In earlier times, Russell was known as ‘Kororareka’, which literally translates as ‘how sweet is the blue penguin’. This is not cute reference, as in “Aah, what a sweet penguin”, but refers to a healing penguin broth given to a Maori chief. It perhaps should have been called ‘how tasty is the blue penguin’, but I don’t know the Maori for that.
Russell is peaceful and picturesque now, but once upon a time it was known as the ‘Hellhole of the Pacific’, crawling with whalers, thieves and prostitutes. You can find a short history of it here. Oh, for a time machine!
Julie Todd (that’s her in the photo above – the one with the legs – but she doesn’t look like this all the time – sorry fellas) has come up with a wonderfully creative idea for Russell. In her studio, ‘Sign of the Times’, a drunken bottle-smashing throw from the wharf, she has recreated an authentic Hellhole tavern set. To one side are racks and racks of vintage clothes of all shapes and sizes. You can be anyone you want to be. A whore, a sailor, a whaler, a missionary, a Maori warrior. You can be several people if you want – you get a whole hour of it.
I took the family along for my birthday. My boys were delighted to be given pistols and rifles and swords to pose with, and we all charged the camera at one point. Julie and her daughter made the whole thing a lot of fun, and we came away with a handful of fantastic photos (you get to choose your effects, and she prints them out then and there). It’s extremely reasonable too.
If you do nothing else in Russell, do this!