a very pleasant evening and all for free.
Unbelievably this event goes on every night for a whole month thanks to sponsorship from the towns businesses, its great as it has something for everybody. Its getting windy by the time we get back and it continues all night. We hear a couple of cries of frustration in the night as people are out banging in flapping tents and pegs but fortunately ours stays up ok. In the morning it’s still really blowy but we pack up and head into town. We find the Govett -Brewster gallery fairly easily and we are pleasantly surpised to discover that this too is free. There is a combined exhibition featuring 3 artists including some more models of Len Lye’s kinetic art. We are not so keen on some of the other exhibits but we both appreciate Len Lye’s work. A lot of it was way ahead of its time, the wind wand was built after his death by the Len Lye foundation to his design.
The materials technology was in it’s infancy when he first concieved the idea to build something on that kind of scale (45metres tall) It’s made of carbon fibre and fibreglass and can deflect 10 metres in any direction. There is a globe on the end with a bunch of red leds that light up at night and it is so delicately balanced that on a completely still day it will stand upright but the slightest gust of wind will make it sway and dance in the wind.
Also in the gallery is a guest exhibition from the USA. called “An American index of the hidden and unfamiliar” Shot by Taryn Simon it is a photographic exhibition which we found fascinating. It’s an often bizarre, sometimes disturbing but never boring look at some of the things which are normally totally off limits. It took the photographer 4 years and countless paperwork to shoot and we thought it was excellent. The subject matter varied from Nuclear fuel cells, prisons, hospitals, goverment institutions all the things you never normally see. The pictures are all beautifully shot on a large format camera and each one has a explanation of what they are all about.
Eventually we drag ourselves away and head back to the Forgotton World Highway to finish what we started but we are glad we came back !