All good things…
Our last day in Queenstown. Can it be?
In a sense, travel is a series of goodbyes. A new destination is achieved, then abandoned. Just as a certain comfort is acquired – with the geography, with the sights, with the rhythms, and with the quirks and individualities that make up culture – it’s back in the car (or train, or plane) and on to the next place with little more than a fond thought. There’ll be plenty of time for nostalgia afterwards, when each destination has become not a thing to experience, but a memory to recapture.
This is why the notion of “settling in” is so dangerously seductive. Bags are fully unpacked, belongings are given a home, and accessories (often in the form of groceries) multiply and take their own respective places. The regularities of everyday life intrude on the abandon of travel…a morning cup of coffee, a post-dinner cleanup, the number of days that can pass before the laundry simply must be done…and lend their normalcy to the experience-rich environment of elsewhere. And in turn, experiences are that much the greater for the familiarity of their context.
But when it’s finally time to say goodbye, there’s a price to be paid. The passing melancholy of moving on becomes more wrenching, more poignant. Familiar sights and paths are revisited, suffused with longing for that one perfect memory. And then drawers and cabinets are emptied, bags are packed, and one’s life is once more contained within the boundaries of a suitcase. It is, inevitably, a diminishment, and it carries with it the potential for great sadness amidst the satisfaction of a destination well-lived.
Another interesting experience allowed by a long visit is the chance to become (however temporarily) a “regular” at a local haunt. And though I wish I’d made the connection earlier in our visit, one location almost immediately suggests itself: Joe’s Garage.
The staff – already unnaturally attractive, despite the occasional brooding – is today joined by one of those people at which I just can’t stop staring. She’s beautiful, yes, but with that extra and individual something that speaks to my subconscious. I sip a series of flawless flat whites, feeling a mixture of attraction and mild guilt (it doesn’t help that she frequently meets my glances, smiling each time), and then Theresa arrives…fresh from the spa…to rescue me from my imagined but disquieting psychic infidelity. Some encounters are better off left to the imagination.
Warmed by milk-infused caffeine, we’re protected against rising winds that buffet the waters of Lake Wakatipu into frothing whitecaps. It’s not exactly cold on our decidedly non-aerodynamic little boat, but the forecast suggests that it will be. As the girl at the ticket booth cautions, “gotta sail now, ‘cause the weather’s turning to shit.” And thus, if Theresa wants to dangle from a big cloth, she’s going to have to do it immediately.
Or perhaps I should back up a bit.
(Continued here, with tasting notes included…)