I am home! When I arrived late last night I looked up to a familiar sky. The Big Dipper was there and the constellations were all right where they should be, but everything else was different. The streets were empty. Buildings that should have been alight and alive with people were dark and empty. My brother and sister-in-love, who picked us up from Montreal, had to drive two cars so we could then drive my car home without contact. We could have no welcoming hugs. I am incredibly happy to be home but I also feel discombobulated – like I returned to an alternate universe. It’s unsettling.
While we were waiting for our flight in Fiji, right up until we boarded, I didn’t know if we would actually be leaving the island. And then when we were in LA, again, until we actually boarded, I felt uncertain. Who knows how all of this will end, or where it will go. The only thing I know is that I am happy to face the uncertain times ahead on Canadian soil. And I will be diligent with my self isolation.
As always, thank you for reading and sharing this ride with me. See you on the flip side. Be well and stay safe.
After waiting in an apocalyptic-like airport in New Zealand, getting our temperatures checked at every turn, we were off to Fiji. The concerned messages we received from family and friends (and the government) basically telling us that we needed to get ourselves home convinced us. Everything is shutting down and while being stranded in Fiji sounds idilic, my blueberries need attention and my mortgage won’t pay itself. With airlines and carriers unavailable by phone (and hesitant to book anything online for fear of losing more money), the day after we arrived, we parked ourselves outside the Fiji airways office, along with the remainder of Fiji’s tourists (also trying to get home), and waited to speak to a live human. When we finally confirmed a fight out, we breathed sighs of relief. But we aren’t there yet.
Yesterday we went to the Sabeto mud pools in the mountains for a day of R&R. As we lathered our bodies with the black gooey mud, the continuous gentle rain metamorphosed into a torrential downpour. The sky opened and buckets of water poured out of it. Undeterred, we lowered ourselves into the hot springs. Shortly after, before our very eyes, the lush, tropical walkways and plants disappeared and gave way to an ever widening river. When the cold water overflowed into the hot pool where we were currently immersed, we clued in that we needed to get out. Within minutes, the whole area was flooded. The springs are positioned at the junction of six mountain streams and it was amazing how quickly it coalesced into a torrent. Apart from four Australians and the workers, we were the only people there. We clustered together watching and waiting for the water to recede, but the deluge continued and the road remained impassable. It was later in the day and we were a long way from the hotel. We decided, along with Stella (an awesome 81-year-old Fijian preacher lady who was there selling trinkets) that we better try to get out on foot. After the TA we are no strangers to river crossings, but Stella was understandably nervous. We waded in together, holding hands. Cars were stranded on sections of the dirt road but a few people on foot (and the odd horse) were walking through the waist deep water. Eventually we emerged and Stella was able to flag down a random police cruiser who picked us up, gunned through the last of the flood and drove us back to the hotel.
We have been in Fiji for three days and we are now at the airport waiting for our flight home via LA as I write. There are only four departures today and two of them are listed as canceled. Apparently we are on the second last flight leaving for the US (we were told that there is a 50-50 chance of our plane actually taking off) before the airport closes on Monday. We left early for the airport today as some roads here are also being closed. This trip has been quite a ride on many different levels and home is the best place to be right now. We aren’t there yet but I will be happy when we are on Canadian soil. I feel like we will slide in sideways. I’ll keep you posted.
I burrow deeper into my sleeping bag and wrap it around my head to create a pocket of warm air. Dawn is still far away but I know I am awake for the duration. We are high in the mountains and the air is cold. When light finally comes, I strip down and replace my merino warms with my hiking clothes, still damp with yesterday’s sweat, and emerge from the tent to a sloped world of frost on grandfather tussocks. I look around the panorama of remote, windswept alpine peaks that epitomize the rugged essence of the South Island, and I am awed that we have hiked across the entire range. The 64 kilometre section between Arrowhead and Wanaka includes the Motatapu Track which is listed (by the mutant bionic people) as “hard tramping”. But this is our last hurrah on the TA and we want to finish hard and strong (with jelly legs). Gord has a healthy respect for heights and the three vertical 1300 meter ascents and descents, combined with narrow trails on ridgelines that drop off on both sides has pushed him to his limit. This is the high country at its most raw and at some points we are moving forward on all fours. He says it is spectacular and terrifying and if it was any harder I might as well go ahead and push him off the edge.
We take down the tent, eat a breakfast of muesli and start walking. Immediately we go up. The last five days have been tough and our muscles quiver with fatigue, but I happily settle back into the rhythm of walking. My sore bits have mostly sorted themselves out. The sound of my poles clicking on the hard earth is soothing to me. The world sometimes spins too quickly for me and I need a long, isolating walk to recalibrate. When I am untethered from civilization, I feel my place in a world where I often feel misplaced.
We have tramped over 1000 kilometres and feel a heady pride. It’s not always easy, for many different reasons, and this trip is no exception. But it’s always an adventure!
Shortly we will fly to Fiji for our last two weeks before returning home. Now that we have been informed of the news, we realize that we won’t be returning to the same world that we left. It’s hard to take in after the timeless serenity of the mountains. We will self quarantine if that is what is appropriate. Next post from Fiji.
We made our way to Christchurch where we hiked for a few days off trail along a gorgeous coastline.
At the moment we are staying with a lovely family who invited us to their beach front home for a couple of nights.
I also got a chance to check out my elbow that continues to be sore and swollen from my fall a few weeks ago. Happily, it’s just an infected bursa (solved by an aggressive round of antibiotics) and not a chipped bone as I feared.
Tomorrow we have tickets for a rugby game here in Christchurch before blasting south to Queenstown where we will get back on the trail heading north.