December 31, 2012
The day dawns bright and sunny. Christof applies the seam sealer we bought in Motueka, to our leaking tent while I do laundry. Hans Peter and Philip come to say goodbye for the third and last time. Hans Peter has to be at the ferry in Picton early tomorrow morning, to start the journey back to Auckland, where he will return the camper van, before catching his flight back to Germany. We cook a good meal and enjoy the luxury of sitting in camping chairs at the table we found in front of our tent door this morning. A note, written in German and held down by a stone, invited us to use their camping furniture,
– Good morning feel free to use our furniture, it said, while we’re out hiking. Enjoy!
During the afternoon we hike along the track, as trails are called here, a narrow crowded path, and promptly get stuck behind an overweight German couple, so slow, we run past them at the first opportunity, so we can move at our own pace.
– Joachim, I hear her wheezing, everyone is passing us by because our steps are too tiny. Look at those big huge strides they are taking.
It’s humorous, to see ourselves through someone else’s eyes, as experienced, quick hikers.
On New Year’s Eve we’re pleasantly surprised to find a place at a table in the café, next to a local couple. He, a large fully tattooed man with a shaved head and rings in both ears, speaks of the alternative initiatives and communities in the area. He, himself is living in a Christian pacifist community founded in the 1940’s. The Christian part no longer exists, but the pacifist community supports itself with orchards and other businesses. Nelson’s agriculture is primarily organic.
Thinking back to our ride through the orchards on the way here, I realize that the cloying pesticide smell that accompanied us everywhere in Hawkes Bay – I recognize it instantly, having grown up next a heavily sprayed orchard, was absent here.
The band, a group from Wellington, plays a mixture of celtic/gypsy music that is enthusiastically received by the appreciative audience. Bearded non-athletic fellows, their long hair bunched and twisted into top knots, remind me uncannily of a modernized version of 60’s hippies. At first only a young woman with a crown of leaves and flowers in her hair, wearing a long full skirt that billows around her bare feet and legs as she turns around in circles, the only dancer in front of the stage. The rest of the audience watches as she lifts her arms into the air, turns her head to the side, spinning without stopping or loosing balance until the song ends.
Once the ice is broken, people swarm onto the dance floor, hopping up and down to the beat of the music, which increases in tempo. The energy in the room changes, and the end of every song is greeted with cheers, jowls and hoots. New Zealanders are refreshingly uncritical, grateful for all forms of variety they openly embrace all cultural events. As the crowd becomes louder and less inhibited, people start yelling and laughing hysterically. This is when we leave.
At midnight, I hear cheering and firecrackers exploding. Christof is sound asleep but I stay up writing a review of 2012.