Saturday, January 28, 2012

The start of a journey...


12 Jan 12

It fascinates me the degree to which a physical search facilitates the psychological journey.
Tomorrow, with my tourist alibi of a camera, I will take the overgrown path up to the Napier prison (now a backpackers) and see where it leads…
I suddenly feel I have begun the trail…and it is both soothing and exciting..

Last night a magnificent night's sleep. In my mind's eye I had the most vivid imprint of the
sea beside which I now walk every morning, when it is still cool…

13 January 2012


The track up to the prison was surprisingly easy, given the steep gradient of the hill. The fact was the backpackers who stayed in the prison probably still used it as a shortcut. (There was a glitteringly blue bike lying amid the periwinkle. I thought it might be stolen, then assumed it was a backpacker's.) 

It was once the shortcut between town and prison, asylum, light-house. There was enough foot traffic for it to have quite formal steps, made of huge pieces of limestone. 



It was overgrown and the higher I climbed the more I smelt toilet overflow. I avoided the ribbon of wet. 

There was a sea of periwinkle, then through the layered level of Norfolk pine fronds the summer sea brimmed up and glittered. I thought: this is when Napier lives up to its title of the 'Riviera of the Pacific' - that intensity of light. It's like looking into a very pure diamond. 



I thought of the people who now ran the prison as a private enterprise: they were new migrants, Indians I think. I often saw their van running round town, advertising prison tours on the side. Something like 'Lonely Planet' had given it their seal of approval. In one way it seemed an odd tourist destination but...



The track led up to a prison wall, quite beautifully built from stone. There was even a series of small and I think entirely decorative buttresses. I knew this was made much later than Kereopa's imprisonment there in 1871-72. The prison when he was there was stout and made of wood. Maybe even corrugated iron. 

I also knew prison labour had created the stones, some of which showed primitive 'signatures' - but again this was later than Kereopa's internment. 

In fact, when one took into account the fact that the Norfolk pines along the Parade were planted by prisoners and where Norfolk pines actually came from (a hellish prison settlement), the landscape of Napier which appears to our eyes settled and attractive in a leisure-time promenade kind of way, has another whole layering of meaning hidden only slightly beneath the surface…

Anyway I came home with my photographs.

I felt I had found something

It felt good to have started the journey.


Note: The stonework for the prison was undertaken from 1896 onwards. So the ornamental gate and stairs and wall date from almost 20 years after the imprisonment of Kaiwhatu 'the eye eater'. Possibly the track just formalised an earlier foot traffic route? 

I also note the prisoners in the 1860s had to undertake 'drainage' for the original prison…which on my walk in 2012 was leaking or…weeping.

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