The South Island is diffferent. Apparent from the moment the large, comfortable Interislander ferry, escaping the rolling oceanic swells of the Cook Straits, glided into Marlborough Sounds at dusk.
A world away from the busy industry of the Wellington ports and the relative bustle of the North. It is immediately quieter, calmer but wilder and more remote, I suppose one could draw analogies with the Kiwi psyche. The brashness and loudness of the quasi tropical, volcanic north juxtaposed with the remote and quiet wildness of the outrageously beautiful south.
Travelling again is refreshing but expensive. I am dwelling within a fairly dilapidated, leaky van that fustrates as much as it delights.
I have pushed this beast to Nelson, Takaka and the very north of the south, to the Kaharangi National Park and the Wangapeka River and now it sits in a rainly campsite in an odd little place called Berlins, consisting entirely of an old pub overlooking the powerful Buller River. Taken over and run by the quintessentially Kiwi Dean and rejuvenated into a pub/truck stop/diner/campground. Catering to the endless stream of motorised tourists travelling the long and winding highway 6 to the West Coast. A haven for travellers, motorhomes and sandflies. The sign in the door said help wanted and so I stayed in this peculiar limbo-like little place for the Easter. It felt right.
The three residents are colourful enough to form the basis for a novel that I am too ill-disciplined to write. A permanently grumpy but in fact rather kind waitress escaping something in her past, a french girl who speaks no English despite living here for a year, a haphazard, grizzled, taciturn but friendly and eminently likeable owner who has quite clearly done, seen and been part of a great deal. This, I suppose, is the essence of travelling, the unexpected meetings, interactions and lives that you encounter.
I can’t help but think on fatalism in the rain. Was I always going to end up here? Was I supposed to meet and mix with this odd collection of humans. Is there a reason I am supposed to find? I felt drawn here. When you look at a map do you find you are drawn to certain places? I do. I like to follow that.
It makes one think though just how much control we have and the irrational part of my mind debates the rational.
If I hadn’t stopped and spend Easter with Dean and the crew at Berlins then would life have been different? Would I have gone to Karamea afterwards, would I have met the Czech girl there, would I have seen the Cave Spider at the Oparara Arches and eyed the broiling Tasman trying to lure me in to kill me? Would I have travelled south or along the west coast or would I have gone to do the Kirwins track in Reefton as I had meant to and seen Arthurs Pass rather than take the coastal route.
Life takes the path that it does of course but it’s such an arbitrary lineage of choices and their outcomes that it takes some getting one’s head around. I suppose this frighteningly complex nebula of possibilities and consequences is so mind-fucking that the thought of being guided through it is calming. It is remarkably calming actually. Also the fact that quite of few of us to negotiate this minefield with relative luck, ease and success it feels as though we are being guided.