Wonderful Book by Artist/Writer on Tongariro National Park

Book Review: “Tongariro National Park – An artist’s field guide” by Desmond Bovey, published by Potton and Burton, price $39.99
Reviewed by Tony Orman
Most people travelling the Desert Road from Waiouru to Turangi, intent on the journey and destination would see little to note or even admire in the journey along the Desert Road. I’ve heard some describe it as desolate, hence the name Desert Road.
Here’s a book that will change minds by opening eyes to the Tongariro National Park.
Growing up in Whanganui, author  Desmond Bovey, knew the Tongariro National Park well. So when he returned to New Zealand after thirty years in France, there was an urge to revisit the landscapes that as a teenager he had known. On his return from France, when walking the Whakapapa section on the western side of Mt Ruapehu of the Te Araroa Trail, he chanced upon a native falcon. Fascinated, he sketched the bird on an old envelope using a biro.
A skilled artist Desmond Covey discovered – not for the first time in his life – “a satisfying technique for seizing moments that are at once both commonplace and special, even dream-like.
That five minute sketch of the falcon (Karearea) would be the genesis of a book. Over the next year he returned to the park repeatedly, equipped with sketchbooks and pencils.
The author had no pretensions about being a scientist, even a pseudo one and of producing a scholarly study of Tongariro National Park.
“This work,” he writes referring to his book “is I suppose the subjective product of a curious mind and a compulsive drawer.
The end product, i.e. the book, so well presented by the publishers, is a revealing and beautifully written and delightfully illustrated perception of the Tongariro National Park. 
Revealing is a key word to the subject.
 However Desmond Covey has a nice style with words and as he says, deliberately avoiding “superlatives – grandiose, majestic, magnificent
Tongariro is all of these but if the road traveller, angler, hunter or hiker looks hard enough, there is also an unique ecosystem with subdued  perhaps but more so subtle hues.
The author writes,” Tongariro’s essence, its uniqueness, lies in its colours -the brooding lives and ochres of upland vegetation, the stony greys of scree and lichen, the light-absorbing green of beech and the startling postcard blues of its lakes.”
In his art work he found he only had to use “a very limited palette, returning again and again to only four or five colours – olive, natural sepia, sap green and here and there daubs of Naples yellow and Venetian red”. 
“These are the colours of Tongariro’s landscapes; manuka, tussock, lichen, lava, clay, scoria and scree.
Desmond Bovey adeptly paints both with prose and his art work the vegetation, landscapes, insects, birds and wild animals that inhabit the park.
I did like his recognition of the undeniable fact that New Zealand’s vegetation has evolved under browsing  over millions of years. “The bush – forest – has lost most of its surface and many of its original birds. It now has deer and goats nibbling its saplings instead of moa and takahe.” 
The dust jacket describes the book as exquisite. Indeed it is.
At the bookshop price, it is a terrific book to buy for your bookshelf. And next time you travel the Desert Road or round by the Whakapapa- National Park side, you’ll  very probably see the Tongariro National Park in a different light as a place of its own unique beauty and wild life. Yet even if you don’t visit the area, the information and art work portraying the animals, birds, insects, trees and shrubs applies to other regions too.
Very highly recommended.
Tongariro book.jpeg
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3 Responses to Wonderful Book by Artist/Writer on Tongariro National Park

  1. J B Smith says:

    Funny thing, I never tire of travelling the Desert road. Trouble is other motorists are in such a hurry and speeding. They don’t know what they’re missing. This book sounds a lovely tribute to a lovely area. Thanks, I’ll check it out.

  2. margaret adams says:

    This sounds like an interesting book to read. Having grown up in Waiouru with an outdoor hunter / deer stalker / fisher father, I know this country very well. We spent many weekends, for many years, camping out and playing in this national park. I am familair with the ecosystem and this is where my love of all things ot the outdoors began. As a child, it was always a magical place in this high moutain land with so much to see and do. Not only is there cultural and spiritual links to this environment for all New Zealanders, the park has active and extinct volcanoes, a diverse range of ecosystems, spectacular landscapes, and much more for the adventurer.

  3. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    Interesting publication here for sure.
    It is not clear from the review whether any space was devoted to the looming threat of loss of this public treasure. one is reminded of the demand by Iwi that Urewera Nat’l Park be handed over to maori ownership & the weak govmnt. caved in to the demand. Tongariro is next to go & already has had spiritual clampdown by wahi tapu forbidden areas illegally excluding the public. I note the hot springs tapu, & the fine of a tourist helicopter pilot flying over the peaks in violation of maori forbidden spiritual tapu offending some conjured up la la land god area.
    Parts of tracks closed & forbidden climbs of the 3 mountains. This will proceed unabated. & demand for ownership not far behind.
    Historical tribal Tikanga views any weakness, [i e the easy Urewera grab ], as grounds for further easy attack & take, at the point of a spear if needed, claiming a treasure taonga as just reward for the grab. One can see all conservation estate being handed over, as DOC on Jacinda orders, has already mobilized the Options Development Group to prepare this paper work for hand over.In simple terms, it’s just a box ticking exercise rezone of land to maori ownership.
    The machine is churning over for this daily, behind closed doors. Big money awaits the grab.
    Think of the millions of tons of A grade coal under the Deniston plateau,near Westport/Reefton? China a ready market. Shrewdly worked, tribal Elite could become some of the wealthiest groups on the planet as NZ becomes a cash cow from their resource grabs.

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