How to get to Ocean Road
First you must find your way from Vogeltown to the small seaside village of Paekākāriki. The first woman you pass will be wearing a watch with a diamond wrist strap, her hair in the style of the 1940s, her dress in the style of the 1960s. She’ll not look you in the eye, but rather up above you and to your left, as if asking someone standing there Is it appropriate for me to speak now? And if so what should I say?
She is known as the Femme Flambée, and whatever she says must be divided by two and subtracted from the surrounding landscape. By this method you will be released into a large white dome, the walls of which are infinitely high, the bright-dark sky above will come and go.
In a nook under the Tautekau bush, there in the dark where only the limegreen light of a microscope gets through, see the Banshee flower. The bloom is dark pink. The petals are browning as if they are dying, but the bloom is small and held tightly into itself, as if it is yet to be born. Notice that instead of being brittle, the stem, leaves and flower petals are moist and slightly warm to the touch.
I will pack a bag to sustain you. I choose one which is close-woven and lets in no light or dust. Inside you will find a duck’s bill made of glass, a round disk of polished silver so shined you can see your reflection and a single, intact snake skin.
There is a particular potion whose name rhymes with scrutiny, I can’t recall it now. It is excreted by the gonads of most ogres and, as long as one is not too concerned with matters of hygiene, it can be successfully extracted using one of the two small but very sharp penis-daggers of the Flatworm Lucubratus, excised humanely, of course, from the worm’s mouth. Store this liquid in the fluid-proof snakeskin for imminent use. Make a careful knot at the top.
These small triangles indicate houses and the wavy lines are carparks or riverbeds. The pathways are crawling with spiders but when they die they leave you gifts, always something valuable, something useful. This helmet I’m wearing came from such an encounter.
As you walk to the water’s edge, you will no doubt be tempted to buy something from one of the many vendors with their brightly-coloured stalls. Two small ceramic dishes, handpainted, the decorations palpable to the touch. A custard pastry, canoe-shaped, glistening with glazed strawberries.
Don’t do it. I watched a man sliced in two by a stall-vendor – a knight in disguise. The man’s liver was diced and shared by onlookers, a delicacy, babies wore dark red gashes of blood across their lightly-pimpled faces.
From these rocks you can see three nearby landmasses, each with its own climate and weather forecast. One of them – the one shaped like a neanderthal’s forehead – sometimes forgets to have weather at all. On these days you will notice an extra humidity in your own air, and a higher likelihood of lightning strikes, as the neighbouring isles take up the forgetful island’s slack.
In the waters around this land lives a cave-blue fish, head big as a stone. It feeds on the detachable genitals of the Argonaut, or paper nautilus. That long, white, snakeish coil, self-propelled but completely blind, is easy prey for those with knowledge of its seasons.
You can walk around this island in just under two hours. On your hands it will take longer, of course, but the ground behaves like a firm, upholstered mattress, and the going is easy.
As David Beckham said of himself in 2000, I have had a camera up my backside almost 24 hours a day. Hence I am not the most reliable guide, here. What I do know is that this place sells radishes with insides the white of milkteeth, and over there you can listen to Arvo Pärt and watch the waiter clash the drapes together with a long pole while you spoon your crema.
The woman juggling clubs is Mary. Her jewellery is mostly stainless steel, except for the delicately carved wooden robot with pāua-shell eyes that hangs from a length of knitted wool around her neck. She has a tattoo on each calf – a baseball player, the same baseball player on each leg, but from a slightly different angle. Her children are enormous, they defy logic, the shadow of the sole of her son’s foot darkens the entire island.
The travel book says the main attraction around here is the Tram Museum, but we locals all know it’s actually the itinerary itself, and the way the glossy boarding pass speaks to the newly-installed machine. It reminds you of those two long-parted spouses meeting again at the RSA. You’re still as sexy as ever, said one. I no longer suffer with diabetes, said the other.
All of this nonsense avoids the obvious – the fact that your pathway has become a tunnel through these astonishing green ferns. They look like they’re made of glass. They interlock in such a way that when you walk amongst them, the surrounding buildings, the vast ocean, this freckled woman selling maps who’s been running beside you to keep up – all become completely invisible.
The temperature rises and falls by less than point one of a degree each time, yet you feel it. You are a wolf feeding on the body of a domestic dog. You are a bald eagle carrying off a pet cat, high over rocks, where you will drop it and watch as it twists and turns, trying to find its feet.
Hinemoana Baker is a Māori writer, musician, producer, editor and teacher of creative writing. Her first book of poetry, ‘mātuhi | needle’ was published in 2004, and her new one, ‘kōiwi kōiwi’ is due in May 2010. She has also released two albums of original music – one solo and one with her duo, ‘Taniwha’. As well as this she has produced two CDs of spoken word with field recordings which she calls ‘sonic poems’. One of these, ‘Gondwanavista’, was released in 2009 during her time as Arts Queensland Poet in Residence. More information about Hinemoana is available at www.hinemoana.co.nz