The thing about exploring new places, is that it is entirely up to you to make it the experience you want it to be. Of course there are outside factors that can influence or even derail your intentions. And ultimately, no matter how much you try to plan your memorable moments, you never really know how much impact a place or experience will have on you. It’s up to you to take the risk, knowing it might be worth the extra effort in the end and it might not. And ultimately, the decision to take that risk is determined by your mood and your willingness to experience something new.
Today, December 24th, was one of those days. Take it or leave it. The kind of day that yes and no carry the same weight – a certain kind of neutrality. As Wwoofers, there is an unwritten rule that we work 4 hours a day in exchange for room and board. Part of our morning was spent at the market in Kaitia, New Zealand, running a booth for our hosts. We knew before we left the market that we hadn’t put in nearly enough work for a single day, so we’d have to find a way to make that time up. We intended on doing this before sun down.
After market we choose to head north for the afternoon to explore. The intention is to check out a beach famous for its impressive and uninterrupted coastline, one that supposedly runs for 90 miles. Once we leave town, the number of roads intersecting with ours quickly diminish. And not surprisingly, we miss the poorly marked turn off which would lead us to this infamous beach. According to our own arbitrary timeline, we now have less than two hours until we should report back to work, but to make our time spent worthwhile, we decide to try the next access point before turning around. Minutes pass and we find ourselves at the halfway point, the point between where we started from and the most northern tip of New Zealand. We take the next option for a turn and we find ourselves driving down a sketchy gravel road for some kilometers. To our dismay, it dead ends at a private driveway.
Time is up. Really, we should turn back. But frustration quickly turns to determination to see something greater than this dirt road. We’ve been driving long enough for what was meant to be a quick afternoon outing and have nothing to show for it. Although we’re expecting to be disappointed once we reach the very tip, curiosity takes over and we go for the risk and figure the rest out later.
The approach is like an artichoke. We slowly peel back the layers winding our way through the changing landscape spotted with dunes, wetland, forest, and ocean. Occasionally we stop to get a closer look and get acquainted with the scenery that’s leading us north. Eventually we arrive, to the good earthy center that is the fruit. Here we are, committing ourselves to this unexpected moment at Cape Reinga; a place we originally chose to ignore and up until only minutes ago, a place I anticipated we might easily forget.
I am 100 feet above sea level; walking on a runway that demands my feet to stop well before my eyes ever could. The preoccupations that filled my mind just moments earlier have been silenced and I stand here in awe as my eyes slowly sip in the sea that lies forever beyond me.
Looking out at this breathtaking and expansive panorama, I am reminded of my slightly insignificant existence as I am slapped across the face by the winds that haven’t yet decided where to land. I am red-faced and humbled as I witness a wondrous and inevitable event – the crashing convergence of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean. A place where, according to a Maori folklore, a man and woman, represented by the two seas, join together to create new life. It is the point, not only of creation, but also of new beginnings. These two massive forces of energy make love to each other out in the open completely exposed and vulnerable, unaffected by their ever-changing audience. Surrendering their individual shades of blue, their currents rush into each other embracing like lifelong partners who haven’t seen each other in decades. The timelessness of this relationship overwhelms me, though I find myself comforted by their constant compromise.
To the east, an 800 year-old Kahika tree stands tall in a precarious location on a rocky peninsula. For the Maori people, this is the place, the end of the earth, where spirits descend into the underworld. A gateway of sorts. It is said that the roots of the tree form a staircase towards the sea, providing a means for the spirits to leave their life on earth and enter into the next realm.
To the west is life; to the east is the afterlife. There is nothing more than this.
About the Author, Erin F Gallas: As someone who enjoys and appreciates the small things in life, writing has become a creative outlet that helps me express my perspective. I work as a full time case manager at a homeless youth shelter in South Minneapolis, which challenges my patience, but gives me great fulfillment. Other things that bring me immense joy include traveling with my husband, practicing Kundalini Yoga, spending quality time with family and good friends, and watching our vegetable garden grow.