Dave’s Odd Odyssey – The Sound of Silence


A Summer has already been halfway spent, and the remaining sum is something I intend to invest wisely. If not wisely, then at least intrepidly. My travels, while they have not seen me covering a wide and varied amount of ground, have seen me performing a multitude of works, taking me from the urban sprawls of the Northern Island to the remote, awesome, and majestic landscapes of the South. I went into this season bearing with me only a tattered and stained roadmap of where I may roam and labor; incomplete due in part to my own senseless neglect. At last, as I write this, I can see the beginnings of a route, some greater scheme and journey for the rest of my Summer, beginning to take shape. To speculate on what the near future has the potential to be would be waste of time and of little interest, as dreams often stand in a stark contrast to what severe reality proves to be, so I instead will recollect what I have encountered over these past few weeks.

Since I took my leave of Kapiti Island, my journey has been entirely free of any noteworthy perils, pitfalls, and plights. The only tribulation that seems to be an inescapable reality is the constant, though delayed, drain of my own bank account as I take to pure tourism of the places that I visit between jobs. As soon as my feet once again touched down on the sandy beaches of Paraparaumu, I almost immediately needed to expend funds on food, transport, and shelter. New Zealand is not a country that has garnered a reputation as being affordable for the casual traveler, or even the casual resident, so it’s proven necessary for me to make my journeys and time spent between work as brief as possible. Before I could arrive at my next bit of work on The Queen Charlotte Track, I would have to traverse, and decidedly spend a few days in, New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington.

Wellington is much smaller, and is by extension much more manageable, than it’s larger brother to the North, and I believe that I prefer it in many respects to Auckland. The city stands on the western edge of a vast harbour, reaching outward into the waters with a downtown area that has largely been artificially extended over the years, a process which I believe is still ongoing. It’s size allows it to maintain a sort of personality that is often lost to larger cities such as Auckland – in becoming too metropolitan much of the character is lost as it becomes grossly overencumbered with housing and industry instead of cultural landmarks and features.

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Pippin’s foot – an example of some of the NZ culture that I encountered in Wellington

The biggest black mark that I hold against the city, would be ‘Quasi’, the unusual statue that sits atop the City’s Art Gallery. It has become something of a pariah not only in the eyes of many Wellingtonians, but broader artistic endeavor around the world. I have developed an unusual curiosity with the statue that is fueled more by morbid fascination rather than a genuine admiration. It’s cold, unfaltering gaze pierces through my very being like a hailstorm of daggers; stabbing swiftly and deliberately until I can feel no more. It dulls my senses; fear and a lingering sense of dread that cannot be extinguished are all that can cling to my person. Never before have I had such a visceral reaction to art, a lamentable way of being since I am sure that my outlook is far from the intended effect.

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‘Quasi’ watching over the city of Wellington one afternoon. 

Ultimately, having bid Wellington and Quasi farewell, I continued meandering my way further South across the Cook Strait into parts less urban. My next position of the Summer was one that I initially had no expectation of doing – volunteering as a camp host for a Department of Conservation campsite situated a short ways off the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds. I came into it since it fit neatly into my schedule and I was evidently the first, if not the only, person who applied who was willing to work over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. The track itself lies only a short ways from Wellington, less than 40 kilometers from its most northern point, but it still feels like a completely different world, and one would have no idea that they were so close to one of the country’s major urban centers. Across much of the Queen Charlotte Track, and standing true for my campsite as well, there is no cell phone coverage, no facilities, and no roads, only well manicured dirt trails that wind around bays and over ridges, interspersed with the occasional unoccupied holiday home or minute monument to events that have long since come to pass. The only constant, it would seem, is the pervasive silence that comes along with being so removed from the rest of the world.

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A view of the Northeastern edge of the Marlborough Sounds

As a camp host, I was primarily tasked with fee compliance and site upkeep and maintenance, though I should say that within me no legitimate authority or power of enforcement was vested, so I would largely hope that people would pay their registration fee upon realizing that I, a powerless volunteer, was presiding over the campsite. My presence worked to great effect in improving compliance.

Despite my expectations, the position was actually far less isolated than I would have liked it to have been. I came to realize after a few days of having been camp host that some 80% of my job was simply speaking to people. There is a wide variety of people that traverse the Queen Charlotte Track, and those who stayed at my camp were only a small sample of those who hike it in its entirety. One comes across a number of people of different nationalities, creeds, and origins. It should also be said that, in my view, this sort of venture, a multi-day hiking excursion, inherently attracts a good and respectable sort of person, and everybody who I came upon was incredibly kind and courteous. Despite living in a hut with nothing but literature and time on my hands for two weeks, I was surprised by how fleeting my time there proved to be.

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A view of The Sounds down to Picton made hazy by the NSW bush fires. 

Now, I am currently working at a lodge in the Pelorus Sound, the sound adjacent to the Queen Charlotte Sound. I have only just arrived, and as such do not have to much to say or comment on in terms of the work that I am doing, so this is something that I shall do upon my next update.

Until I Write Again,

David

Categories: INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE, New Zealand

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