Along the road rabbits streak out dodging my tires. I see a stoat running between shoulder and road, hedgehogs stopped still, playing dead in the middle of the road, some not playing. One littl bunny decides to play chicken but gets away, Marie almost rear ends me. I drive slow, the dust is thick, the washboard unfriendly. We quietly park above the gorge. Marie tells me she likes waking up where she hasn't seen the place in the light. In the night I step outside and hear the owls below along the river. My foot, my nose, my issues all right in front of me. I sleep, I wake, I sleep, I wake up. I write. The sun touches the tops of the ridge in front of me and slowly descends into the valley. Someone drives by then drives back out. The phone rings, Elke, we're dreaming similar themes.
Marie and I walk to the bridge and peer upstream into the gorge, then down. I wonder who it is that lives just past the bridge.It is a special place. Later I find out Stephen swam here with his sisters.
We meet David back in the parking lot in Wanaka and with Roo, walkabout for hot water, coffee and to find my hat which ironically I find that afternoon in my suitcase.
Parting again, Marie is off to pick apples. I lead David and Roo into the Cardrona. Rows of Douglas Fir as well as the ubiquitous pine and an intensely green scotch broom growing here. Groups of cyclists stream past racing somewhere. I see some going my way too. At Crown Terrace David tells me I am blowing black smoke, I add more oil and they go on ahead. Down this incredibly steep incline I go towards Queenstown. A cyclist passes me as we descend. Anarchist Mountain eat your heart out! I saw David's car below me a couple times but then lost them. I turned south to Te Anua.
No sign of Castle Rock, other than a sign... drove roads where I didn't meet a car for more than an hour. Te Anua seems friendly, a lake, swimming spots and many, many tourist ventures being offered. At waters edge a helicopter and plane both being loaded with backpacks and hikers to be dropped somewhere. Get some dressings for my foot, write some blog and have a Chai. In the DOC info centre I meet Alex from Wellington,I go say hello to Martin out in the car. They have done the heaphy, thetrifle the... seems like a series of badges they are collecting. Inside the DOC employee tells me how to get the maps courtesy of Craig Potton's website. The way commercial and park interplay here is different.
I drive on. The road seems endless but the cliffs and steams stimulate my senses. More Doug Fir and broom for miles. When I stop to admire a cliff and hawks flying past I am accosted by a fellow from Auckland telling me rock snot is all through this area. It came from America with some fisherman's gear. Wants to know if I brought some (!?) Then he tells me the locals refer to the legion white vans driving the roadways as "maggots" He's driving a tricked out stepstyle van in yellow with what looks like an actual wood interior. Not exactly inviting, he was camped beside the intake for the Manapouri water supply. A sweet spot. He also told me about the imported Harriers so when I found one later its wings outstretched dried and flapping in the breeze I knew the tide had turned.
A fork in the road, sculpted cliffs and the longest suspension bridge in NZ. When I walked to the river past the fire smouldering into two great rounds of eucalyptus up against a concrete reflector I knew I was home for the night.
Sat quietly listening, popped some corn and had a beer with dinner.