Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Last Days in New Zealand

Piri was very helpful.

We drove perhaps forty minutes out of town, back into the familiar wide open that is the New Zealand countryside: hills in the distance; mountains in the farther distance; sun and farmland and curving roads. We jostled down a dirt road to Sam’s house. He lives here with Pete, on this three-horse, five-sheep, four-dog, and a-couple-of-chickens-and-chicklets wheat farm.
             Two wired-hair terriers greeted us as soon as the car doors opened. Tui—the five-year old named after the New Zealand bird who, according to Maori legend, sacrificed itself for humanity—and her daughter Piri—about eight inches tall and too spunky for her own good—gambol about as I shake Pete’s hand. Their house feels spacious; glass doors and windows open to tease the breeze through the kitchen and living room. A wooden island table is the centerpiece of the kitchen, three seats and smallish. The living room is a picture of juxtaposition: a faded black wood-burning stove facing off against a Sony flat-screen across the room. Painted horses stare out from half the coasters. The other half match the pictures on the wall—rough and tough men, faces obscured by wide-brimmed hats, bodies hidden by long overcoats standing on an empty plane, or behind a fence or in front of a herd of rangy cows.
            We chatted while Sam prepared dinner: Sam has lived in Germany, Japan, and traveled all over, has two kids and an ex-wife; Pete, a little older, recently took Sam with him to his son’s wedding to a Singaporean girl this December. They like to travel, they love their dogs, and at one point did endurance horse-racing. Dinners here are succulent—tonight is mince patties, the next night lamb, the next steak and potatoes, always with fresh salad and a dessert option—and they are quickly scarfed.
            Bees hover and hum their way above the flower gardens and the horses clomp restlessly in their pen across the road. After dinner while Pete does the dishes, Sam takes them both by the harness and leads them down the road, up the hairpin turn and the rocky path to their paddock. He shows me the sheep pen, chicken pen, and their third horse up the way a bit, still a little wild. He moves with the slow surety of a farmer, the horses like gentle ladies on either arm.
The two sheep dogs—Best and Tess—bark with delight at our approach and burst joyously from their cages when I release the latch. They frolic with Tui and Piri, tumbling around each other and coming back to me for a loving ear-scratch. They go back into the pens soon after, chasing the biscuits Sam throws for them.
I wore Pete's shoes a lot when he wasn't home.
I stand, awkward among the life that’s so familiar for Sam. The two simple tasks he gives me—closing the gate after him and fetching the chicken eggs—take me too long. The gate is unwieldy over the bumpy ground. Sam has to warn me about the fence when I almost electrocute myself and, a few minutes later, is forced to explain three different times which pen it is in which the chickens lay their eggs.

This week I cleaned and weeded for Sam and Pete and they did everything else for me. I ate well, slept comfortably, and stole their cookies one by one. Pete dropped me off at the airport an hour ago and I already miss the quiet, steady peace of their little homestead. Before I go to my gate and once more wrap myself in the ennui of travel, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of my last week in Middle Earth.

**As always, apologies for the formatting. **

The road to Glenorchy. Best driving in NZ.

It was about twenty meters past this sign where Lydia and I stood when SUDDENLY an enormous part of the glacier
cracked off and fell into the water. I thought I was going to witness both a "surge wave" and Lydia's demise as I sprinted up the embankment screaming for my life.

Coffee. Sugar. Tea. Good hostel.

If I was ever going to find Redwall it was probably somewhere in New Zealand.

And this is the storage closet I paid $30 to sleep in. Worth it. No snoring boys and queen-size bed!
Just try.