Month: March 2016

A Forgotten World

March 7th 2016

A pilgrimage resulting in: driving straight through a forest, collapsing roads, goat hurdles, a visit to a different country (briefly run by a goat), a hitchhiker, sheep envelopment, property prospecting, a petrol fail, the kindness of strangers and a tunnel of terrors. Unexpected coincidences and more of wild, backcountry New Zealand were what today was about.

I was absolutely clueless about what State “Highway” 43 had to offer. This was an unplanned entry, but after a day of unexpected adventures, I felt it deserved its own blog post. They call it The Forgotten World Highway (Wikipedia article) apparently. It crossed my mind that it may be the highway that the Ministry of Works ‘forgot’, given the state of the road. We encountered no less than six road washouts (could’ve been more, but I stopped counting at four) taking a whole lane out of commission.

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One of the many lane washouts. One of which had quite literally seen a whole lane collapse into the river below

You definitely want to be paying attention to your driving throughout your journey of bouncing down gravel roads and winding around riverside cliff faces. In fairness, the terrain is pretty inaccessible anyway and the Heritage Trail signs explain its history of independence.

Much of it revolves around a remote railway line and the Republic of Whangamomona (Wikipedia link) and its history as a self-governing state within the bounds of New Zealand. With that title comes the right to elect their own Presidents. It is a right that has been used to install some rather colourful leadership… including the reign of Billy Gumboot the Goat (1999-2001).

The willingness of some hardy colonial settlers and the need to connect the main trunk rail line to peripheral tracks brought about this roadway and it runs through some truly beautiful, natural montane forest scenery as wild as any you can be found in this modern world. Great for those who enjoy a scenic drive, but make sure you take plenty of fuel on-board. Similar to the Te Anau-Milford road in the South Island (but steeper), you won’t see a petrol station for 150 kilometres of meandering hill climbs and descents.

This is a lesson I would also do well to learn, as I found my poor car struggling by on the dregs of a fuel tank when we limped in to Ongarue. I’d picked up a backpacker hitchhiking from near Mangakino and this was his destination. In fact, I’d planned to take a different route prior to that, but adjusted it since Ongarue was on my way if I went this way. However, it’s fair to say this route was a wee bit more off the beaten track and I’d got caught out with the lack of refill opportunities through the backcountry. On the bright side, it presented an opportunity for life to brighten my perception of people. My hitchhiker’s host happily offered me petrol from his stores, insisting I’d paid it forward by giving the lonesome backpacker a lift. I gave him money for his beneficence anyway and headed on my way to fill ‘er up then on to the Forgotten World… and right into the arse end of a huge mob of sheep.

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A phalanx of several hundred sheep wandering down the ‘highway’ is not an uncommon occurrence in the glorious district of Stratford

We’re talking several hundred sheep just being herded down the road by a rather attractive, sun-kissed shepherdess and her dogs. She invited me to push on through the flock, to which I acquiesced. And after about 20 minutes of driving, surrounded on all sides by sheep, my dutiful chariot and house popped out the other side. Shortly after this, a parade of goats leapt over fences, brambles and the road to climb near-vertical, scrub-covered embankments.

A little further on, we disappeared around a corner into a pitch dark tunnel from glaring sunlight. The contrast had a rather unsettling effect, especially since I was fairly slow to realise I was still wearing my sunglasses. Surprising how much better headlights work when you’re not wearing sunglasses. On this particular occasion however, I’m not sure it was an improvement. This may well be the narrowest car tunnel in New Zealand.

Moki Tunnel: Quite simply, one of the most terrifying tunnels I have seen. (Photo Source: Wikipedia.org)

There would have been no more than 10cm clearance on either side of the car as we crawled through. It tested my nerves to have such a small margin of error and I preferred not to envision the possibility that I might meet a car coming the other way.

It really was a unique drive. Nice to have an eventful trip when you’re covering such a large span. And it all began because I’d decided to pay a visit to my Mum’s birthplace: Mangakino. Blink and you’d miss it. Mangakino is a tiny little village/town which, in the words of the local real estate agent “[they] consider busy if there are more than six cars on the road at any one time”. Nice little spot though. Very affordable land too. Glad I stopped by as it is the kind of place I may one day like to live.

But the goal was always Taranaki, where the caravan refurbishment begins.

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Living for Purpose, Not Pay

Prior to this, the blogs have basically diary entries recording the events that have been going on through this journey. Today’s blog is a little different, in that it is about the thoughts behind it.

Like most of the human condition (at least how I understand it), this has been about belonging. It’s not been about belonging to a group or about acceptance into a particular lifestyle, but about an alignment of an inner feeling with an outer reality: belonging to the everyday reality of my life. It’s taken a long time and a lot of experiences. I guess this a kind of mid-life crisis, but if you knew my life thus far, you’d know it’s never been about settling and this is more like the reverse of most mid-life crises.

As I was growing up, the message was loud and clear that “You can be anything you want to be”. Many people discard this message. I was foolhardy enough to believe it. It led to travel in a few different countries doing many jobs and a few mini-careers trying to see what fitted me. The education illusion which has dominated our generation, was a big player in this. In fact, it sucked up several thousand dollars and quite a few years. Ironically (?), it was really the relationships and experiences along the way that were worthwhile more than the classes.

Taylor Pearson covers this much better than I ever could in his book “The End of Jobs” (link to the book’s official page). Definitely worth a read. It’s about the idea that although education once served to improve career prospects and income, 1) the market has become saturated with knowledge-based workers; and 2) the marketplace has expanded to include a global pool of workers. When you also consider that knowledge is so much more available in the internet age, there is less and less value in formal credentials. More and more value in ACTUAL skills and the ability to be independent, learn, trial and problem solve.

Now I find myself at on a slightly different track. It’s been a conscious decision to try to follow feelings. The new catch phrase seems to be “Living from the Heart” and several authors are all over it. It’s brought a lot more uncertainty into life and it can be scary at times. So far though, it’s been the key to noticing more opportunities and allowing myself to take them. In fact, with less of a financial burden due to rent, the biggest obstacles have been mental ones.

Long-held beliefs about my abilities, my rights, poverty and contributing to society have been tough things to confront. Self-limiting beliefs keep coming up and when I’ve had the courage to face them, so far I’ve proven them wrong every time. We operate under such out-dated beliefs about ourselves and our worth, which once may have had a protective purpose to help us succeed. As we grow and experience life, there often comes a point where they are no longer true or helpful. For me, it is often about what I can do or what I deserve. But in order to get what you want in life, it seems you must first be audacious enough to expect those things that you want. Then you must act in a way that allows you to get them.

Working this way, it’s been surprising how quickly I’ve managed to find a version of perfect. It is likely that it won’t be the final version of ‘perfect’. Part of the mind-shift required to head toward a more sustainable life is accepting the changing nature of things. Nothing lasts forever and most if not all of the pain in our lives is caused when we try to force this unnatural requirement. Money comes and goes. Relationships start and finish. People are born and die. Everything in life goes through cycles and they are often unpredictable or veiled in complexity. But if we work from that place of things that ‘feel right’ we can engineer the path that we take through the changing landscape of our experience.

In his book “A New Earth” (link to the book’s official page), Eckhart Tolle talks about his interpretation of “The Lord’s Prayer”. Specifically, he talks about the line “Give us this day our daily bread”. He emphasises THIS DAY and DAILY as a reference to the fact that things aren’t necessarily meant for storing and having on hand at our whims. Instead he discusses the idea that we can live on the basis of finding the things we need NOW in the world we are living in now. It is in stark contrast to the common way of living in our society which is about projecting forward to the future (whether it be hours, days, weeks or years), which may not even come to pass. Worse still, living stuck in a past that has been and is gone forever.

To me, this whole journey into a sustainable life is about embracing that concept of change and using it to find ways to live moments more consciously and make my choices more purposeful. For now, that means concentrating on renovating my caravan. But the caravan is only a tool to allow me to engineer a lifestyle. The end goal is to be living as I see fit. That is: as nature seems to intend.