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Rakino Jazz & Art 09

It is amazing how many Aucklanders havent heard of Rakino Island from the Hauraki Gulf and its (kind of) famous and (certainly) very casual Jazz and Art festival. However, my elder son Michael got a flyer advertising this event and there was not too much of a debate on Friday night if we attend the 09 edition the next day, even if it was on very short notice. While my wife Luana was planning for a family picnic, my younger son Vlad was really upset as he had arranged to work on that particular Saturday and he couldnt take it back! But, as he was told on several occasions someone has to go to work to bring the bacon home. Hey, it may sound cynical, but I really felt for him. We left early in the morning looking a bit worried at the cloudy skies and watching the patchy showers coming and going every ten minutes or so, and we were asking ourselves if it is really wise to attend an outspoken outdoor event in the islands. The weather forecast wasnt brilliant as well, but in all honesty this was kind of comforting - you have more chances to get it right in Auckland by flipping a coin.

1. We left the Devonport ferry terminal hoping for a good weather

Only charter ferries were in service for this event so that we left early to make sure we dont have to face endless cues to buy the tickets two minutes before the scheduled departure time, and we were right to do so. We had a good long drive from Alfriston to Devonport in Aucklands North Shore, crawling on a very busy motorway, quite unusual for a Saturday morning, coming even to stand still a couple of times just before Harbour Bridge. And parking wasnt exactly an easy breeze with my dear wife watching for the best possible parking lot. Being three drivers in the car, of course we couldnt be on the same page and my decision was opposed by at least two better options. However, the skies began to clear and this was promising.

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2. but we were still worried about the dark clouds hanging low over Auckland City. We were just 10 minutes early, and the long winding cue wasnt really a nice view, we were even afraid that we would miss the first ferry which would have been a draw back of course. Fortunately the scheduled terminal was busy with another overcrowded Waiheke ferry coming in before ours and this allowed us to buy the tickets in time for the first Rakino ferry which eventually departed some 20 minutes late. Being in a hurry we had to skip breakfast at the wharf cafeteria, however, I was rewarded with the biggest and strongest takeaway black coffee money can buy at the local coffee shops; in the end this was just what I needed. As we dragged our backpacks over to the upper deck we had to face the last raindrops on the way to Rakino and a strong southerly wind, but that was it. The rest of the day (except for a short wet interlude during our Rakino Island grand tour) was perfect a mostly sunny early autumn day, warm enough to keep everybody happy and only with the t-shirts on most of the time. As it was one of Fullers speed boats we were passing by Rangitoto in no time and shortly after this the neighboring Motutapu (which I have to visit one day, thats a resolution). We were simply enjoying the ride, taking pictures and chatting and welcoming the sun and the sea. Rakino is the third island, lying north-east of Motutapu, and we arrived there in just 40 minutes.

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3 - 5. We soon passed by the young volcanic island of Rangitoto (left), and the much older Motutapu (below).

Rakino is a small island barely 2 km long and just over 1 km at its widest point, of only 146 hectares, but it has been inhabited for a long time by few residents, deforested and transformed into farmlands. Unfortunately as it happens to this kind of isolated habitats its uniqueness has been lost for good, and we might have not witnessed even a glimpse of it. It may still look fresh and wild when looked at with tourists eyes but the natures thrill is almost gone for most of the island. In the mean time farming became uneconomical in such a remote place and the island became a small holiday houses community, far from the big city lights. And speaking of the lights it is actually one of the small communities relying solely on solar and eolian energy for all domestic needs. In old times there was a diesel generator installed on the island and the power, stored in batteries, was used for lighting, ironing and even washing machines. Of course there is still no communal water supply. There are landline telephones installed now, but the first telephone ever was a panic phone installed by the army during the WW2 (troops were stationed here) helping the small community to stay in contact with the mainland on a daily basis. Page 3

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6 - 7. After 40 minutes we were able to admire the rocky shores of Rakino Island, our destination today.

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There are less than 35 permanent residents now on the island, but still some 75 holiday houses count for an increased number of people spending their time here during long weekends or summer holidays. You need to have a boat as there is no ferry service (except for this yearly event) or you can hire one of these taxi boats but this costs an arm and a leg. It is therefore not ideal for commuters, but a heaven for those looking for privacy, isolation and peace but not today, with so many noisy visitors.

8. Rakino Island consists of extended farmlands with pockets of seemingly wild vegetation. Rakino Island is a miniature Waiheke Island, except that it hasnt extended vineyards; this was becoming very clear to me when coming closer to the island. OK, and not that fancy. Quite basic I would say. Except very few steeps the only really wild looking parts of the island were the small beaches, the numerous bays and raised cliffs covered in the vegetation you would expect to see in a coastal environment. Otherwise, even if the whole island was covered with green, it was very obvious that patches of composite vegetation were alternating with former farmlands and even large areas of immaculate lawn (by New Zealand standards). The only building next to the wharf is the Community Hall, an old and ugly wooden house hosting the art exhibition but the thing that strikes you immediately is the image of the cars parked wherever some space is available nearby (the terrain is quite rough and you seldom find a nice flat area) old junks you wouldnt dare to drive on mainland, deregistered and having ancient expiring dates of the Warrant Page 5

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of Fitness. It makes sense actually the locals leave their cars near the wharf when they sail to the mainland and have them handy when returning home loaded with food and all the other stuff they may need. And being such a small island, who cares about traffic regulations anyway? However, the few unsealed roads and streets have names and even slow down children signs are visible here and there, which is actually good. No need to say there was a single store opened in the Community Hall, but you would hardly survive more than a week on what they had on offer.

9 - 10. Junk vehicles, deregistered and with expired WOF are parked everywhere this is the norm on Rakino Island (left); a local dog (lets call him Toto), unimpressed by all these noisy people running around today on the island (right). In old days boats used to transport produce, smoked fish and manure to the mainland and various goods, and even vehicles to the island on a weekly basis, but I have no idea if such operator still exists. However, I have learned that there is a barge ramp available on the western end of Sanford Way in Home Bay, where the waters are deeper. The rain was picking again, but we decided to make a tour of the island first. We located the small stage sheltered by a gazebo close to a beach, just two or three hundred meters away from the wharf. Although the ferry was pretty crowded just few people gathered around the festival grounds and food stands, most of them seemed keen to explore the small island, and that was what we also decided to do. People were everywhere, but soon we found us alone on a steep unsealed road. It doesnt take too much time to make the tour; there are just few unsealed roads leading to more or less modern holiday houses, some with impressive decks and pools, some looking more like trailers, semiabandoned farmlands (the people still own huge sections but it seems that little is going on here), abandoned tractors and rusty sheds. There is something very peculiar on the island abandoned hardware and truck parts and cars and tractors and materials from decorations or left behind by the builders but its not looking like a polluted and littered area at all, you really dont mind them and very funny seem to be more or less part of the scenery. Although a waste disposal and recycling service runs on the small island it seems that no one bothers about all this stuff lying around in peoples backyards or in a corner at the gates. Probably it would cost too much to dispose.

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During this tour we also met a drifting local dog we decided to call Toto. He seemed unimpressed and indifferent to our attempts to enter his world, keeping a reasonable distance at all times or ignoring us completely. We sow him several times during the day, in different parts of the island, sniffing around and running from grassy banks to the beach and back, wondering probably whats all about today and why are so many strange noisy people out there on a usually quiet island. One other thing we have noticed he didnt touch any food it was offered to him.

11. Among the naturalized plants seen on the island was also the South African flowering bulb Amaryllis belladonna, quite common in Greater Auckland, but not mentioned at all on Hauraki Gulf islands in botanical literature.

The hilly topography of Rakino comprises a layer of volcanic topsoil from Rangitoto that overlays a thick mantle of clay soil which in turn overlays greywacke rock. The rocky core is very good visible in the coastal areas where it is largely exposed. The inner parts of Rakino are not that spectacular, just large farmlands, paddocks or even extended lawns, also few really nice gardens. One of them, with several large scrubs, xerophytes, cacti and succulents exposed on a sunny slope, was particularly interesting (but I forgot to take some pictures on the way back), but most were old-fashioned cottage gardens full of colour, lovely but kind of dj vu no offence. Some even have tried modern landscaping which I find horrible in such a magnificent place. Numerous pockets of Metrosideros excelsa (the famous native pohutukawa) are spread over the island, being probably remainders of the vegetation covering the once the entire island. But the numerous small beaches, bays, grooves, and cliffs surrounding the island stay in rewarding contrast, beautiful and covered in interesting vegetation (even if you can see here and there few naturalized plants). Of course during the tour I was more interested in the vegetation than in the dwellings, the time was too short to take up everything I guess. The first naturalized plant that caught my attention was Amaryllis belladonna, a South African flowering bulb. The few plants seen here on a roadside were not in their prime anymore, but still interesting. This flower is quite common in Greater Auckland on roadsides, wastelands or even on farmlands, but there is no reference placing it on Hauraki Gulf islands it is definitely not in Rangitoto and Motutapu, and therefore it is a bit surprisingly to see it growing here. Page 7

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However, a much bigger surprise was the look of a sunny bank in the middle of nowhere populated with what I think it is Calystegia silvatica ssp. pulchra (or Calystegia pulchra) the leaves and the flower colour match perfectly, and the bracteoles at the base of the flower are typical for Calystegia silvatica. It is quite a rarity in New Zealand as several types of alien bindweeds (fam. Convolvulaceae) have been crossed and re-crossed with the native stock of the cosmopolite Calystegia sepium ssp. roseata or with other native bindweeds; most of the plants growing near populated areas (especially in Auckland area, south Auckland suburbs in particular) are considered to be a natural hybrid Calystegia sepium ssp. roseata x Calystegia silvatica ssp. disjuncta. Since bindweeds use to hybridize extremely easy it is probably these kinds of remote locations to look for the true species. It was my pleasure to see in a wild state the plant I think it is the true Calystegia silvatica ssp. pulchra.

12. A true surprise was to discover on a sunny bank a bindweed that I think it is the true Calystegia silvatica ssp. pulchra. The biggest surprise was still to come a plant that I believe it is the pink form of the Asian Tanacetum coccineum (synonym Chrysanthemum coccineum). No reference in New Zealand botanical literature whatsoever, little to learn about this plant on the internet as well; I still have to look into this but I am pretty sure thats what it is, and if so it would be a big surprise! Several other naturalized plants were present as well but I wont go into further details now, however, it was striking for me that even if altered for good due to agricultural use of most the land Rakino Page 8

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Island still keeps its particular characteristics and displays different naturalization patterns compared to the mainland, but in this particular case even compared with a much larger but similar island like Waiheke.

13 - 14. The biggest surprise was the sight of what I think it is the Asian Tanacetum coccineum (Chrysanthemum coccineum), few plants on a densely vegetated sunny bank. No references whatsoever in New Zealand botanical literature (above). Suddenly the rain kicked in again forcing us to return to the festival grounds. Imagine the ocean view on a sunny day (left).

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Unfortunately the rain kicked in again with some persistence, for the last time during the day, forcing us to cut the walk short. We have missed the spectacular ocean views I imagine you can have from the higher parts of the island, the clouds were hanging low, the sea was grey nothing to be excited of. And as we turned back to the gravel road we just heard the opening announcement of the jazz concert from the distance. Minutes later we arrived there and when we looked for a spot in front of the gazebo the skies were almost cleared.

15 - 16. People gathering on the festival grounds in a casual picnic mood, looking for the shade as the skies have cleared. Its time for few words about the jazz festival. It has some tradition going few years back, it had even international cast few times (not this year though). It is very casual as you can see; its something like picnic on the islands, with a touch of Montreux sophistication and basic Woodstock settings (maintaining the proportions of course) but definitely delivers much more than the music. You dont even notice the small stage and the best part is that you can walk around the large beach, enjoy the sun and the sea and still hear the classy music from the distance it is hard to put it in words, its just a unique experience you need to have.

17 - 18. From surprising and talented teenage musicians (Trifle on the left) to the inspiring songs of Jenny Eirena (right); for all numbers the stage was (metaphorically speaking) way too small. Page 10

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The best thing of all was that the bands and performers were true hearted jazz musicians, no rappers pretending to play jazz or even worse to sing the blues, but all of them from teenage musicians (like some in the opening band Trifle) to more experienced young artists returning to Rakino (like Hard Candy) and to long-time club performers (like JimJazz) kept the stakes very high at all times, despite the stylistic diversity; to put it in few words it was pureblooded and mostly original jazz all day long, not crap. The cast included also the fine vocal jazz group Pride of Auckland Chorus swinging oldtimers for the delight of the audience and two other female singers - Jenny Eirena (her amazing vocals and songs were a real surprise for me) and the spoiled Caitlin Smith (her vocals and the band were really excellent though) added colour and rhythm.

19. The legendary James Langabeer of JimJazz has delivered the finest solos of the day.

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For me the big delight was JimJazz (James Langabeer - saxophones, flute, and assorted wind instruments, David Lines keyboard, Sam Giles bass, Trevor Thwaites - drums) with all its members in an excellent mood, but especially with James Langabeer at his best in Miles Davis themes. JimJazz is a legendary and respected New Zealand jazz band, its driving forces being James Langabeer and Trevor Thwaites (who was also one of the festival organizers) but the band became well known overseas only in recent times. Aussie doesnt count of course; its just over the ditch. Amy Winehouse has unwillingly helped to their worldwide takeoff; reportedly she has asked in a very public situation who the heck is Jim Jazz, Ive never heard of him? Of course she didnt use exactly the word heck, but even so her remark was powerful enough to draw attention made eventually JimJazz famous. Thats what James Langabeer tells everybody, but I think he is one of the finest jazz performers I have seen in recent years, and it was about the time for his long life band to stand out from the crowd and have its moment of glory.

20 - 22. A number to remember - the spectacular recital of JimJazz and its big names James Langabeer (saxophones, flute, etc.) and Trevor Thwaites (drums).

Unfortunately we have missed the last three numbers (Crystal Silence I dont know yet what I have missed here), Pride of Auckland Barbershop (which is a reduced version of the Chorus) and the all star Dancing to the Prohibition Big Band as we have booked the return on the early ferry. Page 12

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Rakino Jazz & Art is not really a mass event even if the organizers would have liked to be so, but dont forget that theres a remote location with no proper transportation facilities and the weather forecast predicting a rather dull day for Auckland and Hauraki Gulf wasnt really pushing for a success. More, another jazz event was scheduled to take place in Tauranga the very next day, in a much more accessible location by the ocean and this has definitely attracted numerous weekenders there. However, my estimation was that 1,000 to 1,200 people were out on Rakino that day, scattered everywhere, which is quite a lot for such a small island.

23. The crowd and the food stands in the background. Unfortunately no BYO allowed on the festival grounds.

24. Caitlin Smith, a fine neo-soul singer who was rudely interrupted by the power outages.

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Of course, things havent been nice and smooth all day long. A couple of power supply outages have annoyed the musicians (Caitlin Smith took the worst part) and the audience and forced me to leave the festival grounds for greener pastures a short look into the coastal habitats. As tamed as it may look in its inner parts, as wild it looks on its coastal parts many small beaches, bays, grooves, cliffs and rocky steeps. Few naturalized plants though, especially tall grasses, scrubs and trees i.e. a very spread Pinus sp. (possibly Pinus pinaster, originating from the Mediterranean and South-West Europe and naturalized in Auckland as early as 1830) represented by both mature and young individuals, and also numerous shoots of mature pampas grass Cortaderia sp. (possibly Cortaderia selloana, the genuine pampas grass, a native of South America), a Salix sp. (I think it is Salix fragilis) in full bloom, and few others as well. The endemic and very popular cabbage tree - Cordyline australis (once in Agavaceae, now being included in a different family Laxmanniaceae) was also present in significant numbers.

25. A view of the Sandy Bay with Waiheke Island in the background and the wharf and the Community Hall on the right. Its calm shallow waters were the shelter of numerous boats. People are already gathering for the sand castle competition for children. But the real surprise was the significant presence of Disphyma australe ssp. australe on exposed rocky outcrops east of Sandy Bay. I couldnt see any extensive patches, but very many plants indeed and many young among them, typically emerging from the cracks and fissures of the rock surface. Numerous seed pods on some of the plants contain seed; it looks like the most of the plants here come Page 14

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from seed and not from vegetative spread which is really good I think. I have never seen that many individuals in one place. However, we are way out of the flowering season; it would have been nice to see them in flower.

26 - 27. The coastal cliffs and steeps are covered with interesting composite vegetation from the endemic cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) on the left, to pampas grass (possibly Cortaderia selloana) below.

28 - 29. Assuming I got the names right Salix fragilis flowers visited by a bumble bee (left) and a young Pinus pinaster (right), one of the first European trees to be naturalized in New Zealand. Foto cu Pinus!!! Few Sarcocornia quinqueflora ssp. quinqueflora were also visible, small tussocks growing on rocks and platforms very exposed to the sea or even partly submerged during high tide. Page 15

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I had an amazing moment alone on the rocky platform the peaceful day, the wind, the sun, the sea, the golden sand of the beach ahead, the many boats anchored in the shallow waters of the Sandy Bay, and the glimmering music in the distance there is nothing you could wish more. I had my moment of peace here.

30 - 31. A dry rocky outcrop at the eastern end of Sandy Bay is home for many Disphyma australe ssp. australe, scattered on the rough surface (left); one of the smaller plants typically growing in fissures of the rock where moisture allows seed germination (right). Some of the plants were showing signs of stress

32 - 33. but some were doing just OK because of the moisture retained by the accumulations of decayed organic matter or debris. On the way back to the festival grounds to join my family I realized that I have missed the judging round of the sand castle contest for kids and the fun that comes with it; oh well, I imagine it could have been interesting. Caitlin Smiths performance just came to an end (after annoying interruptions) and we decided it was about the time to move closer to the wharf as the ferry was set to arrive in 20 minutes. Packing is not Page 16

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fun, but once you have the backpack on you enjoy the fact that it is now less heavy. It is 3 oclock, still sunny and bright but it became chilly, so jackets on and off we went to see the small art gallery in the Rakino Community Hall at the wharf.

34 - 35. Most of the plants seemed to enjoy the rock. Some of them had capsules full of seed (like the one above).

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36 - 37. Disphyma australe ssp. australe, one of the larger groups. Elsewhere it usually forms quite large patches of groundcover, but it wasnt the case here (right). Few clumps of Sarcocornia quinqueflora ssp. quinqueflora were also growing at the foot of the same rock, much closer to the waterline, or even in semi-submerged conditions (below).

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38 - 39. Sarcocornia quinqueflora ssp. quinqueflora growing on an exposed dry rock (left) and in semi-submerged conditions during the high tide (right).

40. A wonderful view of the tiny island guarding the bay opposed to the wharf, with few mature Pinus pinaster growing on it. Page 19

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It wouldnt take more than 10 minutes to have the tour, the paintings except very few were too much on the decorative side for my taste, but hey, what would you expect on the islands for a very casual event like this one? Unfortunately there was just Pakeha vibe and nothing near Maori art, which is enjoyable because of its superficial deco nature, but also fulfilled deep down by its highly sophisticated symbolism delivering much more than the eye meets first. But there was still one thing here that I have enjoyed the smell of the old and ugly wooden house, the smell of the 1860s. This was for me the best part of the gallery tour.

41 - 43. A glimpse of Art at the Community Hall gallery (above) and an ancient Honda City which seemed to be not only everyones favourite (considering the high number of tourists taking a picture of this car) but also apparently Rakinos only taxi (left).

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44 - 45. A last look at the peaceful waters of the Sandy Bay during low tide wondering how it would look like during severe storms with all these underwater rocks (above) and at the idyllic rocky shores where Metrosideros excelsa (the famous native pohutukawa) have spread freely (left) and off we sailed to join again the civilized world.

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When we boarded the ferry we decided this time to go for the comfort of the lower deck; we all were very excited about this trip and lost for words, and decided to come back next year (with Vlad this time). And off we went pacing towards Devonport. A last look, few photos (I had some fun playing with the camera) and soon Rakino disappeared behind us.

46. A good thing about digital photography is that you are limited only by the amount of free memory on your card. You can play, experiment, and fool around without thinking about how much the film will cost you. And of course you can delete all the crappy shots at any time. This shot I took against the sunlight on the way back (you can still see Rakino on the right) is not that bad, aye?

Its been a day to remember.

Eduart Zimer, April - May 2009 Page 22

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