In the Shadow of the Mountain

Hello dear travelers. Today’s blog is going to be a bit different. A couple of weeks ago now I was in a little town called Ohakune for a writers’ festival. I’d found out about the festival by pure chance. Since it was the weekend before my birthday I decided I would go and make it my birthday gift to myself.

Instead of writing up a blog about my four day stay in Ohakune, this post will be split between a short summary of my time at the festival and a short piece I wrote while I was there. There’s even a few photos!

The short description would be that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and it made me feel very much like an outsider. The event was indeed more of a festival, celebrating local authors and their work, as opposed to a conference, where more sessions would be dedicated to talking shop about techniques and writing tips (I assume, having never been to a writers’ conference).

I had never heard of any of the authors, since they were all from NZ. I heard most of them read excerpts from their work and they were all good, but I was still at a disadvantage compared to my fellow attendees. There were plenty of enjoyable moments during the trip, however, some of them not even taking place at the festival.

I ventured up Mt. Ruapehu twice. Once to return to Mangawhero Falls, a place Mom and I had visited during our visit three years ago, and the second to seek out the hidden door to Erebor, which just seems silly seeing as it’s a hidden door. That particular excursion up the mountain was a bit scary. On the way back down my breaks started locking up. I made my leg very sore pumping the breaks the whole way down.

On the second to last day of the festival I went to a performance poetry session, which is essentially like slam poetry. I’ve been to a few slam poetry shows before, and after seeing this once I’ve decided I quite like them. There were two American authors reading that night, and one of them turned out to be from Colorado. I chatted with him and a couple of the other poets after the reading, as well as bought their books and got them signed.

That’s my brief summary for you. Now we’ll switch over to the short piece I wrote up after walking around town one morning before sessions started. Enjoy!

Ohakune was simultaneously like and unlike mountains towns back home. For one, it wasn’t actually in the mountains; it was by the mountain, and all the vegetation was just wrong. Too green, too tropical looking. But still sitting on the cusp of winter, the streets were bare, unwelcoming. Half the shops were closed, some bearing signs declaring, “See you in winter 2016!” A few locals drove up and down the street, going about their business, not fussed ski season hadn’t started yet.

And then there was me, walking up and down the street, looking for the only familiar haunt I had in this town and taking pictures of disused railway stations. I’m at a writers’ conference, and while I’m doing a pretty good job at the writing part I won’t be taking interest in the conference part until about two in the afternoon. I might escape up the mountain soon. That’s who we are here to impress after all, according to the festival’s organizer. Here in the shadow of the mountain. We ask it to honor us, inspire us, and perhaps even show itself before the end of the weekend.

I certainly would like to see it before I leave. The clouds hid the rocky faces of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu from me on the drive down, and in addition to the conference, the mountains were something I was looking forward to seeing during my stay.

Since moving to New Zealand I’ve become very used to being alone. But being used to something has never meant you have to like it. Sometimes it is enjoyable and solitude is exactly what I’m looking for. But other times it just diminishes me. It makes me feel like my existence is slowly receding from the face of the planet. In a room of happy talking people I am a ghost, there only to observe and feel the acute sting of loneliness.

Okay, it gets a bit dark there at the end…probably could just cut that out but I’m in a sharing mood! The whole thing is rather stream of consciousness, too, if you hadn’t noticed. Things have turned in a more upward direction since writing that so no worries there my travelers. The reality is that traveling alone sometimes does get a bit lonely. And homesickness is a thing. But we continue onto the next adventure and meet new and wonderful people.

Anyway, I will leave with with a collection of photos from the long weekend. Today marks the first day of my last month at Hobbiton. After that I’m unemployed for who knows how long, so I’m going into super ultra saving mode. Adventures may be sparse in lieu of saving money. Until our next meeting.




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