We can hear it. It’s fucking pouring. My first thought – How lucky we were with our glacier hike yesterday. My second thought – Today’ll be a real fun drive. My third thought – Breakfast, for it is essential to be caffeinated when visiting a kiwi, because otherwise you might miss it in its room of gloom. Joss is so happy to see these little birdies again that I can’t help but be patient. Two kiwis are visible. One is rather circumspect, but the other feeling a smidgen of agita.
Today’s path lies on the Haast Highway, a spectacular road linking the West Coast with the interior. Our destination is Wanaka, the first of two stops on the way to Milford Sound. The rain comes down on purpose from Franz Josef to Haast town, but as Route Six turns inland it begins to diminish. The road follows a riverbed that had been absorbing a lot of precip. Long, white ribbons of waterfall score the dark green forest walls. Gray cloud cover seals the peaks of these mountains from view. I’m not viewing much because my eyes peeled on the twisty road ahead, but I get the picture. We leave the mountains and sun commits to blazing. A lake of unearthly blue green becomes the distracting feature on our right. Rows of whitecaps mark its surface like flaws in a gem. The road then zags abruptly to the left and we find another blue lake right in front of us. We have a lake on our left and this continues for many kilometers through sere brown hills. We’ve passed through rainforest, alpine forest, scrub, prairie, and dry grassland until we come to Wanaka.
Look! Puzzling World! Stuart Landsborough’s quixotic dream in the middle of fucking nowhere was begun in 1973 when he built a maze of posts and planks. The maze has since been expanded into three dimensions with over-arching bridges. The goal is to the reach the towers in each of the four corners and then return to the center within ninety minutes. Two million people get lost in it yearly. There’s a whole other attraction called The Illusion Rooms, a series of encounters with optical tricks. Floors tilting at a fifteen-degree angle make things roll uphill, including my lunch. I feel kinda woofy, so I whiz through these tippy places. Lots of good-natured cleverness. Mr. Landsborough has become the world’s go-to guy for maze building, having supervised construction of thirty of this things all over the world.
Lodging tonight is at the Wanaka Berry Farm B&B. They grow tons of raspberries, strawberries, and boysenberries in addition to putting up guests. I posted a Joss-taken photo of me on the glacier on FaceBook that gets a lot of ‘wows’ and ‘oys’ including one from Martha Wolfe – “V, I’m in New Zealand, too!” She was a few terms behind me at the Bennington Writing Seminars and a member of my last workshop. Wifi had been dodgy in Franz Josef so I couldn’t respond until Wanaka. “Are you in NZ? Really? Joss and I are in Wanaka on the South Island.” Martha writes, “Oh God, I am too. Bill and I have been here since the 1st.” Holy Shit. We make plans to meet for coffee tomorrow and visit the A&P show (Agricultural & Pastoral Show) in the center of town.
Dinner is hopeless. Wanaka’s fully booked with all the A&P-ers in town. Wandering around peckishly we chance upon two food trucks and settle on a large venison pepperoni pizza and two Pellegrino limonata, which we eat alfresco by an abandoned mini-golf range. Later in our walking we discover gelato. Two scoops by the lake at twilight.