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Archive for February 18th, 2008

A long night in the hut; I was not feeling well and one of the hut mates was a prolific snorer. I woke before sunrise and headed out for an alpine pee as the first rays of morning hit the highest glaciers above me.
Upon awakening, John suggested we take a short scramble to the top of Ollivier Mountain, which is actually a bump along a ridge above the hut. But not just any ridge, this is the first climb Sir Edmund Hillary ever made. It is said that when Sir Ed returned to the valley below he was pretty happy with his mountaineering accomplishment. Until, of course, he met some chaps who had just successfully summited Mt. Cook. This would have been around 1939 and 14 years later the humble Kiwi would shock the world as he reached the summit of the world’s highest point – Mt. Everest. Standing on this bump looking towards Mt. Cook I could feel the same pull he must have felt from the bigger mountains and glaciers high above me.

On our drive to the park we had a true “green” New Zealand experience. We were driving on a particularly winding road and pulled in behind a truck stacked four tier with sheep. We were following pretty close around a turn and all of a sudden about 10 gallons of sheep shit and piss poured from the pitching truck and completely covered our trusty ride. Each curve produced similar results and instead of backing off, John pushed on with the windshield wipers flapping to keep pace with the flying excrement. We laughed hysterically at the disgustingness of it all while reflecting back on our lamb stew the night previous.

We flew down the mountain as our thru-hiker trained feet found their footings on the ridiculously steep, Kiwi style trail.

At lake Tekapo now as John pens a final article for his paper, on 13 years of tramping in NZ, before heading to Japan for a wee walk and ultimately on to the states for an attempt to climb Mt. McKinley / Denali, Alaska. From here he travels to Japan for a 6 week pilgrimage along the route of 88 Buddhist monasteries. As a heathen seeking the path of the Buddha should prove interesting. Then he is going to attempt a Sea to Summit of Mt. Fuji in Japan before reaching the land of grizzly bears and a mid-summer summit attempt. After that his plans are also uncertain but it looks like he will not be home anytime soon. “Besides, home is where I end up”. I am not certain that he or I really believe that and I think we probably long for a home more then we let on. I am tempted to call my new company and let them know I will not be coming back as I would like to keep moving myself but know for now I need to regroup and make some money before I do anything.

Traveling to NZ is not cheap. A bowl of chili at the park was $18nz and given the weak dollar that is pricey. But you can do it on the cheap if you are careful on where you eat and stay. Avoid eating at National Parks. The dominant travelers here as we observed are: Australians, Americans, English, Israeli, and German. Beyond those dominant groups we have also met travels from at least a dozen other countries and the interactions with part of the global community is rewarding. One notable contrast I observed is between Australians and New Zealanders. As a gross generalization the Aussie tourist is much more culturally similar to an American and is in stark contrast to a Kiwi. This shattered my perceptions because before this trip I thought New Zealand and Australia were as similar as California and Oregon. The contrast is more akin to the U.S and Guatemala. The differences are one of confidence or arrogance depending on your perspective and the Americans and the Australians have mastered this. The Kiwis in contrast exhibit a much quieter and humbler disposition and even though there accomplishments are significant they seem more motivated by challenging themselves verses “look at me” motivators that are becoming more prevalent in the west.

At dinner the other night, Tara was also there for the early part of the evening. All Toni said was: 39, single. Cute would have also been appropriate. Tara is working at the lodge as a hostess and she was super helpful but I quickly get the impression that she is not a hostess in her other life. Turns out she is on sabbatical from an executive television producer job in England where she covers the world’s biggest sporting events including the World’s cup, PGA Masters, and Australians Open. This trip is proving to be a lesson in not pre-judging. She was really nice in that sort of Londoner-stiff upper lip type of way. I know that is also simply a perception difference amongst cultures but I found it somewhat difficult to have a casual conversation with this women who is from a country that still has a queen. Part of the challenge this evening may have been that John and I have very few “forbidden” topics and I am certain we freaked her out when we openly disclosed that my wife left me for a women, or that John got into a crazy personal mess on the PCT. When you are really open with people about your life and your shortcomings, they get uncomfortable as they somehow feel there is an expectation for reciprocal openness. At least that is my theory. One thing for sure, our approach ensured Tara left the evening still single and still very cute.

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