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claiming the day

At 5:30 AM, today, February 3rd, 2006, I sat in the rain at the top of the easternmost point in the world, and watched the sun come up.  I was the first person in the world – in the world! - to see the start of the day.  I got up at 4:30, stuffed my sleepy self in my car, and drove the twenty km out to the East Cape lighthouse.  It was dark, but I had seen stars when I left the holiday park where I spent the night, so I had high hopes for a clear daybreak.  The road wound precariously along the edge of cliffs and through open pastures (meaning there were cows sleeping in the road), and though I couldn't see it, I could almost feel the yawning abyss between the left side of the car and the ocean below.  As I drove closer, I could see the bright arms of the lighthouse's beacon, and imagined myself drawn to it like a moth.   Using my flashlight, I made my way from the edge of the road where I had left Dr. Gonzo, and stepped carefully up the 730 stairs (730!) that climbed the bluff.  I made it to the top so quickly that my ears actually popped.  It had been clear at the bottom, but by the time I reached the top I was in the clouds once more, and I was barefoot (note to self: flip-flops are not good hiking shoes when they are wet), damp and muddy from the slick steps.  No matter!  I was the only one there, which meant that I wouldn't have to share the experience with anyone – February 3rd was to be mine!  All mine!  Muah ha ha ha!  Needless to say, I didn't see much.  The lighthouse beams arched out like swords, but were enveloped by the clouds within a few meters.  I sat in the slight shelter provided by the lighthouse, ate my breakfast of paiklets (a sort of tiny pancake; traditional kiwi thing) and kiwifruit jam (both provided by Sandy the day before), and watched the mist and fog slowly become brighter.  That was my sunrise.  Hardly spectacular, but the fact remains that I was there; I saw it – before anyone else!

All day yesterday it rained.  I left Gisborne around 1 PM, following the main road along the various bays and beaches of the East Cape.  I stopped in Tolaga Bay and looked at the longest warf in the southern hemisphere, but beyond that saw little.  I just cruised along to PJ Harvey, Bjork, and Massive Attack, in my own sort of mental zone, letting the rain obscure my thoughts as well as the incredible ocean views that I was traveling next to but couldn't see.  Somehow I've lost the train of this journey.  I'm still going through the motions, I still know what I'm trying to do, but I don't feel present.  The trip's going, progressing, but I'm just being dragged along behind.  Made it to Te Araroa, the town closest to the lighthouse, in the early evening, and got a bed in a bunkhouse at the local holiday park, the only accommodation in town.  Uneventful night: dinner, writing, and reading and asleep very early to prepare for the sunrise.

After descending the hill and driving back to the holiday park, I showered, packed, had a cup of tea, and stepped out into hot, bright sunshine and blue skies.  Naturally.  Despite mother nature's inconvenient sense of timing, I was pleased to feel the heat on my arms and felt some sort of life and purpose come back into my soul.  The first hour was of today's drive was through hills (Mountains?  Hard to tell – there are so many hills here, I'm not sure how to classify them anymore) that closely resemble the NH Presidentials – tall and steep with regular ridgelines, though likely smaller than the Presidentials in the “feet above sea level” sense, since they started at sea level.  White clouds left over from the rain were left stuck below the mountain peaks, as if the hills had trapped them between their valleys and ravines.  Long, cloudy arms trailed upwards, entreating the sun for help, creating gauzy filters that lent a misty, mystical feel to the green trees on the sides of the hills.

The road today between Te Araroa and Opotiki (o-POH-tick-ee), which is where I am writing from but not where I'm spending the night, felt like a rollercoaster.  It climbed slowly up and over the hills and cliffs along the northeastern shores, only to plummet downwards toward one lusciously blue bay after another.  The views were momentary, because the road fell immediately to sea level, and clumps of grass and driftwood blocked the view out of the right side of the car down to the beaches.  White Island was visible in many spots (NZ's most active volcano), coughing out a continuous cloud of white steam.  At Oruati, Waihau, and Hawai, massive waves broke far off the beach, and surfers, small black dots, bobbed up and down, making me wish that I could pull up, grab my own board, and go.

Anyway…just thought I'd write while all these thoughts were fresh.  It's been a beautiful day – and it's been all mine…

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