My parents went to New Zealand when I was 6 years old. I remember spelling the word Mississippi to my mother over the phone. My grandparents moved in for the month to watch my sisters and I. I remember that they wouldn’t put the garbage cans in their car when we brought them back from the bottom of the drive way. I remember leaning out the window to try to help and regretting it when my grandfather’s hand landed firmly on my ass. I also remember being closer with my sisters, eating chocolate cake and learning to play chess.
Years later I learned that my mother almost died while backpacking with my father on that New Zealand trip. Something about hiking in the rain for days, hypothermia and a farmer and his farmhouse that came to the rescue.
I traveled to New Zealand for one month in December of 2014. I spent 2 weeks on the North Island and 2 weeks on the South. I steered clear of the over populated Great Walks in search of remote wilderness sans people. Abbey Caves, the beaches of Piha, Karekare and Farewell Split and the ancient rainforest of Te Urewera are beautiful landscape that remain timeless. I went backpacking in Mt. Aspiring National Park and found myself hiking over Gillespie Pass during a heavy rainstorm on my birthday. The wind was so strong that I was knocked to the ground several times and had to crouch down on the trail to wait for a pause between the gusts to start hiking again. My arms went numb and I was barely able to take a photograph at the summit before I headed down to the valley. This is the closest that nature has ever come to killing my ass. It rained for days but the storm eventually passed and the moon came out on New Year’s Eve.