I woke at 5.30 this morning ... again. Then again, I was dragging my tired self around at 10pm last night. So much earlier than happens in Belgium.
My body clock has changed, possibly inspired by this small passion I have developed for lying in bed and listening to the dawn chorus here in New Zealand.
Today we're still on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. This morning, we'll hunt down a glacier - Fox or Franz Joseph Glacier, although access isn't what it used to be since 2 young men were killed by falling ice a year or two ago.
I remember the awe-inspiring feeling of getting up close to those lumbering icy creatures but I'm happy to remain safely at a distance with my telephoto lens.
The telephoto lens has been the lens of choice (as usual) on this trip ... even when it comes to the intricacies of capturing fern fronds. I carry my wide-angle lens everywhere but it's rare that I use it.
This morning I was lying here in bed thinking about the air and the water here in New Zealand. I've been loving them both. The air ... I presume the quality is all about low population density and the extreme number of trees and plants, most especially as we have traveled through these massive national park areas.
The air is like air on steroids, good steroids. And finally Gert understands why I struggle so much with his world in Antwerp. He has seen me in the context of the place where I was born and grew. But more than that, coming home after 8 years away, I am seeing myself in context too. It's almost recommended ... that length of absence.
I finally understand why I like wandering so much. What it is about packing a car ... any old car, and just going. And I see that I am a creature who works with her senses. Here, where there is so much to see, smell and listen to, I feel like all of me is operational again.
Each region here in the South Island has its own scent. Fiordland is mostly about the scent of water and intense beech forest-type vegetation, although the Cabbage Tree was in flower while we were there, and it sweetened the air in the most exquisite way.
Westland is more about mountains and forest, with huge sweet bursts of scent from the sea. The coast here is owned by the Tasman Sea, where waves arrive from their beginnings hundreds of miles away. Often the beaches are littered with huge pieces of driftwood and the trees on the coast bend inland, twisted by the powerful winds.
The sights ... Gert gets it now. There is a visual smörgåsbord on offer out there. We have stopped so many times along the way ... that mountain, this beach, those trees, that view. I'm driving the little red car, the one that is happiest at 90kms but the days have been longer simply because there is so much to photograph ... not that you would know that, as I work through my fern stage. I pull over whenever someone comes roaring up behind us. Traffic is rare and I love having the whole road to myself.
The birdsong has stopped me in my tracks so many times. There are the dawn choruses but then there are the Bellbird and Tui songs throughout the day. And last night, here in Fox township, I heard the magnificent mountain parrots calling to each other ... the Keas. They were about but I didn't manage to find them ... I was mostly too tired to try.
It has been the simplest and most basic of things that have made me happy here. I loved those things before but now ... now it is more intense and I find myself wondering if I could give up Europe for home.
That thought is quickly followed by the realisation that I probably couldn't afford to live here and that has been the most stunning thing. New Zealand's current government has some disturbing policies that seem incredibly shortsighted in terms of the future here, confirmed by conversations I've had with friends and locals along the way. Some see it now, some don't but that's for another day.
This morning it's about finding a good coffee. I've been rapt with the coffee culture here. It's an excellent one. New Zealanders have always been wanderers on a major scale, as seen in our history, and it appears there are some who have gone out and brought back the gift of good coffee.
Anyway, a good morning from this wild coast in New Zealand. I hope your day is a truly delightful one.