There are really just two things in my head these days, these two things more than any other things. The first is the song “The End” by The Doors. No challenge in working that one out. The second thing though, is Larissa Snow.
Larissa is British. In 2012 she left her life in London and began a seven month solo tour of the Middle East and Asia. We met Larissa in Nepal, on the streets of Pokhara and invited her to trek the Annapurna Circuit with us. She was on her last week of traveling before having to return home to start her masters program at Oxford; we had eight months still ahead of us. All of us were filled with wonder and hesitation of uncertainty. None of us really wanted to do anything other than live in that moment, in complete awe of the creation story wrapped around us, feeling the weight of our packs and hiking through villages loving on the people we met and entering into their stories.
It occurs to me lately that Shaun and I have become Larissa. And also that I really miss feeling small among the giant wilderness, dragging my feet on the rocky trail and listening to the wind words of God.
So we chose accordingly. Our happy ending, the place where we spent our last six days out of the country, was tramping the Milford Track – the trophy case of jaw dropping hikes through the impossibly beautiful Fiordlands of Southern New Zealand. In the crooked fingers of the Tasman Sea, the Fiordlands reach inland through snow capped peaks, thick with the remnants of the ice age glaciers that first carved the landscape. It’s the kind of thing we’re not used to seeing on maps, sounds next to inlets next to lakes next to islands next to rivers next to peaks with names like “Mt. Inaccessible” and “The Stopper.” It’s really impossible to know what you’re about to walk into, especially if you’ve successfully averted your eyes from every postcard or travel poster printed on behalf of this place.
And then you round the first big corner. The Fiordlands are spellbinding and we barely scratched the surface of the 33.5 mile hike that passes in what feels like minutes and alternates between fairytale and the floating sensation that accompanies those long sweeping establishing shots in Lord of the Rings.
And then of course when you reach the end of the trail- in this case Milford Sound – there is a Thing which you and every other slack jawed tourist is compelled to do, because you’ve spent days on this great walk where every 30 seconds one of you says WILL YOU LOOK AT HOW BEAUTIFUL THIS IS and now you find yourself at a small cruise terminal that’s offering to take you even further, but with clean bathrooms, free hot tea and a tour guide who’ll make folksy local jokes and perhaps an uncomfortable terse statement about how the darling fur seals you’re photographing are ruining the livelihood of his fishing mates. And I’m happy to suggest that the rippling green blog hanging on the far southwest corner of your map of New Zealand is a place you might make an effort to see, while your heart is still strong.
So for us, the Milford Track was filled with exactly what we prayed for: Complete awe of creation.
Some days it felt like we were waiting for the end. Other days it felt like we were waiting for something to begin. The rest of the time, it felt like Nepal gave birth to the rainforest. We went to bed early and woke up with the sun. Shaun grew a nice face beard again and I grew a couple of feisty leg beards. We also took a great deal of pictures and we talked more than ever. These days were, after all, our last opportunity to have the kind of timeless conversations that have become part of our daily routine.
Me: Where would you go next?
Shaun: Spain and Portugal would be co—
Me: EW! The Pilgrims Way. Wine and churches. My favorite!
Shaun: Or Peru. Patagonia. Gre—
Me: EW! The islands of Greece. Ocean and olives. My favorite!
Poetry. Actually, I don’t expect this kind of conversation to stop just because we cross borders. I also do not expect this web page to stop just because we cross borders, because these may be the most adventurous days yet. There will be reunions, holidays, awkward adjustments, volunteering, and more international travel. Then there will be successes, failures, more reunions, more awkward adjustments, more of what happens next.
More happy endings.