He Ain’t Heaphy, He’s my Brother

Happy New Year!

If the first day of 2011 is any indication of how the rest of the year will follow, then I feel very fortunate indeed. Last week, after the floods subsided and all eccentric arc-building was put on hold, I was itching to do another hike. Or tramp, as they call it here. I don’t know why, but I still find this term amusing.

So I met up with a friend from Glacier, the tremendously awesome Nate Muhn, who is also traveling around the island, and we decided to hike the Heaphy Track in the northwest corner of the south island. Being well-seasoned field workers and fool-hardy hikers, we decided that 80k in five days seemed unnecessary…so we did it in three. It is true, the last few hours of the long, 40k middle day were murder on our feet, but still, I literally walked down the trail like a grinning fool. It was one of my favorite hikes of all time, anywhere. And that is saying something.

And what was it like?

Rainforests wild with thick vines, towering palm trees, ferns, and hanging lichen. The woods have so many different ways to be green. Then open stretches, reminding us of the southwest, sagebrush bushes replaced with a fragrant New Zealand shrub, whose name I have not yet found.

Rivers to cross, some soft with green mossy rocks, some raging with flood waters, and beautiful bridges to walk across. Stunted beech tree groves, families of twisting, crooked trunks, pale as the most delicate of camouflaged patterns. Eroded limestone mazes, castle ruins, hidey holes covered in more moss, velvety, deep, and thick. Curious birds leading the way, singing fantails, android tuis, bellbirds. The trail sun-dappled, mosiac of shade and light, thick with leaves and crunchy palm fronds.

And then the sea. The confluence where fresh and salt water collide…the hypnotic waves, crashing again and again. The sand, so powdery fine it sticks to skin in dark flecks. The clouds. The sky. The breeze. The blue.

Tonight I rest in Havelock.
Tomorrow I catch a ride with the mailboat to a remote bay in the Pelorous Sound, where I will WWOOF at a place called Tira Ora. The plan is a little vague and mysterious at the moment. But I was promised a litter of eight new puppies, so, I am pretty much willing to put up with anything that might come.

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