Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bones and Jade and Gold

This morning I woke up very hot... the west coast has high humidity levels, and sleeping in a small room with five other people, under duvets, even with the window open, meant that we were all swimming in our own sweat, and my towel that I had hung at the end of the bunk bed was still damp. At least I didn't wake up with a hangover like the members of the Scottish "Boy" Band.

The main drag of Barry-No-Town

Today's highlight was the bone carving activity in Barrytown; we trekked across the highway from the hotel to "Bone Idle", where a woman named Karen assisted us in making our very own bone necklaces. We chose the design from a collection of stencils (or we could design our own), then cut them out of a piece of bone with a bandsaw, sanded the edges and sides with a circular and and belt sander, smoothed the sides with a hand-held grinder (kind of like a vibrating pencil), sanded the whole thing by hand with four different weights of sandpaper, and then buffed it to a high gloss on another polishing machine. All in all, it took us about 3 1/2 hours for eleven people to each make their own necklace. I ended up needing help for some of the finer work at the end; my being left-handed was a handicap in using some of the machinery, and Karen intervened to keep me from both wrecking my carving and hurting myself. The whole shed had the slightly unnerving stench of the dentist's office when crown or cavity work is being done, with the grinding of drills and bone dust thick in the air. When I blew my nose later in the day it came out full of bone dust... yum.

Bone slices waiting to be turned into necklaces

Angela and Freddie choose their stencils

The water for our complimentary tea came from this!

However, despite my fears, my carving is beautiful, and I'm wearing it around my neck right now. It's a traditional Māori design of a fish hook, which represents strength, peace, and safe passage over water. As nice as those meanings are, I picked it simply because I liked the aesthetic of the design.

The finished product

This afternoon was spent driving: we stopped in Greymouth to pick up two more passengers (boys! Now we have four boys and eighteen girls!), and I felt a little tinge of sadness remembering my two nights staying in the town with Mainline Steam (we drove right past the train station). Our grocery stop was in Hokitika, a gold-rush turned tourist-trap town that seems to exist simply to sell jade carvings and jewellery to visitors. Then it was nothing but driving; we drove through Ross, where the largest gold nugget in New Zealand was found in 1909 (the size of a man's fist, and weighing 99 ounces: 2.8 kilograms!), and saw where mining still continues to this day. The highway we drove down follows the coastline, quite literally hugging the mountains; it reminded me of driving in the Fraser canyon, especially when we would make a sharp turn or pass over a creek on a rickety bridge.

New Zealand highway engineers could either be kindly called ingenious or derisively called frugal to the point of madness. Today we went over a long one-lane bridge - and while it is not unusual for highways to have one lane bridges here on the South Island - this particular one is ALSO the railway trestle! Yes, a one-lane bridge that also has train tracks running straight down the middle of the single vehicle lane. What could possibly go wrong?

Highway, one lane bridge, and rail tracks. Whee!

The other good example was the roundabout with the train tracks neatly bisecting the thing in two. Once you get into this roundabout you not only have to look out for cars, but approaching trains as well! (Something tells me the trains don't yield to traffic already within the circle....) As a result of all these crazy road/railway meetings, Natalie had us go "choo choo!" every time we saw a rail line crossing the highway, to remind her to come to a complete stop and look for trains.

Roundabout and rail tracks

Now we are in Franz Joesf, a small town named for the glacier that is its main attraction (in New Zealand, "glacier" is pronounced "glah-see-er", with a short "a"). Tomorrow I am doing an all-day hike up the glacier, and will finish the day with a soak in some nice hot pools and a dinner at the backpacker bar ("Monsoons: It rains... we pour"). However, I will start the day on a serious note: New Zealand doesn't recognize November 11th as Remembrance Day, so tomorrow at 8am (which will be 11am on November 11th at home) I will pause for two minutes of silence. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori... We will remember them.



  1. Hi, I am currently in New Zealand myself, and when googling about making my own bone Maori necklace while here I came across your blog. I am having trouble finding out any information regarding how to book it, etc. so I was wondering if you could perhaps pass along the contact information of Bone Idle? Thanks :)

  2. Your best bet is likely to call Barrytown Knife Making (03 731 1053) and ask for directions. It's a small town!