Thursday, 29 November 2007

Red dot

It turned out to be one of those perfect days, all in all :). So having put in my previous post, I decided to go up to the bridge, where I was told that our departure time from Bluff had been revised from 5 pm to 1:30 pm!! I was completely gutted! I'd just had visions of a hike to the top of Bluff Hill and the potentially spectacular view from there, and to Sterling Point (detail descriptions of which follow), and now I wouldn't have enough time once off shift to make it :(((. I'm guessing I wasn't exactly subtle in hiding my disappointment, if you get my drift :P. The Chief Mate told me quite matter-of-factly, to just go anyway. I'm not sure if he actually expected me to, but seeing that there wasn't a whole lot to get done before we left, I did just that!!! :DWell, I coaxed my boss to grant me permission first, of course :). Fortunately or otherwise, I also managed to gather a couple of trainees who were probably not entirely aware of what they were getting themselves into :|. So off we went, in our bright orange coveralls/ workpants that were lent only a slight semblance of respectability by the blue work jackets which was more than offset I think, by the grease stains... Thankfully, it was too early in the morning for anyone to be up and about to notice.The destination was lookout on the summit of Bluff Hill, easily the highest spot in the vicinity, and as such clearly visible from almost everywhere in the town and the adjacent waters, as I'd noticed on our way in. However, the path to the spot wasn't quite as obvious, we thought. One security guard, one early shift construction worker, one road-cleaning-machine-borne janitor (you know, on one of those little buggies with the multiple scrubbing brushes that sweep the road as the thing drives past?) and finally one bakery shop lady all pointed out the rather obvious looking signboard 100 metres from the boat :|. After that it was a piece of cake :P. There was a two lane tarmac road leading right up to the top :|.Well, by about what I judged to be halfway the inclines had already forced some to start walking backwards, trusting the increasingly breathtaking views to detract from the aches etc. It seemed to work too! All involved managed to make it, and in fairly good time!! When I finally got high enough to be able to look over the Foveaux Strait, and onto Stewart Island however, I realised that where there should have been the island, there was only a mountainous bank of very dark clouds:-S. In a flash it all came back to me! The hyper-quick gear shift that the weather here seems to possess, the severity of the rain when it did fall, and finally of course, the strength of the winds! The last of these was a seriously scary issue since given our position, there was absolutely nothing that could stop us from actually getting physically blown away, if the weather gods so willed :(. I watched helplessly as the grey spread out of the south and covered everything.Soon there came the first drops. Then some more, and then, perhaps not that surprisingly, a few fingers of light through chinks in the grey :). Even as we looked on, the main body of the rain passed within a whisker of us, but refrained from causing serious dismay, and a truly spectacular vista was revealed in its full glory! We were definitely blown away :). It wasn't really that high up, maybe 200-250m above the sea level, but the surrounding land and waters were simply gorgeous in their colours, newly unveiled by the now rampant light!Once the euphoria was over, the aforementioned aches etc. reared their heads :|. This time, one of our shoreside support people, who'd just driven up in his car to get a few nice photos came to the rescue. One of our group got a lift back to the ship, and the remaining two decided to follow a trail that cut through the thick brush and promised to take us to Sterling Point.The walk itself was probably better than the destination in this case. The trees dripping water from recent rain and the whole thing about being completely enveloped by trees and a sloping hillside brought back too many memories, and all of a sudden we were at a crossroad with absolutely no clue which way to head :|. Another alarmingly familiar habit from the past :-<. But this was my lucky day, I kid you not, less than 10 seconds after, we met the first and indeed only person in all the 40 minutes we spent on the trail! Pointed in the right direction, it took us barely any time to get to the end of all highways in New Zealand, the southern end of Highway One, aka Sterling Point. Apart from the view, the interesting thing is a little signpost that informed us that contrary to widespread belief, we were not a mere hop away from the South Pole, but merely a little over halfway there from the Equator :).Eventually we made our way back to the wharf, past quaint houses, with sidewalk-invading plants and tail-wagging, heel-sniffing, finger-licking dogs (and also annoyed dog-, and presumably house-, owners who were clearly not impressed by the aforementioned grease-stained orange :|) and curious kids (with their sometimes amused, sometimes not quite so amused parents..). It was getting close to what might almost be considered the busy morning in the dreamy little town.
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The trainee who'd remained with me happened to be on his first ever trip on a boat :). He was just in awe, I could tell, I'd been there not so long back... Right then, I wasn't unhappy myself, but then a couple of things occurred to me. Firstly, that such moments only come few and far between. And that even when they do, sooner or later one gets blase enough about it to be in danger of missing out on so much that at some point used to be fun.

Currently: back to the grind :-<
Listening to: Jackson C Frank - Dialogue

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