Civilization! Yuck. Whilst it is very nice to be sitting on a real bed and having hot showers and power, I’ve only been back in Christchurch for a couple of days and I already miss the wild blue yonder.
I’ve been to some incredible places over the past month or so, and experienced some incredible things, but circumstances mean that I need to stop for a few weeks to sort some stuff out. On the plus side, I get to spend some time in one of the few cities I genuinely love, and I will have the resources required to put some of the multitude of ideas that I was flooded with whilst road-tripping into action.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been everywhere from Christchurch to Bluff and back again and whilst I was always in love with the South, I think I have fallen equally in love with the Mackenzie Country.
At Lake Tekapo, I went up to the University of Canterbury’s observatory at Mount John and stared at the rings of Saturn through one of the country’s most powerful telescopes. At Mount Cook I lay on a picnic table in the middle of the night and stared up at the same sky with my own eyes, and felt like I was floating in the middle of the milky way. Coming over the Lindis Pass to Omarama I saw some of the most stunning rock formations ever, and it’s easy to see why they called it “the place of light.”
Yeah. The Mackenzie Country rocks.
We stopped at big tourist towns and tiny little towns along the way, as well as any random place that grabbed our attention. We found the friendliest garage ever in Twizel, passed the same group of motorcylists for the 17000th time in Fairlie (Hi, guys!), saw a tipi in Geraldine and a dinosaur slide in Wanaka. We admired the dam in Clyde, the rocks between Luggett and Roxburgh, and the fruit stalls as well. We also discovered that Gore has an ice rink, and Invercargill’s international airport may be quite useful in the future.
At Albert Town we camped right by the banks of the mighty Clutha, which isn’t nicknamed “New Zealand’s Colorado” for nothing, and my mother got adopted by a duck. At Mount Cook our brand new tent collapsed and we spent a sleepless night fighting off the flattened fly and shattered poles – but as a result, we were up for one of the most spectacular sunrises that I’ve ever seen. We saw Keas, listened to the ice move, and watched avalanches come roaring down the side of Mount Sefton. A ruined tent seemed like a small price to pay for all that beauty.
We ended up driving around Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki several times, and no matter how many times I see them, I still cannot get over the blue. Whilst sitting on the shore at Tekapo, we watched the sky turn the mountains purple and whilst zooming around the shores of Pukaki, we thought of an idea for a book that my mother and I might actually write together. Then, on our way back to Christchurch to pick up our old tent, we stopped at the old Lake Pukaki visitor’s centre, and discovered that someone had left a pile of three of my favourite books at the door anyone who wanted them!
Call it coincidence if you want, but I’m calling it confirmation.
We drove over and over the old bridge at Miller’s Flat because we liked how the clunks made the car sound like a train. We stopped under some trees for lunch and met an older couple doing exactly the same thing we were and swapped all the secret spots we’d each found along the way. We found an astonishingly beautiful spot just outside of Tapanui called Black Gully which has a campground that even includes an old-fashioned, abandoned old playground complete with merry-go-round, and trails leading up into the Blue Mountains – and nobody seems to know that it’s there. I, for one, will be going back there.
I got to go back to several of the places that I love the most in the world, let alone New Zealand. One of those places is Bluff. A lot of people give Bluff a hard time, and one of the things they most frequently say is “there’s nothing there but the Sea” – to which I reply, exactly. Bluff is one of those places you either love or hate. Most people know it for the oysters. I know it because it’s only a couple of kilometres from where I was born, and I spent the first few years of my life in the surrounding area – both on land and on my parents’ fishing boat. As an adult I went back a few years ago and was overwhelmed by the sheer peacefulness of the place. I stood at Stirling Point by the famous signpost, looked out towards Antarctica, and…I actually cannot describe it. It’s just one of those places that speaks to me. I don’t care if everyone else doesn’t like it. That just means fewer people for me to have to share it with and I’m fine with that!
Anyway, I have probably rattled on long enough. I think you get my point. I have had an absolutely amazing time, and it’s not over yet. There’s always a few things that don’t go to plan when you’re travelling so we are staying in Christchurch for a few weeks to sort some stuff out and although I already miss my tent and that incredible southern night sky, I’m really looking forward to being able to work on some of the stuff that I have thought of along the way without having to worry about running out of battery.
Of course, I will probably end up spending up most of my time poring over maps, standing outside to see if I can spot the Southern Cross and pining for the wild, but I’m going to take as much advantage of it as I can so that when we head out again in a couple of weeks, my head won’t be quite so exploding with ideas and I’ll have more room for the new ones that are bound to crop up.
I’m going to work my music, my writing, my art, my study and my knee; wander amongst the wildflowers, listen to the new Springsteen album on repeat, re-read those aforementioned books and then take them down to the Barbadoes Street Book Exchange Fridge (yes, you did just read “book exchange fridge”) and leave them there for someone else to discover. I might even buy a black ukulele.
Screw might. I’m going to get it.