November 30, 2014

New Zealand, Spring : Glowing skies

My hitchiking adventure leads me to the very end of the South Island. There, I board a ferry to Stewart Island. It's a last minute decision. The sea is angry that day and the boat rocks. The grey waves carry us unwillingly. From the cabin, I catch a glimpse of an albatros, dragging his massive wings over the water.

In the maori tongue, the island is named Rakiura, glowing skies. It takes me some to understand the reason for that name. At sunset, the skies becomes crimson and gold, a strange aura of fog sets on the harbour and the surrounding hills. This is the closest I've ever been to the South pole, and aurora borealis are pretty common here.

There aren't many people here. In the quiet harbour town, you can find a few shops and an old pub. The swing set facing the beach is deserted and moves slowly with the wind. Nature here is unspoiled. Untamed. So are the strong and subtle features of the people that live here. Their faces look as if they were sculpted from a saltblock. It's a special place.

I settle in a tiny homestay ten minutes walk from the sea and feel at home instantly. The fire is roaring, the cat sleeps all day, and from the balcony we watch the dark clouds run over the bay. Colorful gangs of kaka birds land on the fence and on our arms to eat peanuts. The songbirds are everywhere.

The light here is always golden and always misty. Rain is never far. Rainbows are frequent in New Zealand but this is where I saw the most. They appear several times a day, playfully bouncing from the bush into the waves. At night, we go out to try and find a kiwi bird. We walk silently on the airfield, and the moon shines so bright we don't even need the flashlight we brought.

I didn't stay long on the island, but I wish I could have. As I take the ferry back to the mainland, I whisper my silent goodbyes, and I promise myself to come back. But the end of this adventure is near, and I need to retrace my steps. I leave the South with a heavy heart.

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