Monday, May 21, 2007

The Green Hills of Cape Farewell

Since I last wrote Jenifer and I have traded Nelson on the South Island for Wellington on the North, where we've stayed for the past week now. I'll regale you with accounts of our city exploits soon enough, but first I want to catch up on our last few days in the South Island.

Jenifer had a day off from teaching, so our friends Diane and Taya decided to take us to one of their favorite places. We set out at mid-morning for what was supposed to be a three-hour drive through the mountains, but we were escorting a pack of British kids Taya had picked up somewhere. The Brits all being 19 or thereabouts loitered and lingered and generally held up the works until, after several false starts, we were finally on the road, a caravan of two campervans and Diane's old Honda Civic. We drove through the lush wine country and then up through the mountains, pausing briefly for a picture of the view at Takaka Hill, which served as the outskirts of Hobbiton in The Fellowship of the Ring.

On the other side of the twisty, turning mountain roads we passed pasture after pasture of grazing sheep and cattle, until at last we reached our destination, Cape Farewell. The parking lot was situated by a large farm which, while green and expansive, gave no hint of the majesty to come. We mounted the round slope by the parking lot and took the narrow path along a winding ridge. At once we found ourselves hiking through an abundance of tumbling hills and strange trees--clusters of murky woods and also the occasional lonesome sapling--a technicolor golf course as designed by Dr. Seuss. We passed over hill and under hill, through sudden thickets of trees, following our grey and sandy trail, until between two faraway slopes a glistening wedge of water appeared, and we caught our first glimpse of the Tasman Sea.

We climbed the thick, sandy trail between two grassy knolls, and then suddenly the landscape opened up before us, and we were walking on the moon. The shore was a wide, grey plain reaching out nearly a mile to the sea, where two immense rocks guarded the flat coastline. This was Wharariki Beach and one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

The Brits played "football" while Jenifer and Taya crossed the tide to one of the rocks, where a group of young seals was playing. The seals were curious and young enough not to be territorial, but nonetheless gave a good-natured chase and sent the explorers scurrying back through the rising water. Jenifer and Diane then created and walked a meditation mandala in the sand. I took pictures here and there, but it was enough to simply stand before the great rocks and take in sights and sounds and smells. The landscape, like much of New Zealand, was both familiar and otherwordly. It was good to feel so far away from everything.

The next day was taken up by planning and farewells, and then the day after that we left Nelson. We took the bus through logging and wine country to Picton, where we took the Interislander ferry to Wellington. The ship was huge, but both Jenifer and I managed to develop slight cases of seasickness. Several hours later, though, we were enjoying the elevated energy of Wellington. That night we saw Spider-Man 3, which was okay, but the real star was the venue, the Embassy Theatre. This was the site of the world premiere of The Return of the King and understandably so. It's a grand old place, richly appointed and as grand in scope as an opera house. As we sat through the closing credits, we discovered that we were sitting in Merry and Pippin's seats! Brass nameplates for Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd were fastened to the arms of our chairs. In a sudden burst of geekery, I dashed down the row and found Elijah Wood's seat. We later learned that Orlando Bloom's nameplate is stolen and replaced every three weeks or so. Neither Jenifer nor I had traveled to New Zealand to obsess over a certain trilogy of movies, but, being here, it's been hard not to get just a little excited. But more on that next time.

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4:14 AM  
Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Sounds like a a beautiful place. I love things like that, secluded, untouched places.

Makes you wish they'd build a Walmart nearby.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan - it's A.... glad to see you guys are having a blast. (Jeez, those nameplates would make GREAT souvenirs :)) Everything's fine here - October says "hi."

See ya soon. :) A

P.S. Don't forget - you promised to send John M. a postcard. :)

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Poor little Merry. He just died on "LOST" - although one could hardly have asked for a better death.

I'm afraid that I cried a little.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Those hills are absolutely fantastic.

9:51 AM  

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