Archive for the ‘2008 New Zealand’ Category

Kinloch – meaning head of lake in Scottish, but I am not is Scotland; rather I am in New Zealand with my tramping mate John Henzell who some of you may remember as Rolling Thunder from my 2006 PCT thru-hike Odyssey. I arrived yesterday after a long but comfortable (got an exit row) flight from San Francisco. Sheri and Cathy, my perpetual family trail angels, drove me to “the City” on Friday afternoon and I arrived in Christchurch on a Sunday morning. Upon arrival John took me to meet some “mates” at the awards ceremony for the Coast to Coast race he had just completed the previous two days. Having been nearly up all night as I crossed the Pacific and the International date line, I was little on conversation and company but enjoyed the buffet lunch accompanied by “feats” of greatness as our largely middle aged group discussed the race while shaking our heads at the winning times…..not in our best years was the often repeated comment.

Coffee as medicine – we stopped at John’s rented room and met his eclectic and full of life flat mates (everyone apparently is a mate here). In this house there is a New Zealander, an Australian, a women from Thailand, and another from Patagonia in South America. We hastily threw gear in John’s old Subaru wagon, sent an email to family and sweetheart (transitional women John would say, but I am unsure) back home, and headed south with a plan to see the penguins come ashore at dusk near the town of Oamaru (from the indigenousness Maori language). The drive south was filled with catching up on careers, lives, loves lost, potentially loves found, and mutual friends.

After paying $20nz each we walked 20 meters to a small set of grandstands over-looking a crashing surf with an old quarry site above. In the quarry were ~ 200 blue penguin nest boxes that had been constructed to facilitate greater survival rates for the world’s smallest (about 1kilo) penguins. We listened as the enthusiastic young man described the life cycle of the aquatic bird as I thought to myself – what a tourist trap, what a waste of money. Then I saw them and thought to myself – How cool is that! The birds form a “raft” (group) just off shore as a protection mechanism (strength in numbers) from sharks and other shallow water predators. Then they “try” to come ashore. I say try because a cyclone in the South Pacific had created very large surf and we watched in awe as this tiny birds were battered onto the rocks and swept repeatedly back to sea. After a time they would catch the perfect wave and swim like hell to the rocks before the backwater could over take them – ultimately they all made it in; or at least we like to think so. Upon the rocks – they would waddle. Waddle they did as their rotund bodies were stuffed from the all you can eat buffet that is the Pacific; some were so fat that that they actually fell over while they preened themselves. They socialized with each other, and ultimately went to their respective nest boxes where they regurgitated their catch for the squawking young while we looked on with agape jaws. After awhile most of the tourists left and we along with a few spell bound humans watched as several more raft came crashing ashore, preened themselves, socialized, and fed their young.

Found a Generica type of room at 10pm and passed out with jet lag.

Headed farther south on the south island and I remained somewhat unimpressed with the flat, dotted with sheep and now ever increasing bovine, landscape: “Pretty ugly country” John “yep”. Through the well heeled town of Queenstown complete with a casino and Rolls Royces, I was beginning to wonder about the supposed Island paradise. A few miles farther the Southern Alps appeared almost immediately out of the flat landscape with nearly vertical ascent to the glaciated high peaks and valleys. Their huge glaciers, fed by upwards of a hundred meters of snow annually got my attention. “Holy Crap” John “yep, that is where we are going tramping” – said with smugness that only a New Zealander could pull off while talking with an arrogant American.

We arrived at our lodge which is owned by one of John’s loves lost – long ago says he. We are quickly booked in, arranged for a trail head shuttle for the morning, and comment on the three young children at our host feet – “could have been you John” said the somewhat blushing mother “yea but that would have required me not being an asshole back then” retorted John. “True, and yet that life set you up and created the life you are living today…one that includes tramping around the mountains of the world”. Old relationship tension is a dynamic thing and when the topic moved to “remember that time in Morocco” it was time to change the subject. I mentioned the conversation to John that evening and he dismissed it quickly as nothing, yea RIGHT.


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