Sunday, January 15, 2012

A trip to Marumaru South, aka Baring Head

I can see Baring Head from my deck (I could see it from my desk right now if another house didn't intercede) but the view is particularly good when I'm walking home from the bus stop on a summer evening. Over the course of several such evenings two years ago I decided my fictional town of Marumaru South, located somewhere between Timaru and Oamaru, would actually look a lot like Baring Head, but with houses and streets.

Despite it seeming so close from the top of Mt Albert, Baring Head is actually an hour's drive from my house, followed by an hour's walk to reach the lighthouse and the views back across the harbour. And despite working on a novel set in Marumaru South for the last year, I had never actually been to Baring Head until today.

Before starting the walk to the lighthouse, M. and I drove to the coast, near the mouth of the Wainuiomata River. From the beach you can actually see the lighthouse and the hills you have to climb over to look back at Wellington.

After traipsing through sheep paddocks following the occasional orange triangle that marked the path, we made it up the hill and I was able to take the reverse of the photo above:

Baring Head is the windiest place in New Zealand, and it didn't disappoint today. Luckily the sun was out so it wasn't too cold. The sun, the wind, the pulsing grass in seed, the rocks and white-capped sea - it was all quite dramatic. Oh, and the sheep!

I'm not into lighthouses like some people (*cough* Marcus Lush *cough*), but there's a lighthouse in my fictional town and I was interested to see what Baring Head's lighthouse looked like up close.

Aside: I know I risk sounding a lot like the novelist in this article from the Onion:
According to Milligan, he spent seven months conducting in-depth historical research in order to conjure, as if out of thin air, the fictional and entirely bullshit universe of Connor's Cove, Massachusetts, including its utterly uninspired lighthouse...
I guess this is as close to operating on a knife-edge as we historical novelists get, eh?

Anyway, the Baring Head lighthouse (built 1935, so too recent to be much use to me) is a concrete design similar to the one at Cape Reinga, which I saw last month in almost zero visibility; you couldn't see the sea at all). Sadly there's a few temporary NIWA buildings behind the Baring Head lighthouse which ruin any lighthouse + sea photos.

Baring Head lightouse + sky - sea - NIWA weather station
Back from the lighthouse there are three boarded up cottages and another few small sheds/outhouses. The lawns had all been freshly mown giving the place a recent viral epidemic vibe.

Continuing on the loop walk yielded some great views of Wellington Harbour. Thanks to my zoom lens and some more digital zooming at home I've been able to identify my flat in some photos, but you'll just have to trust me.

Looking toward Wellington from Baring Head
So, how did my trip to Baring Head affect my thinking about Marumaru South? Well, I think there'll be more wind when I go through and do the second draft.

I'm holding off on any other changes as I'm going down to South Canterbury and North Otago in a fortnight for a four day research trip. It'll inform both my Marumaru scenes and the later 'flight to the hills'.

But for now, my trip to the real Marumaru has given my motivation to work on THE NOVEL a nice fillip. And who knows, maybe the exercise and new environment stimulated a bit of neurogenesis...

1 comment:

Claire at Latitude said...

How can you sully this place, even fictionally, with houses and streets? There must be an authority to which I can appeal: the local council's Department of the Novel, or something... the problem, though, is which territorial council - the one that covers Baring Head or the one between Timaru and Oamaru?