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Mar 2014
dunedin. friday, three, afternoon.
set from home under a blue sky
with full& prepared pack,
a somewhat empty stomach,
and a necessity to get away from the city.
hiking boots tread asphalt down to the depot,
where, in thirty-seven minutes punctuated
by plastic seats grafted to a wall
and a mildly disjunct group of small or
big-time travellers, the naked bus
pulled in, a hematite centipede
crawling into the lot. it was a bus,
no complaints. all others' bags
stowed, twenty seven bucks outta pocket
and swung into the front-right-window seat,
bid a farewell to the beat-down
pub across the road and onto the one-way
merging into a highway and outta
town the dark bug skittered, on
schedule or something resembling it.
behind the driver, the sun came through
around the beam in the window. warm patterns
laid on skin, the countryside's broad expanse:

cylindrical bales of hay scattered about
paddocks, dark late-autumn florets of flax
on roadsides, plumes of white smoke from
bonfires in townships as small as a thumbnail,
hedgelines of eucalyptus, pine; russet streaks
through bark of single gum trees stood
off-centre in fields. sticky-wooded hillsides
punctured by fire breaks roll almost forever
and back. the rushing sound of passing cars
through the 3/4-golden ratio of the driver's
ajar window; twenty-first century mansions
verging on out-of-place. saplings emerging,
bracketed, through verdant grass patches.
museum abbatoirs. toitoi like hen's plumage
lining drainage ditches. another Elizabeth st-
(how many could be counted out by now?) tidy
front yards and milton liquorland through this
small town. an everpresent tilting sun. fields
of flowered nettle. s-bends through pancake layers
of hills. a delapidated gravel quarry at stony
creek. deer farms, sheep farms, bovine farms, alpaca
farms (favourite); another bonfire seen down a
long gulley; a power substation, all organized
tangles. a two-four 300m before the bridge into


balclutha. 4.40pm.
across the road into the i-site
two friendly ladies circle locations
to make (got a car) or try to make (on foot),
offering a ride in half an hour,
leave it to chance.
across another road, drifter's emporium
(that's the name, no joke) got a knife
to open up cans- bought no cans, brought
no cans, still nice to have one anyway.
down the road, 200ml from unichem, waste
no time, turn ninety degrees, cross a
railway, then outta town in a sec. first
photo: half highway, half clutha river. fine
shot. sit down, watch the water couple mins,
head down the road. red-black ferns radiate
under willows down the riverbank. metal
bumper-bars keep legs on, the road rolls
gentle turns, diverges from the river. stick
to the former, faster that way. no intentions
of hitching. just wanna walk. and walk. and
walk. guy yells out a car window. envy,
likely. who cares. apple tree hangs over
a dry ditch. pick a small one, gone in
a minute. probably ain't sprayed. been
eating ice-cream dinners more often'n
not the last coupla weeks- isn't much
the stomach won't or can't handle anymore,
anyway.

odours of decay from the freezing works.
seagulls sound out nearby.
typical.

down the road, the reek of death fades
out. back to grass. sit in some of the
tall stuff, under a spindly tree. put down
some ink, a handful of asst. nuts. 'bout
thirteen fingers of daylight left. no idea
if the coast is further than that. little
care. down the road the land flattens out,
decent sign. the junction was a fair bit
past reckoned, though. flipped a chunk
of bark (too lazy to get a coin out) to
figure whether the coast was worth it. bark
said no, went out anyway. gotta see the sea,
keeps you sane. past a lush native
acre or two- some lucky ******'s front lawn-
changed mentality, slung out a thumb (first
time). beginner's luck, kid straight outta
seventh form pulls over in a mustard-yellow
*******' kinda beach-van. was headin' out
to the coast, funnily enough. had been up
in raglan (surf central, nz), back down with
the 'rents now, though. out kaka point, only
one of his age, he reckoned, no schoolhouse
there, just olds. was going to surf academy,
pretty apt. little envious.

the plains spread out and out, ocean just
rose up out of a field. there's nothing
more perfect. gentle waves stroke the sands,
houses stare intently out at the mingling of
blues. one cloud hovers so far away it doesn't
even exist. down the other end of kaka point,
back on solid ground, walking into a gorge, laments
about not choosing the coastal route. but owaka
is the new destination, bout 11ks, give or take
(5ks later, sign says another 15.. some give). nothing
coulda beat that sight anyway, stepping outta
a van onto that pristine beach.

entry: gorge route to owaka. seven.
late light painted the tops of hills absolute
gold. thought maybe this way ain't so bad. beside a
converging valley, phone got enough reception
for dad to get through. said in balclutha coulda
got a room with a colleague. too far out now. lost
him in the middle of a sentence about camera film.
surprised to have even got that far. road wound
troughlike through the bottom of the gorge, became
parallel to a cute little stream. climbed down chickenwire
holding the road in place, ****** in it (had to).
clambered back up, continued walking as the occasional
campervan rolled on by. took a photo of the sun perched
on a hilltop, sent it to mel. dunno why. anxieties
over the perfect sunrise picture came frequently,
a goal become turmoil. the gorge flattened out,
and soon in countryside my fears allayed. round
a corner in picturesque nowhere, found my shot.
sat in long grass. stole it. sighed. ate a handful
of nuts. moved on. {about eight}

dark consumed the surrounding gentle-rolling hills,
nowhere near owaka, which was probably the tiny bundle
of lights nestling a little below the foot of a
mountain in the distance (not too far off, in
reality). near the turnoff to surat bay (was heading
there, plans change) a ute honks. taken as friendly.
a right turn instead of a left, farmsteads lit
up in fireplace tones, the sound cows make at
dusk. it got colder. would one jersey be sufficient?
hoepfully. stars began pinpricking the royal blues of the
night sky in its opening hues. eight-fourty-ish slugged
back about 3/4 of the syrup, along with half of a box
of fruit medley (so **** delicious), in light of dull
calf aches becoming increasingly apparent. needed
to walk a helluva lot more. ain't one for lettin'
nothing get in the way of that. lights in the distance
became the entry sign for a camp-site. no interest,
head on. past another farmhouse, stars came out in
packs. three cows upon a slight hilltop. next junction
pulled left a good eighty degrees and was on the
straight to owaka. less than two minutes later,
a dog-ute pulled to a halt and offers up a ride down
most of the stretch. didn't say no.

still stable, as two pig-hunters tell
of their drive back from picking up a couple
pig-dogs somewhere north. they were heading
out bush to shoot, thought they'd seen
another guy they'd picked up a couple weeks
ago, who'd taken 'em out somewhere they
couldn't remember. paranoia grips, but
the lads are fairly innocuous. they say it's
dangerous out here, gotta be ballsy walking
middle of the night, no gun, no dog,
all by yourself. wasn't worried, got nothing
to lose anyway (still, this sets helluva
mood). by a turnoff a k outta owaka, dropped
off. said probably all that'll be open there
is a pub, if that. bid luck and set their way.
above, the whole sky is covered with shining
glitter. down a dip and turn, **** in the
middle of the road. an ominous sign indicating
the outskirts of

owaka. approximately 9.40pm

my head loosens as i approach. the lights
form across a small valley i can't verify
exists or not between dog barks i mistake
for the yells of drunkards and lights
pirouetting from cars behind me. i slow
down i don't want to do this.

owaka is terrifying. plastic.

the street corners thud like cardboard. i
walk past a garden of teapots, a computer
screen inside the house glares through the
window pane bending breathing outward. there
is nobody here, still there is a feeling
like there's people everywhere, flocking
in shadows. a silhouette moving in a
distant cafe doorway. the sound of teeth,
of darkness fallen. thick russian tones
sound from a shelf of a motel. eyes
everywhere, mostly mine. i stop only round
a bend and down near a police station, yet
feeling no more safe, sitting in a gutter to
send mel my plans, to tell myself my plans.
i want to be nowhere again. i am soon nowhere.


out of breath, out the other end of owaka,
the sick streetlights fade into comforting
dark nestled between bunches of indistinct
treelines. the feeling of safety lasts but
twenty minutes, where another dip in the
road leads through a patch of bush, in which
gunshots ring periodically and laughter and
barking rings through. breaking down, it takes
five minutes to resolve and keep going. ain't
got nothing to lose, anyway. boots squeak like
diseased hinges all down the road. hadn't
noticed beforehand, the only thing noticed
now. an impending doom hangs thick like fog,
the thought of being strung up like an
underweight hog. walking faster and
not much quieter, the other side of the
bush couldn't have come sooner. the fear
lasts until the gunshots are distant nothing.
still alive, still out of breath, still
fairly ****** up, there's no comfort like the
sound of nothing but the occasional insect's
chirp. vestiges of still water came around
a corner and just kept coming as the golden
moon sung serenity all over. finally, a peace
came to rest over the landscape. sitting by
the road with a clear view of the moon's light
sheathed in the waters, the stars above wreath
a cirrus eye to watch over the marshland
plants leading into the placid waters of

catlins lake, west. ten fifty-one.
crossing a one-way bridge over a river winding
its way into the lake, another turning point
decision arose: continue down the highway
along the river, or head straight out and
toward the coast again. having resolved to
make it to a waterfall by dawn, and the latter
offering a possibility of this, the decision
made itself. turning back around the other side
of the lake, the road wound a couple times
up a gentle ***** out and up from the valley
at the tail of the lake, and into a slightly
more elevated valley. the country roads ran
easily and smooth, paved roughly but solid.
not a car came by for kilometers at a time.
lay on the road past a turnoff for quarter
of an hour letting serenity wash over, the
hills miniscule in comparison to home, the
sky motionless, massive thin halo about the
moon. walking on, night-birds called from
time to time (no moreporks, though. not until
dawn), figuring out how to whistle them back.
a turnoff to purakaunui bay strongly
considered and ultimately ignored; retrospectively
a great call, considering the size of the detour.
hedgerows of macrocarpa, limbs clearly cut
haphazard where once they'd hung over the
road. occasional 4wd passing, always a 4wd,
be it flash new or trusty old. you'd need
one out here. have no fun, otherwise.
monolithic pine-ish hedge bushes, squatting
giants. once, a glimmering in the sky, a
plane from queenstown (assumedly) almost
way too far to make out. the colossus of
the one human-shaped shadow cast down
from the moon to my boots. how small
a thing in this place. swamped out by
the beauty of this neverending valley.
breathless.

the road turned, not quite a hairpin,
but not entirely bluntly, a welcome
break from the straight or gentle
sway, and five minutes turned to dirt.
had to lay down again- legs screaming
by this point for rest. still, they
had nothing against pressing on. dad
taught me to just keep going. that's
the thing about walking. stop for a
little bit and you're good to go
again. pushing for the fall was probably
overkill, but no worry now. dirt road
felt so right after a good 20+ks of
asphalt, only infrequently punctuated
by roadside moss or thin grass. it
was as if beginning again (well,
kinda, if only with as much energy).
having downed only a litre of water
(leaving only half a litre more), a
litre of fruit juice and about 100
grams of assorted nuts since more
than twelve hours ago by this point,
it should have been a shock to
still be going by this point. don't
really need that much anyway, though.
gone on less for longer. hydration,
anyway, was the least of all worries,
the air being thick with water, ground
fog having been laid down hours ago.

up the dirt track, more cows. they make strange
sounds at night. didn't know anything yet,
though. that's still to come. a ute swang past
going the other way, indiscriminate hollers
from the passenger-side window. waved back
cheerily. so far from anything to be anything
but upbeat now. not even the heavy shroud of
tiredness could touch that, yet. the track wound
on forever. was stopping every half-kilometer
to stand and stretch, warding off the oncoming
aches. the onset was unwieldy, though. didn't
have long. past a B&B;, wondered whether anyone
actually ever stayed there (surely would, who'd
not revisit this place over and over once they'd
discovered it?)- certainly would've, having the
cash (apparently parts of "lion, witch and the
wardrobe" were filmed here. huh). further on, the
road turned back to seal, unfortunately, but
with small promise- surely, at least fairly
close by this point. turning a corner, a small
and infinitely beautiful indent against the bush,
a small paddock bunched up against it, stream
wound against the bases of trees, all lit by
the clear tones of a now unswathed moon, sat
aside the road. it was distilled perfection.
it was too much, just had to keep goin' or
risk shattering that image. next turn was
a set of DOC toilets, an excellent sign. must be
basically sitting on the path entry now. searched
all 'round the back for it, up the road, nothing.
not entirely despondent but bewildered, moved
forward and found a signpost. the falls were now
behind? turned around and searched even more
thoroughly, quiet hope turning to desperation
by the silent light of the moon. finally,
straight across the road from the toilets,
was the green and gold sign, cloaked in
darkness under clustering trees, professing
a ten-minute bushwalk to the

purakaunui falls. saturday. 1.32 am.**
venturing into the bush by the dull light
of a screen of a dying phone, the breeze
made small movements through the canopy. it
couldn't have been any more tranquil. edging
way through the winding cliffish track through
dense brush, the sound of a trickling stream
engorged into a lush symphony of water. crossing
a single-sided bridge across an unseeable chasm,
twinkling from the ferns behind became apparent.
turning off the dull light, the tiny neon bulbs of
glow-worms littered the dirt wall risen up about
half a metre, where the track had been cut out.
my heart soared. all heights of beauty come
together. continuing down the path, glow-worms
litter the surroundings and the rushing of
water comes to a roar. at a look-out platform
above the falls, nothing can be seen save a
slight glisten. down perilous steps (wouldn't
be too bad if you could actually see 'em) the
final viewing platform lay at level with the
bottom of the falls. they stood like a statue
in the dark, winding trails of thin white wash
through the shadows hung under trees. left
speechless from something hardly made out, turned
around and back up the stairs to where the
glowing dots seemed their most concentrated.
into the ferns above, clambered through and
around moss-painted tree trunks and came to rest
a couple hundred metres from the trail, under
a fern, under a rata. packed everything but
a blanket from nan into the bag, laid it out
on curled leaf litter and folded up into it,
feet too sore to remove 'em from boots, curling
knees up into the blanket and tucking a hand
between 'em to keep it warm. only face and
ankles exposed, watched the moon's light trickle
through canopy layers for a few hours, readjusting
tendons in legs as they came to ache. sleep (or
something resembling it) set in, somewhere
around four.

some time slightly before six, the realisation
that my legs had extended and become so cold that
they'd started cramping all the way through hit,
coupled with the sounds coming through the bush.
thank you, if you made it all the way through :>
Tom McCone
Written by
Tom McCone  Wellington
(Wellington)   
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   Natasha
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