Dec 31

Omahau Downs

by in Random

(For those who haven’t googled the answer, see Antje’s drawing below.)

From stargazing it was Twizel. The scenery was alpine, and at one point Antje put an earbud in my ear. With Sigur Ros, the trip was a documentary.

Twizel’s a town of 1,000 with a shopping center and a grocery store that, one fine day, will carry fruit and vegetables. Somewhere or another there’s a river, and somewhere else, a lake, as attested to by the powerboats attached to every third car. It’s summer AND it’s Christmastime + New Years in New Zealand, and everyone is in good spirits, and drinking spirits. It’s also where one German ended his holiday.

We had to pick up some antibiotics at the local doctor’s office, and as we walked in, a middle-aged Kiwi man was helping a wounded German bicyclist inside. His knee was bloodied, his gaze vacant, his face gray, and one entire shoulder was visibly, um, flattened. Antje asked if he wanted to use our Skype account to call home, but he shook his head. “I’ve been living here for seven years. This is home.” When a doctor came out, he asked where it had happened. “On a bridge,” the guy said. “Not under the bridge, though.” It was a fair joke for his condition, and when he’d gone inside, a patient-to-be asked the helper guy how he knew the bicyclist. “I found him on a bridge,” he explained. “He ran right into the frame. Helmet cracked through and everything.” The doctor stepped out to hear a repeat of the story. The man added, “He kept trying to nod off as I drove here. Might check him out for a concussion. Shoulder looks broken, too. Probably a collarbone.” His neighbor swiveled to look at him, face-to-face. “Why YOU should be the doctor here, shouldn’t you!”

But besides that, and five 18-year-olds who were drunk by noon at the shopping center, Twizel itself doesn’t have much to offer.

What it does offer, though, is in the picture on yesterday’s entry. Our room at Omahau Downs is arranged to face a wheat field that runs unbroken to the foot of the nearby mountains. The same stratus-cumulous combo that had threatened the stargazing the day before had veiled the view of Mt. Cook for most the day, but in the evening, on cue, they broke apart, throwing a spotlight on Mt. Cook. If Mt. Rainier had a butterfly knife in its pocket, it’d be Mt. Cook. (Cook kills a lot of climbers.) At that point all heaven broken loose, turning the wheat gold, Mt. Cook orange, the mountains purple, and the clouds pink-on-pink. Sunsets are kitschy, but when it lasts 45 minutes and there’s a bottle of wine involved, in can feel like something inside your body’s setting with it. Three other rooms shared the view, and each and every one of them sat on the deck in silence and watched it to the end. At the peak of its glow–as in, when the sun remained on the peak of Mt. Cook only–something bubbled in my chest and one of those involuntary, explosive, unstoppable burps came flying out of my mouth. Antje looked at me, shocked and confused, and I said, “I just ruined the moment, didn’t I.” She told me I had. I looked over at our neighbor, whose eye had been in a viewfinder. He’d heard the burp, too, I’m certain of it. And, well, I’m sure sorry about that, neighbor. I didn’t mean for it to happen, and I hope you weren’t on video mode.

An evening later, when the clouds didn’t break open and a sunset never did happen, one of the owners prepared an outdoor, wood-fired bath in a claw-foot tub. We stayed in for two hours, or until the cows really did come home.

So Omahau Downs B&B was the best of mid-trip splurges, a departure from backpackia to a place that, with a few minor tweaks, would have fit to a Van Gogh (“Wheat fields with poplars and a Mazda”). It was also a chance to recharge after a rapid-fire week of stopovers, bus rides, and small adventures. And recharging is important.



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One Response to “Omahau Downs”

  1. From Fenke:

    well – maybe the burp ruined the moment, but it made the story live on for eternity. or do you think you would tell your grandchildren about the romantic view sans burp? i don’t think so.

    Posted on January 2, 2012 at 09:29 #