Nice Night For a Walk

It’s just turned New Year, 2012.

Generally for New Year’s Eve I prefer to do something contemplative. Meditate on the past year (or years). Feel my way to a better direction for the coming year. Assess and makes choices that will guide me positively forward.

With that in mind, around 10pm I took off up a nearby hill (it’s only 345m high at the peak). It was a 45 minute hike in the dark to the lookout point I was aiming for. I chose to use no lights, partly as a more interesting challenge and partly so I could see the glow-worms on the way up.

Oh boy, they didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, photos just don’t do those bright little bundles any justice.

I was right about it being an interesting walk. For a start, it’s been raining like crazy the last few days, so everything in the bush is soaking wet. Combine heavy cloud cover with only a quarter new moon, and it wasn’t exactly clear where I was supposed to be walking either. The path was (theoretically) fairly light, except so were the ferns on either side, oh, and the rocks… and the puddles… and the grass. Also, that light coloured path? It was covered in various dark coloured flora, tree branches, grass, leaves, stiles, animals, dead bodies, burning cars, zombies*.

* some of these items may be a complete lie.

Mostly it wasn’t too bad though. My eyes adjusted pretty quick and I only slipped over a couple of times.

I got to the top around 11, but had wildly underestimated how warm it would be trekking up the hill, so promptly stripped down to let my shirt dry out a little. If there were any ghosts up there, I’m sure I scared them off with my stunning whiteness (it’s a sight to behold, I assure you).

I then spent the next hour meditating, absorbing the essence of the previous year and sipping the delicious coffee I’d taken up with me.

I also got treated to lightning on the far off ridges and fireworks up and down the valley. Theoretically fireworks are illegal in New Zealand outside of Guy Fawkes‘ week (the week before Nov 5) but people still store them up for New Year’s. I’m happy they do, it makes New Year’s a lot more festive than just a bunch of yahoos yahooing.

Surprisingly, the march back down the hill was significantly more dangerous than up. My eyes had adjusted so I could see better, but even with that I hit a lot of unexpected drops in terrain. I ended up walking most of the way down in a half crouch. Imagine you’re sitting in an upright chair. Now take the chair away. Yeah, like that. An odd posture, but effective and a lot safer than walking normally (which had left me unharmed but on my arse a couple of times). When I got back closer to civilization, I also had to shield my eyes from the street lights just to see where I was going. It’s hard to comprehend just how much light pollution there is until you’re walking back into it from the pitch black.

I did end up soaked to the skin up to my knees – it’s hard to see invisible wet grass – but it was totally worth it. Walking down in the dark, brooks burbling by the track, the glow of the worms, giant trees majestic against the skyline, it was an utterly beautiful experience.

And proof you can take the boy out of Scouts, but never take the Scout out of the boy; other than what I wore, I also took with me and used:

  • hat
  • gloves
  • scarf
  • camera
  • blanket (my Grandma gave it to me over 20 years ago; it’s the only thing I have left connected to her)
  • thermos of coffee

but took and didn’t use:

  • three torches
  • phone
  • bottle of water
  • fabric tape
  • plastic bag
  • leatherman

I figured if I accidentally walked off a bank & broke a leg (a reasonable risk) I might as well take enough to be comfortable & safe until morning.

Turns out I didn’t need most of it, but it was worth it without the added excitement. Partly for the peace & calmness that comes from occasionally detaching completely from the world. Partly for this:

Here’s to a gorgeous 2012.