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A Year Around The World

Stumbling Across the Banks Peninsula

NEW ZEALAND | Sunday, 18 January 2015 | Views [366]

There is a great scene at the end of the movie Charlie Wilson’s War in which a grizzled CIA agent played Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who was certainly one of the greatest actors of my generation and died way too soon) tells a story about unintended consequences: 


There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, "how wonderful. The boy got a horse.” And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't, because his leg's all messed up. And everybody in the village says, "How wonderful….And the Zen master says, 'We'll see…..”


Travel often unfolds in a similar manner. 

On Wednesday we arrived on the south island of New Zealand after a four hour flight from the Cooks. By Friday, I had suffered my first major mishap of the trip, a severely sprained ankle. After spending our arrival night in a Christchurch airport motel, we drove down to the picturesque Banks Peninsula on Thursday morning. There, we stayed at a bed and breakfast located on a working sheep and cattle farm. On Friday morning, the charming couple who ran the farm conducted a mini-tour of the property which included a sheep sheering demonstration and the opportunity for guests to watch as one of the sheep dogs rounded up a flock of sheep and expertly steered it back to the farmer. Following the farm demonstration, we booked an evening tour to see a large penguin colony located on one of the peninsula’s many bays. I was really looking forward to the penguin tour as I hoped it would provide some excellent photo opportunities. 


Since we had the afternoon free prior to the penguin tour, we decided to go on a short hike in a nature preserve near the farm. The preserve’s trails were wide, well manicured and relatively flat. Compared to many other hikes I’d done over the years, the one we picked was just a stroll, a way to get a little exercise and take in the views. Not a quarter mile into the hike, while distracted by one such view, I stepped wrong and felt my right ankle fold awkwardly outward. Scorching pain shot through me as I tumbled to the ground clutching my lower leg. For the first minute or so I couldn’t stand under my own power and thought for sure I’d broken something.


I was crushed. I feared that all the outdoor activities I’d looked forward to would have to be cancelled and that perhaps the trip itself might be in jeopardy. Luckily, that now doesn’t appear to be the case. The ankle is still very tender and swollen, but there doesn’t appear to be any trip altering damage. My best uneducated guess is that when I twisted it the ankle joint popped out of its socket and then popped right back in.


Despite the fact that no bones were (apparently) broken, we decided that we’d have to cancel the penguin tour for that evening. I was limping too badly to take it on. That was pretty disappointing, as I love seeing and photographing wildlife, and I’d never seen this species of penguin before. 


Our penguin encounter rendered flightless, we decided to drive around the peninsula with my foot elevated on the dash board in an attempt to minimize swelling. While we drove, I mentally lashed myself for hurting myself in such a stupid way. 


On a whim, we decided to take a side road to Le Bon Bay, a small inlet that didn’t even merit a full sentence in my Lonely Planet guide. It turned out to be a fortuitous whim. Not only was was bay extremely beautiful and filled with interesting shore birds, we also had it almost to ourselves. Near the bay sat a small cemetery dotted with the lonely graves of early settlers, a perfect place for moody photos, and a perfect reminder of how fortunate I am to be living a life where I can travel the world rather than to be struggling daily simply to avoid being crushed by it’s cruel whims. During our drive back to the farm, as the sun began to set, a full rainbow appeared over the coast, the entire arch clearly visible in the fading golden light of the day. 


It turned out that hurting my ankle maybe wasn't such a terrible thing after all. We’ll see……..

Tags: ankle, banks, farm, new zealand, penguin, tour


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