From Aoraki to Lake Tekapo and Lake Alexandrina, camping under another notoriously clear sky, where I ate dinner with a very lovely couple from England, and really enjoyed their company the next day too in the sun next to the Mount John observatory.
My next plan was to get to a town called Geraldine for the Future Living festival, and I hoped to find some way of helping out in order to be a part of it, though I had no idea how I would do that. The festival started as a lantern walk to celebrate Earth Hour: a time for everyone on the planet who cares to stop using electricity for an hour and think about conserving energy, and is now a 4-day community event.
I drove into the town, looked around the farmers’ market and tried to be ok with that feeling I often get in NZ, that I’m neither carefree enough to be bypassing this completely in favour of sun and surf, nor settled enough to be ok with the ‘family fun!’ air about it. Sitting on a bench trying to write about that unease, a local octogenarian, George, came and sat next to me for a chat and offered me a cup of tea and a friendly ear, for no particular reason other than to cheer me up. 🙂
I then went to look at the homely little art-house cinema, being shown around by the charismatic owner, Calvin. As we chatted away, he said if I wasn’t careful I’d be roped in to help with setting up for the local band and festival party that evening, to which I of course said I’d be more than happy to help! So, that’s how I became a part of this community celebration without even trying! 🙂
After the Earth Hour lantern walk, when I learned how Geraldine Cinema has hosted many more live local bands since the venues in Christchurch were sadly destroyed by the earthquake, I felt incredibly welcome at the party, and got introduced to numerous people including Young New Zealander of the Year 2013, Sam Judd, who’s involved in many environmental projects after starting a huge litter-picking initiative on the Galápagos Islands; close to my heart of course!
After that heartwarming experience came a night accidentally stumbling across, climbing and camping near “the capital of Rohan” (Mount Sunday)… Then I enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of first Phil who I’d met earlier in NZ, then Matt who I’d met way back near the start of my travels. Travellers are the most awesome people and anyone I’ve met is more than welcome to come stay with me if and when I ‘settle down’!
There’s so much more depth than the main stories I can convey on here: more and more I feel like I’m beginning to uncover the real New Zealand, in all its gentle diversity. I’ve been lucky enough to have already been exposed to numerous aspects and ways of life in this enigmatic country, which has so much more to it than mountains, beaches and government information signs!