Friday, February 20

Day 176-Richmond

I am perched on the edge of my seat as I negotiate the endless twist and turns of this mountain road. I pass through a bowery of tall and knarled beech trees, themselves and every neighboring bush and fern dripping with moss and moisture. It is raining quite hard and the splash-up from the passing lumber trucks blinds me for vital seconds at a time. I dread that the whole day might continue like this, but soon the forest opens into a tawny fieldscape of harvested rye grass, stately evergreen hedgerows, and the ubiquitous flocks of sheep, now quite dreary, drenched and apparently smelly. A fierce wind blast out of every open canyon mouth, dashing for the sea from the high, shrouded ice-blue glaciers. A few kilometers on, and a view of the tumultuous sea opens before me, the waves wind-lashed, the twisted pines crawling out of the dunes grow at odd angles, having been assaulted by the gales since sprouthood.

But just yesterday, I was enjoying the intense sunlight lakeside, listening to the gentle lap of the waves on a slate-gray pebbly shore, marveling at the clarity of the aquamarine waters, wishing I could submerge myself and forever drink in the refreshing coolness. I climbed a steep trail, hindered by rocks and roots, through the dappled tree ferns and oak, until, drenched with the sweat of effort and humidity, I arrived at a high glacial lake, sharp forbidding peaks all around. New Zealand is a land of many faces, many changes, and one need travel only a few hours or a few kilometers to witness a procession of splendor.

But I have been traveling already 6 days and a couple thousand kilometers, and so have seen much of this land. More striking however, is my march through my internal landscape. Since leaving the Outback of Australia almost two weeks ago, I have had virtually no conversations with anyone. The style of travel here, that is, everyone in their own vehicle, lends itself to isolation. At night, at the caravan parks, each couple proceeds with their chores, as if they are camping in a world without others, happily ignoring the battle for bathroom or kitchen space. I am not uncomfortable in this game, and play my part as the quiet, invisible, odd solo traveler. What has become very notable to me, as I drive and walk hour after hour in silence, is that, in the absence of another, it becomes impossible to tell a lie. And so it has been a very interesting time for me, facing the truth of what I have become, of what steps have lead me here. I feel I am ready and able to withstand the twist and turns and tumults of whatever road lies ahead.

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