Snow. Yep, snow. We climbed out of Dansey’s, on a road that was quickly falling into disrepair, through a treeless landscape that offered no respite from the “Tailwind” that howled with aggression across the snow-covered tussock. While we would receive no quarter from the wind we would gain respite from the saddle; the steep incline of the roads was more conducive to bipedalism than to pedalism and we spent a majority of the day hiking our bikes up ever steepening switchbacks. To commemorate this initial section of our passage Daniel composed a brief poem. The day was long and the rigors of the terrain spread out our group, each finding their own pace, disappearing solitary figures, mirages in the distance on a lonely road in a empty vacant place. Yes the country is beautiful, but it is silent and empty, there is absolutely no one around and very little wildlife to speak of. From time to time you would see a flock of sheep, but that was it, and after a while these fuzzy land-clouds just became an unremarkable feature in this astonishing landscape.
It felt as if we were traveling through a vacuum or rather one of those atmospheric test machines where they create mini cyclones. The wind was persistent and blocked out all other sound, crackling white noise was the soundtrack to our vision, as if there was a wind tunnel behind our eyes. This was perfect sailing weather. The land felt as if it had been wiped clean, taken back to square one, the beginning. This is a strange experience for us foreigners, this absence and sparseness is found not even in the wide open spaces of the Western US, if you are still for a moment even in the most isolated places the world around you comes alive with movement and sound, there is always something scurrying around, life is busy.
Anthropologists agree that New Zealand was the last major land mass to be settled by man, and that its isolation from the rest of the world’s continents allowed the fauna to develop unperturbed. The arrival of man quickly wreaked havoc on the indigenous species, but despite our best efforts the underlying feeling, the bedrock, subsonic, baseline vibe is that nothing much has changed, or rather nothing is old enough to have really changed.
“This is new country, new space, still very much unaffected by the clinging compounding change of the new millennium. We hiked through the space, pushing against gravity, the wind, and the cold.”
The sun was setting on our second day as we made a final push towards our night’s sleeping hut, we were surprised and relieved when we were greeted by a warm fire, a round of beers, and two amiable deer hunters who had been snowed in the night before. With our shoes and socks set by the fire we laid our heads down and those of us who couldn’t force ourselves to pass out spent the evening as unwilling guests to an all-night concert of guttural staccato John Cage covers. It is possible that somewhere, deep inside the mind of our knowing vocalists, the feeling that man needs to make mark, to leave some trace, the need to have meaning was propelling their apnea, and as their snores careened off the cabin’s wall the wind rushed by our humble little hut, unimpeded by evolution or erosion.