SOUTHERN HOLIDAY

It’s not the destinations, it’s the ability to be on the road, happy trails, out where no knows or understands or cares. from Under the Tuscan Sun p147.

This is the place where the past catches up with us – or we catch up with the  past?  History is written deep into the schist hills.  The road we used to travel by the Clutha, past the apple orchards, has disappeared.  The deep blue water covers every trace, and it’s no longer possible to see any of the old routes.  The Cromwell bridge is drowned, along with the old town.  All that remains are a few of the original buildings, restored, rebuilt and used as tourist attractions.  Vineyards cover the hillsides, their sweeps of bird-netting looking like giant hammocks.

Old railway stations grace every small town, the rails long gone, each one reminiscent of more leisurely days.  Their names evoke memories, Windwhistle, Homebush, Fairlie.  We don’t think much about these place names, but each one constitutes a descriptive poem on its own.  We stop at the Church of The Good Shepherd at Tekapo.  The setting of the Church is, appropriately, heavenly.  But McKenzie’s dog, brass-cast, forever ears pricked, waiting for a command that will never come, is the one who captures me.  What is it between humans and dogs?  What a history we have together, a bulwark against loneliness for both species.

Huge clouds float idly against the blue dome.  If I stood on my head they would tickle my feet.  At Tutaku Bay across a sea of sand, wind-driven ripples sand-papered our ankles.   It rained in the night at Kaka Point, and outside you can smell the coal smoke in the air.  It is quiet apart from the hush of the sea and the sound of the bellbirds in the flax bushes.  The muscles in the back of my legs are sore from climbing up and down hills.  The sea’s horizon fades into the mist like a Heaphy painting.