Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hill-Climbing in Otane

Oh, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner--what is it?
if not intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.

--Rainer Maria Rilke

I'm writing in from Wellington, where I'm already enjoying myself immensely on my Christmas holidays! I have a few things to catch up on, though, and the first of them is my time at Bob and Sandy's in Otane.
Sandy was kind enough to take me on after I finished at Mangarara, and while there wasn't a whole lot of outdoor work to do, I still managed to have a great time. Their property includes a beautiful range of hills, and after getting dared many times by the teenage boys of the household to go for it, I finally managed to go for a walk up the hill a couple days before leaving.
First, to get to the track, you get to clamber down another hill from the house, along a creek, and through a bull paddock. The bulls didn't seem too impressed with my chances of getting down the hill in the first place:
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but once I had gamely scrambled my way down, gone the wrong way for a bit, and avoided the bulls, I set off along the track.

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Things were your pretty much typical farm track for about forty-five minutes, up until I rounded the curve and started making it up into the foothills. One of the beautiful things about New Zealand (and also pretty horrible, environmentally) is that the hills are all worn away into terraces from the sheep and cattle grazing on them for 150 years. In most places, it looks like overgrown Mayan ruins with high, steep steps. In this case, though, the topsoil was shallow enough that the erosion has brought out the rock formations underneath, so it looks like a massive cairn for a long-dead giant.

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The weather broke at this point, and I felt pretty spectacular walking up to the cleft in the hills, the apex of the walk:

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To find yet another reason to love this country:

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The path started snaking down the backside of the hills, but I was having none of that. Up I went over the tamped-down sheep paths, to find the tops of the hills!

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The sheep were still using the sheep paths.

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And, just to scare my dad, this is basically looking straight down:

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When I got to the top of the hill, among the long grass, thistles, and sheep, I popped my headphones in and had a good, old-fashioned, joyous boogie-down. It doesn't get much better than this.

And finally, back at the bottom of the hill, exhilarated, sun-warm, I managed one of my favorite self-portraits ever (thanks, self-timer):

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So there's your moment of New Zealand bliss for the day. Hopefully it'll help melt some of the snow back home!

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