Archive for March, 2006

A Turning Point

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

The wind blew cold and strong against me as I stood on deck. The ferry was slowly making its way into harbour. As I watched the lights of Wellington glide by on either side, I couldn’t help but think that this is the best way, the most beautiful means of entering a city at night. I had the same experience in Auckland coming back from Great Barrier Island and here once more it was confirmed for me. I took a deep breath of the fresh air and thought, “This is the way to travel.”

In contrast the journey from Christchurch to Picton had been nowhere near as magical but still fairly eventful. The weather was constantly shifting between a cold cloudy day and a moderately warm sunny day. Looking at the outside temperature on the dashboard display, I saw 8 degrees Celsius at one stage, the coldest I believe I’ve seen it at since my arrival to New Zealand.

The road between Picton and Christchurch is becoming quite familiar, this being the third time we’ve travelled on it, although admittedly it was the first time I stayed awake for the entire journey. It’s a long drive for Diarmuid but he handles it fine once he takes a break to stretch his legs every hour or so.

At an early stop we turned off the main road and went down a secondary road for a short bit. About 40 feet from where I stood, there was a crossroad, where a secondary road parallel to the main road and the road we were on joined. It struck me as odd that there was a secondary road running parallel to the main State Highway 1. It was so quiet and looking straight ahead, the road stretched on for miles. Not 50 feet in the other direction was SH1 with lorries and cars racing by but with my back too all that, all I saw and heard was the long empty road ahead.

Just past Kaikoura, which was perhaps our longest bottleneck due to road works, we made another stop. This time beside the sea. Diarmuid spotted a seal among the rocks and while he went looking for his camera, I started to climb over the rocks, getting a better view of the seal. Then I noticed another seal, it appeared that he was the male and the other the female. I pointed him out to Diarmuid and watched as the intrepid photographer crept closer. He didn’t escape the notice of the bull who was eyeing him before yawning, making a few warning grunts and lying back down again. Diarmuid continued on, for the most part ignoring the seal which continued to complain in a lazy fashion. Having got close enough, Diarmuid got his photo and we left.

As we were getting into our car, a police squad car raced past with sirens blaring. Our first guess was that he pulling over a car for speed and then when he kept on going that a high speed chase was in progress. However, after an ambulance, another police car, and two trucks from the fire brigade: one a rescue truck and the other a full blown engine, it was more than clear that an accident had occurred. With this many vehicles I expected something major but when we did reach the site, it wasn’t as serious as feared. It looked like two cars had been involved and that one had gone off the road. Nobody seemed to be seriously hurt thankfully, though I suspect a tree may have suffered the most.

Back on the ferry, the thought struck me that this was the first time I had been in a truly large city with skyscrapers and lots of light pollution since my last visit to Wellington. It came as a bit of a shock at the time, since that was almost three months. Once off the ferry, we checked into Nomads Capital. While it is not my favourite hostel in New Zealand, I find it cold and clinical, I had not serious objections to it. A quick dinner in Burger King, the only place at midnight and afterwards a visit to iPlay, the internet café we frequented on our last visit to Wellington. Diarmuid settled in to play computer games. After eventually remembering my password, I use the remainder of my credit to check my email before heading back to the hostel.

There I notice a sign that ensures we’ll only be in Wellington for two nights. Nomads is fully booked on Saturday night. The following day, when I get talking to Diarmuid, he tells me that it’s because wrestling is coming to town, so everywhere is booked up. For most backpackers, it means they’re frantically looking for a place to sleep. For us, this means we don’t have the flexibility to extend our stay. It didn’t really matter to me as I only had a short list of things to do.

First, I had emails to write, so I sat down in iPlay and for the first time in quite a while I managed to reply to those awaiting emails and even sending off a much overdue group email.

Next, I wanted to go to Te Papa Museum as Diarmuid had really enjoyed his visit there in December. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I wasn’t quite in the mood for museums or the fact that the exhibition Diarmuid had been enthusing about was closed, but I found myself mostly bored in Te Papa.

There were two notable exceptions and they were both art exhibitions. The first was a sequence of paintings from Cézanne to Picasso. The other was a truly entertaining display of commercial art by a New Zealander, Bernard Roundhill. It was colourful, exciting and fun. As I think back on it, it possibly interested me due to a similarity of technique used in comic book art. Mostly however I liked it as it was that kind of advertisement from the 30s, 40s and 50s which just don’t get made any more. There was one particular piece depicting a city in the year 2500 or thereabouts, that I would have love to get a copy of. George Jetson would have felt at home in it.

I also went to, after my previous visit, my favourite cinema in the world. In the afternoon, I saw the entertaining and light “Casanova” and then “Syriana” that evening with Diarmuid who had been waiting for it to be released. A complex and interesting film. It will require another viewing.

I believe the most important thing that happened though was a shot innocent email from a friend of mine where he suggested we make a short film when I get back. Having read his email, it was like the world clicked into place for me. I could feel something coming in Oamaru, a slight change in the wind, I began to think about writing again. Then in Christchurch, the feeling of having come full circle and how much had changed for me and had happened since I had last been in Christchurch. Here then was the culmination and I found myself on a road. Unsure of where it will lead me or how I will progress, the instant of that click brought a tremendous amount of relief. I now knew what I had always known I wanted to do, but more than that I had subconciously made the decision and commitment to be a writer. This was followed by a flurry of emails between my friend and I and we both promised to send our thoughts on what we could do for the short film.

Forced out of Wellington by wrestling fans, myself and Diarmuid hit the road for our long since planned destination of Whakapapa, gateway for Tongariro. My thoughts however were on a different road and the beginnings of an idea were forming. I felt that a turning point and just occurred and that I’ve entered the third phase of my journey.