On the second of my two trysts with New Zealand, one enclave in particular attracted my attention, despite the weather being uncooperative both days of my stay. This year, when I should be galavanting around Europe to take in all I can before I commit myself to the insane asylum of localizing a manufacturing line to Charleston, I admitted defeat to there being too many unvisited places in Europe and booked a flight to New Zealand instead. I landed scrutinizing a rain shower and double rainbows to the north, but Auckland airport — and my luggage — remained, incredibly, dry.
When Peter Jackson brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to film, it was not just the storyline that mesmerized me but also the geography. The landscapes were gorgeous, topologically a far cry from the Illinois flatlands I was familiar with. Despite the admiration, it wasn’t until four years after The Return of the King released that I realized how much mountain air mattered to me, and only a chance trip with friends fourteen years afterwards did I get to visit New Zealand, home of Middle Earth. I arrived in NZ on a Sunday after two twelve hour flights with a wearying border control in between, a seven hour layover, and a ten hour time zone adjustment. After a day of flying and during which I literally left winter for summer, Auckland welcomed me with bright and sunny skies and a quick check of my hiking boots to make sure I wasn’t bringing in foreign soil.
A week after the comment that there were too many people in the Zermatt area, I ended up going again. That’s a third time in a month: of the five weekends in October, I went to Switzerland for three of them and worked the other two. I left work and headed west, catching the sunset from my favorite mountain pass along the way.
This time, even though the weather was arguably even better than on the prior two trips, the trails were just about deserted.
A few weeks after I got back from China, I drove out to the mountains to pick blueberries. We found them in droves, but I wasn’t really successful in substantiating that as I ate as I picked and never took a picture of the rather small blueberry bushes. Instead, I ended up going on four hikes and soaking up the awesome weather.