The drive was quiet. For some reason I couldn’t get Mike’s iPod adapter to work with his cassette player in the car, and so I was making the drive out to Castle Hill in silence – my own thoughts and off-key singing were the only ones keeping me company. It was nice, honestly, getting the chance to just sit back, drive and relax. The last two weeks had been rather tense, for some reason, but the night before I had finally gotten a chance to relax with some of the guys, drink some scotch, and shoot the shit enough to level out my head.
Unfortunately that chance to relax has also caused me to sleep in until nearly 3:00 in the afternoon that Sunday, trying to sleep off the effects of said scotch. The upside to a good scotch is that you don’t get a hangover (at least I don’t), but that doesn’t mean that it wears off any quicker… I had woken up around noon still unable to walk in a straight line. So my drive started a bit later than planned, but thankfully New Zealand has impressively long days in the summer and I had until nearly 9:30 before the sun was planning on setting. On the way out I mused (Ed Note: See the post on my thoughts on how Hawks see the world) and relaxed while watching the kilometers bleed away and the rolling hills roll by.
Once I got to Castle Hill itself though… wow. The first thing that came to mind was the “scholars garden” back in Dunedin, thanks to the sheer number of amazing rock formations standing tall on the hillside. I found myself walking in and out of the spires and boulders for almost three hours, ducking into the huecos and scrambling up the slabby sections of the boulders to get better views of the surroundings. I felt like an old-school explorer, doubly so when I started making a basic map of the area so that I could find the same spots later on when I could camp out. The landscape reminded me of a movie I hadn’t seen or thought of in ages – Never Ending Story. The rocks had the look of giants who lay sleeping just below the surface, and I could just imagine the stories that the first Maori told their children about how the rocks came to be…
My favorite discoveries was a stone circle. A simple thing, at first look, but whoever made it had done so with a specific thought in mind… thought I’m honestly not really sure what it was. All I know is that it was a series of concentric circles drawn out with fist-sized stones with well-worn pathways around the stones. There were three layers to the circle, and it was overlooked by a gigantic half-circle of rock that formed a natural amphitheater. It looked almost like an old fire pit, though there was no evidence of burnt wood that I could find, and I couldn’t help but imagine a whole huge group of climbers sitting around a bonfire, using the half-circle as benches and telling stories about past trips and future plans. Yeah… Being in the outdoors really does bring out the dreamer in me, I’ll admit.
I lasted for just over two hours before finally noticing the sun starting to set and the air getting colder, so I started walking back towards the parking lot with a wistful look at the far ridgeline. Someday soon… I’m not sure if you’re allowed to camp out at Castle Hill (pretty sure your not), but I can’t wait to at least spend a few more days exploring the fields.