Duntroon: Days 27&28

The last couple of days have been across the undulating hill country on the South side of the Waitaki Valley. I have driven this route many times but, again, the difference in perspective gained from viewing the familiar landscape at 6 kph and with no intermediary metal and glass has been revelatory.

We have been joined at various points over the last couple of days by people from the local parishes who have walked with us. We have stayed the last two nights with Alison, widowed 21 years ago and who continued farming on her own account since. She is intelligent and well informed and all of us - Phil, John, Graham, Tash, Dion and myself - are sharing her house and her conversation. It has been wonderful. We have been ferried to and from our starting and ending points in the van which has provided our mobile headquarters over the past month.

Yesterday it was overcast and cool; today clear, still and warm. On both days there has been a succession of tiny rural hamlets on a road which yesterday ran for miles in long flat straights and today rose and fell and turned. Much of the land, even in the hill country, is irrigated and is given over to new dairy developments. We have passed immense acreages of fodder crops and in places the groundworks for great new circular milking sheds.

Today we passed Anatini where some of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe was filmed. We stopped for a bit to inspect Aslan's camp. There is a piece of Mr and Mrs. Beaver's house sitting in a field and starting to delaminate in the weather. There is also evidence of a much deeper and older life: a fossil whale under a protective plastic shield and an ancient Kowhai tree, reputed to be, at 2,000 years old, the oldest in the country (and indeed, the world). We stopped at Elephant Rocks where immense limestone outcroppings sit in neatly cropped pasture making a landscape as bizarrely odd as any I've seen; but it was not alien. There is something beautifully satisfying in the proportions of rock and open space and the way the huge rounded shapes sit in relation to one another I found it a peaceful, serene place.

We walked into Duntroon around three this afternoon, an event filmed by the local TV channel. After an interview in St Martin's church we retired to the Flying Pig cafe for excellent coffee before driving in a creatively navigated route back to Alison's to shower for a pot luck dinner this evening.

So we passed the last evening of the Hikoi eating fish pie, talking farming and watching the Highlanders beat the Bulls. Phil and I spoke and John prayed and we returned, a little more directly to sleep in borrowed beds for the last time. I feel great affection and respect for each of these people who have shared this adventure with me and I will be sorry to break up our team in the Octagon on Sunday; but I am aware of how much has shifted and gelled within me in the last month and am eager to get on with the task that Te Harinui has been preparing me for.

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