Ralph Waldo Emerson

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon.

Friday, December 7, 2007

All's well that ends well.

I don’t know about you, but the last post left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. Things were crappy, loose ends left untied…and so this post comes to bring a nice happy ending to the story of Wanaka. (I know this one is anything but brief, but I had fun writing it. Also, I’m in the midst of reading Tolstoy, so you may find that my writing here edges on being annoyingly romanticized. Hence, if after reading a bit you feel you can’t get through it without a good chug of vodka, I leave you to find said drink and leave off reading until I’m back in a more satirical and brief mood)

After the little incident with the Germans there was a subtle yet unmistakable dampening to the morale of the American crew. No longer an unstoppable force of confident unity (not to mention endless boxes of wine), I found myself feeling somewhat agitated and unsettled among the crew I was running with. Even so, a trip out into the woods sounded real good and I was willing to look past some shortcomings in order to tramp around outside for a few days. So Tuesday we set out with bags full of trail mix and non-cotton clothing.

Yet backpacking is a funny thing, it has a tendency to bring out the strongest characteristics in people for better or for worse. As with my dad in Turkey, it was for the better. We saw each other, warts and all, and even in spite of some spats found even greater respect for one another in those hours of constant togetherness. As with the American crew, the experience just made me that much more certain that our tenure together was over. Not that they were bad people or any different than they had been, but I was different, and I knew that whatever bond had held us together was crumbling by the hour. By the third morning I grabbed my belongings and said farewell to that portion of my NZ travels.

There are times in life when you can’t help but feel like a badass. This was one of them. I left them all my food, took a carrot from the food sac and without a backward glance trudged thigh deep through glacial fed streams and out to start my next adventure. In a few hours I was back out on the dirt road hitching a ride with some rock climbers back into town and by 3pm had myself checked in to a cool hostel just outside of town. They could say whatever they liked about me, and perhaps they did, but the moment I felt those icy waters seeping into my Soloman shoes, I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be.

And so free now to enjoy Wanaka on my own terms, I went out last night to catch a French flick called Le Vie en Rose at this really cool little movie theater called "Paradiso" in town. It’s one of those places you can’t help but love. You walk in to a wall of fabulous scents as organic pizzas, wraps, soups and salads are being prepared for people to take in with them to the movie. The seats are a medley of couches, complete with crocheted cozies, and even an old yellow Beetle convertible set up to one side. At intermission (yes, there’s an intermission) you are met with the smells of freshly baked cookies, still warm from the oven and well worth the $3 charge. Mom: look into white chocolate ginger cookie recipes. I think I’m in love. Before the movie began I found myself a date. Mark’s a 70-something Englishman who comes to NZ each year to volunteer at various national parks, and he and I had a fabulous time discussing the film and reminiscing about the wonders of Le Bons Bay. Turns out he was the very Englishman that I had overheard my hosts saying would be arriving a few days after I was to leave the backpacker. Small world.

Anyhow, it was on the happy walk home that the bookend came to my Wanaka experience. Blinded by streetlights I could see the forms of people moving in my direction, but couldn’t make out who they were until I was suddenly in the midst of them and being clapped on the back. The Germans! Here they were! Two of them (including Chris, the one that had so verbally pummeled me) had walked past in an attempt to avoid me, but the third, Julia, was quite happy to see me. She and I had developed a common bond in spite of the past few days. The other guy in the party, Kerry, was completely ignorant of what had passed and was just as enthralled as ever by the fact that we have the same name. God bless him. And so the two of them looped their arms into mine and took me off with them to grab a beer. I’m sure the first two Germans were quite thrilled.

At first it was somewhat awkward. I chatted with Julia and Kerry as the two others cast me grumpy sideways glances. We talked a bit about everything, touching on the fact that I was now on my own, and after a bit my beer glass was empty and I started to say my good byes. "Wait", said Chris, grasping my arm, "I have something to say". Seeing as this was exactly how he had started our previous conversation, I was less than thrilled to hear what would follow.
But this time the conversation was quite different. By the end of it, he’d apologized for his assumptions and we’d even had an awkward hug. Hurrah for reconciliation. It’s nice to be able to take the Germans off the People Who Hate Me List.

So that’s the story of Wanaka. And now at 4 my bus will come and take me up the West Coast to hike a glacier, hunt for Kiwi birds and clamber about on pancake rocks. By next Saturday I’ll be in Nelson and by Christmas in Wellington to celebrate with Carly Ann at her flat. So if you’ve read this far into the post, I commend you. Now go bake yourself to a white chocolate chip ginger cookie and maybe some good strong Egg Nog.


Carol said...

So glad it ended with a better conclusion than the first story. Nice to have that chapter neatly wrapped up. Good job stepping up to a problem, you go girl! Think chocolate chip ginger cookies and eggnog with southern comfort are worth a go. Way better than the opossum stew promised by the redneck crew you were hanging with in the back country. Maybe the Germans were on to something you overlooked.

Damon said...

Hmm. I wonder if the Paradiso is named after the theater in this Italian movie I saw once: "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso". Worth watching if you're ever in the mood for a foreign flick with a lot of nostalgia and a dash of intrigue. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095765/

So you're gonna hike a glacier! awesome. maybe some good practice for this potential AK trip? wise man say: beware the crevasse.

Wells said...

The takeaway lesson: if you drink more beer, fewer people will hate you.

Corollary: we'd be better off if Bush had stayed an alcoholic.

Carol said...

Wells. This is not a political forum. This is your sisters blog. Go get some egg nog.

Kari said...

ahahahahaha. score one for mom.