Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Huts in the Orongorongo Valley: Sixth Tramping Trip

   In the last two weeks of April I was away on another 'hut hop' drawing more huts for The Art of a Hut collection. This time the destination was the Orongorono Valley in the Rimutaka Range just east of Wellington. It was a very different trip compared to the usual weary tramps up and down steep and disappearing tracks in the highest ranges of the North Island. In this valley there are so many huts so close together that the longest I had to walk to a hut was two hours and we managed to stay in one hut for the whole 11 days we were there.

 Here are the three of us, Guillaume, Me, and Jerualem. The same three from the 
Whanganui Hut Hop. We found a hut, Rata, which had a big shiny window so we took a selfie of ourselves, after many tries we managed to get this.

   Before going down I had contacted the Orongorongo Club about a place to stay. They were very helpful and managed to find us a hut to stay in. In the whole valley there are about 60 private huts. They are very different to DOC huts, since they are all privately owned and as it is possible to drive a 4X4 up the valley on the riverbed a lot of these huts are very well set up. They are almost more like little batches than huts, but they all had simple beginnings. The hut we stayed at was one of the oldest in the valley. 

   Many beautiful places to look out from on some of the tracks that lead up to hidden huts. On the day we arrived the weather was perfect and the whole place looked like paradise.

  Near Paua Hut we had some fun on the long swing from a high up branch. This stand of native beech trees was so beautiful and magical especially with the sun streaming and dappling through the branches.

This is Nikau Hut and the painting I did of it on the first day. There was one tree right in the way of my favorite view of it, so I simply didn't paint it in. It was quite amazing how a few hours into the painting I forgot all about that tree and simply didn't even see it any more. It reminded me about selective sight, how we only see what we are conscious of and how easily many things go overlooked though they are right in front of us. It is good to be aware of this as an artist for it makes me look at what I'm painting more intensely, and not get into the habit of painting what I think I see instead of properly looking and seeing how it truly is. In order to interpret shapes and edges into recognizable objects the brain edits stuff out and learns to jump to conclusions about things. As an artist I have to stop seeing a hut as a hut but as a collection of shapes and edges working together to form the image. In this way I can make in image of what is really there as opposed to what I think is there. Often two different things!

   This hut had no dunny, but it had a toilet!! That was one of the best things about it, it had a flush toilet with an amazing view. Jerusalem was quite taken with it and spent a good deal of time sitting on it writing in his journal!

  Guillaume enjoyed the unheard of contraption called a 'yellow wheelbarrow' and found it entertaining to fill it with wood and wheel it the short distance from woodshed to hut.

  When we were shopping for food for the trip Jerusalem insisted that we wouldn't buy any meat as he would catch all the meat we needed. So we brought only two cans of tuna and yes he caught us meat. On the first night at the hut the boys caught an eel from the river and a couple of days after Jerusalem came back from hunting with a wild pig. It was a nice size and lasted us the whole time in there. 

  I spent every day searching for huts and drawing them. There were two days when it poured with rain but I managed to work inside and painted a small oil painting of the rifle and a couple of lanterns above the open fire.

Journey's End
  It was a novel experience walking to all the huts and ticking them off on our map as we found them. Usually we walk five hours between huts, here we only had to walk five minutes in the bush until someone would sing out 'I've found another one here!'  They were quite well hidden and we meet a number of people who come regularly to the valley and had no idea where all the huts were. Fortunately we had a map with all the huts marked on it which proved very helpful and by the end of the trip was in three pieces.

   It was fun meeting people in some of the huts. During the week we saw no one but come the weekend there were people everywhere!

Tahara Hut

  There were a few very cute and unique dunnys. And some very unusual huts:

Waikapai Hut

Drawing Kiwi Hut

   A couple of the huts had some sort of paintings on the walls, this one, Riverside Hut, had beautiful murals painted on the outside walls. It made something special and different out of an otherwise plain hut.

Xanadu Hut dunny

   All the huts are locked of course except Bane Iti and Hebron. Hebron Hut we spent a long time looking for scrambling through ferns and supple jack until we finally found the remains of an A-frame hut slowly falling apart with age.

   While I worked the guys drank tea...and slept... Well, not all of the time I guess. Guillaume did a lot of wood cutting climbed a mountain or two and did some school work he'd brought. Jerusalem went hunting all the time until he shot the pig, then he spent the last week cooking it.

   This is the bridge at the beginning of the track out of the valley which is only a 1.5 hour walk.

    I really enjoyed it and felt my first earthquake! I was sitting on a big log one morning in front of a hut painting when suddenly the whole thing began to wobble and shake. That evening I heard on the radio (yes we had a radio in our hut!!) that there had been an earthquake in the area. Overall it was a very relaxing trip.Or should have been. At first I felt like I had a lot of time to do all the drawing I wanted to get done but as the days passed I realized I could spend months painting in that valley and still have more I'd want to do. I wanted to do some landscapes as well as huts, but only had time for a small watercolour of the river.

  But I still managed to get lots more drawing done than I usually would on a trip that long since there was less time walking and more for drawing. I have gathered enough material to do some nice larger paintings and a large drawing which I have already visualized in my head. In my next post I will share some of my paintings and sketches from the trip.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog. We're in a heat wave in Iowa, so guess it's winter there.