One of the highlights of my time here with the Magic Bus
will be our visit to a Maori Huangi, or feast, near Rotorua. We formed into an iwi,
or tribe, and approached a traditional village. Maori warriors challenged us before
inviting us in to demonstrations of warlike haka and women's songs of welcome. I have
often seen haka performed on TV before an All-Blacks game, but the power of these
chants up close is unbelievable. It was all I could do to restrain myself from joining in,
to demonstrate my warlike manliness. But not wishing my warlike manliness to be speared
and clubbed by outraged performers, I held back.
Determined not to be put off by a little weather,
myself and a high spirited
English girl called Jo decided to undertake the famous Tongarairo Crossing, a sixteen kilometer/thousand meter
climb through the North Island's most dramatic scenery. Hoping for a reasonable lift in the clouds, and relying
on our good equipment and experience, I did not expect many problems.
Two hours later I was inching my way down a ridge fully exposed to mountain gales, helping Jo
along, afraid that she would be literally be blown off into the waiting precipices,
while all the time the freezing sleet raked horizontally into our faces. We lived to laugh about it all, but I was shocked
later to see pictures of the volcano that we had actually traversed. In six hours of painful hiking we had
seen nothing but the path in front of us and the cloud that surrounded us at every step.
When the clouds do part the change is staggering. The pleasant and relaxed town of Nelson lies beside the
Abel Tasman National Park, a paradise of forested inlets, islands and perfect semi-tropical beaches.
We spent a simple, happy day wandering among the primeval tree ferns and across tidal inlets.
That was a fortunate day.
From time to time my own mood tends to collapse to a dangerous point
of morbidity and resentment born from the endless loneliness and instability of constant travel.
Every time I am most at threat from this condition, I have been provided with a good new friend to turn me
right around. By nature and an Irish upbringing I tend to view conversation as a game, where
directness and honesty can be replaced by cleverness and wit at all turns, with the frequent
result that I can cheerfully engage with another soul and not learn a damn thing about them, and wonder
later why I feel so empty.
Cecilia, from Sweden, sat beside me at random on the bus returning from Abel Tasman. A beautiful,
unusual woman, her approach was direct and simple. She assumed everyone she met was unique, and
dealt with them on that basis. All my cleverness dropped away like a forgotten shroud, and for once
communicated with complete honesty. From that beginning of course, you could only end up feeling happy and
content, reminded that there was kindness and courage in the world after all. Is there any quality
better than kindness. In all my cleverness I can't think of one. Thank you for that , Cecilia.
So, New Zealand. Wonderful place when the sun shines, home to lovely people and hobbits, when it rains there's nothing to do but
drink and think up ways to kill yourself for a laugh. I don't intend jumping out of, or onto
anything particularly high, but I do want to do some diving here. Although I have been warned, "don't do it on a bad day,
because, bro', it's murky as!"