A day in the life of a Pacific Discovery instructor
I would like to write about today. Because this is the only life I am ever going to live. As each day flows by that I call mine, it's one of a kind, it kneads into those soft lines under my electric green eyes, it's magic dust and music that will never be played again, it's a brilliant equation of Mother Earth and human birth, it's chest-constructing tears and temple-throbbing fears, it's doubts and discovering new tricks, it's questions and boredom and bliss and wild thoughts, it's breathing and feeding and failure and plans, it's lunging into cold water, making decisions, meditating, reflecting, feeling. Smile little girl, it's the biggest gift you've ever received.
Today I woke to sunlight in the Whanganui River. I peeled the top layer from my tent and jumped back inside to keep reading my current squeeze, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. When my eyes grew tired of that world and it was time to truly wake, I lay still and listened. The bird above me scuffled in the trees and twigs fell on my tent. Tiny birds chirped from the river below and I could picture them darting over the dark slick of the wind-free morning on the river. They play with the water, weaving up and down so close you think they might dive right in. I listened to the water spilling over submerged boulders and running into rapids. It reminds me of our simple bathroom in the farmhouse we lived when I was a kid. Mum and Dad would run the tap in the blue sink while we brushed our teeth, trying to convince us to go to the toilet before bed. It worked so well that I still have to pee when I hear running water to this day. I called out to the crew, we decided on a late wake up for our last day of canoeing. As expected there was barely any movement in the tents for another hour as Ricki and I ate thick porridge with almond milk and dates, checked in with a few students about their goals, and stretched out on the grass. I feel so much gratitude toward everyone on this journey, and something as simple as a hug or a meaningful question about how someone is going seems to convey this when we wake up each day. We have been together some forty days now. Piling barrels down to the canoes, tightening life jackets and attempting to pull fingers through recently formed dreadlocks, we gathered everyone in to reflect on the past few days together before pushing off. We spoke of the majestic morning views, cliff jumps, baby goats crying alongside the shores of the river, singing and laughing, classic moments and our heroes from the trip. On the river again for the last section of our 100km paddle, we soaked up the feeling because we all knew how quickly we would be transitioning to our next adventure. We will never forget the Whanganui river experience; sliding over waterfalls high on air and rowing canoes through Jurassic park. Flawlessly reflective river water doubles the size of the sheer moss covered cliffs. Our voices made ripples in the water and our laughter crashed through the trees; the only habitation we saw on the first days was a hut hidden high above the riverbanks. We carved lines through the gleaming black water; life's only dilemmas were avoiding swirling into eddies or wrapping your boat around a rock. We walked to the bridge to nowhere and lay silent in the beating sun. Simple camposites welcomed us and tired arms poured methylated spirited into burners under falling pink skies.
Today we stopped at a cave hiding a powerful waterfall. I lay against a rock and looked up at tree roots clinging to nothing on a rock roof and droplets of water falling from hanging vines like gold confetti. The sound of the waterfall overtook my curiosity And I lunged in to play. Everyone followed - it was the kind of cold that steals your breath and leaves your skin slapped red and hot. Down river, we stopped for a break, laying back and looking at the world from an upside down perspective. It's wild to imagine that we will be amongst hundreds and thousands of people in the capital of New Zealand tomorrow. At the end, we met a relaxed duo of hunters in a jet boat who had a headless deer and a singed pig. Through rolled tobacco and bushy brows they told us they would give the pig to the Maori village up the hill.
We parted with our canoes and I dove into my other main literary squeeze, Active Hope, for the short drive. We arrived to Koriniti marae and Gavin the caretaker hadn't forgotten my face. He smiled with a warmth that reminded me that authentic connections are everything and let me know his sister had just passed and he must hurry back for the funeral preparations. He welcomed us into the ancestral home for the night with words from the native Maori tongue and greeting traditions. As I hand washed clothes, I looked over at Gillian patching a hole, Jenny doing yoga, Ricki sorting belongings and Freddie unraveling a tent and then collapsed into my bed for more words. Dinner for the crew, keeping it simple with pesto pasta. We ate outside under the bluest sky and made morning plans for a sunrise hike to the highest peak we could see. Two of the boys decided to leave in the evening and camp up there. It reminded me of a year ago when I slept on the Great Wall of China, with a spontaneous Dutch friend sleeping on the outside to protect me from falling off. I urged them to go, these are the moments that make you. Push-ups and squats together in the marae. Listening to the chatter of the group in our slumber party on the floor. Watching everyone read in the absence of WIFI. Falling asleep in one big room and playing a new song tomorrow.
~ Jess Thomas