Sunday 26 July 2009

Spring sprung?

It's been a long, cold winter this year, and an eventful one for many people around the country, with floods, landslides, tornadoes and even an earthquake - but this morning it looks as though the end is finally in sight. I took my usual Sunday morning brisk walk (too brisk for the dog, alas - she has to stay behind, giving me The Look from her Mary Pickford eyes) to the dairy to buy the paper and it was just glorious. Blue sky, sunshine on the grass and the flowers that are starting to appear, the air crisp and clear, and everyone I met looking cheerful.

This is a walk I use for fitness, as it includes several hills and a flight of 132 steps up from the beach. I've pushed myself around this route with some specific goals in my sights, like Outward Bound, the Inca Trail, and now the Milford Track - but this morning it was just pure pleasure to be out in the sun, with legs and lungs working as they should, and time to look around and enjoy.

And to remember: this is the path I rode my RDA pony up where we got stuck under a fallen tree that wasn't as high as I'd thought; this is the hill my daughter went down on her scooter far faster than either of us planned; here is where the daffodil fields used to be; that's the hall where I spent so many hours watching tap and ballet lessons, school plays and end of year assemblies; this is the zebra crossing that it was my idea to ask for.

And time too to dream: this is the house I have watched being built, section by section, over the years so that where once a little wooden home stood there is now a unique and distinctive house that takes full advantage of its view north and west over the tree-fringed upper harbour, the island, and all the moored boats, including the yellow one that sets the picture off so beautifully. This is the house where I will go, when I win the lottery, and ask what they want for it. They won't want to sell, because they've built it with love, but I will have won so much money that I will be able to add zeroes until they agree. And then we will live there in that interesting house, with those views, in that quiet street, and every sunset will be an event.

Of course, I'll have to start buying Lotto tickets first.

>>> I’m standing on the deck of a boat tied up to the jetty in Picton, elbow to elbow with a bunch of strangers, changing into running gear in full view of the passengers on the Interislander. A slim blonde called Genevieve waves vaguely at a bay across the other side of the harbour, says “Let’s go!” and runs lightly off towards the town, as we trail breathlessly behind her past bemused tourists and locals. We fetch up in a panting mass on a distant beach where, pointing to a cutter moored out in the bay, Geraldine urges us into the water, still in our clothes. We flail out to where a bearded bloke hauls us aboard and sits us alongside the oars. Grinning cheerfully, he hauls up the anchor and starts calling the strokes as we catch crabs, clash oars and finally settle into something approximating rowing. “Welcome to Outward Bound!” says Bob.

It’s a rugged introduction, but perfect in its way, because the next eight days continue in the same vein. The first chance to catch our breath and say hello comes that night in a little bay in Queen Charlotte Sound where we sit around a crackling fire under a star-filled sky, slurping hot mussels cooked in sea-water. We’re a mixed bunch of townies, late 20s and older, our only thing in common a readiness to have a go — although when I’m woken in the middle of the night by a possum galloping across my stomach, I wish I knew exactly what I have signed up for...

We climb a 25-metre rain-slicked cliff and abseil back down, which Patera finds so easy that he’s made to do it blindfold. We carry heavy packs up Mt Cullen, 1100 metres, and sleep rough at the top, rising in the dark to watch the sunrise. For two nights we camp solo with minimal shelter and food: possums scuttle around in the dark and though I know the others are within earshot, I’m on my honour not to leave my site, and eye them from deep in my sleeping bag.

On the last day the groups come together for a run through the bush, and some people astonish themselves by completing a half-marathon; but not me. I stumble and break a bone in my foot. I hobble the last 10 kilometres, determined not to give up. Back home, my doctor phones the X-ray people: “No urgency. She’s tough - she’s just done Outward Bound,” and I swell with pride. Now I know I can do anything: another OB success story.

[Pub. Women's Health June 09]


the queen said...

"WHAT are opossums doing in New Zealand?" was my first thought. Wikipedia set me right. Yours are far cuter than ours; ours have the ghostly white face.

TravelSkite said...

Queen: Ah, but they're not ours at all - they're foul Aussie imports that eat our baby birds, kill our trees, give TB to the cows and make weird noises in the night. Nasty, nasty creatures that we now have by the million and which we would love to eradicate. In Australia, they swerve on the road to AVOID them!

the queen said...

But, do they EAT YOUR BAY-BIES? Not like the Dingoes then.


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