And so it was last week as I gasped and panted in the near-midday daytime sun on a gradually ascending track.
Yes, I was too hot and wearing two pairs of socks (my boots are too big) and a sun hat didn’t help. I’m such a hothead that I can’t even stand hats in the middle of winter.
But enough of the excuses. I wasn’t fit enough. Perhaps my daughter-in-law would not have been willing to switch to full breastfeeding mode if my preparation for the trip had involved more than preserving 10kg of black doris plums while wearing my hiking boots and climbing up and down the stairs with mine loaded backpack home.
Embarrassingly, I had to be unpacked for the last part of a short walk in the great outdoors.
Those hiccups aside, it was lucky to be able to spend one night in a tent and two in a cabin, away from the ennui and commotion of the outside world.
The Matiri Valley girl in me loved the safety of being so close to the mountains, and even the occasional rumble of an avalanche in the distance was oddly comforting.
You know you are in the first world when you find it liberating that your main concern is ensuring enough boiled water to drink and wash dishes for our party of five adults and two babies.
As we walked out last Wednesday, I felt refreshed and invigorated, despite three nights of interrupted sleep.
And in a moment of magical thinking I can only call mountain madness, I half-expected that the outside world might be a better place if we tuned in. Of course it wasn’t. Russia was still at war in Ukraine, and closer to home, protesters and police faced each other in the inevitable final showdown in parliament.
While there had been many attempts by those in the tents to portray the group as consumed with peace and love, there were too many actions that were anything but.
And while they reportedly only cared about freedom, they didn’t seem to realize that they were interfering with the freedom of some Wellingtonians to go about their daily lives.
It was easy to find madness, including the woman who was convinced her pet lamb had died because it had been touched by someone who was with someone who had been vaccinated and those who blamed it on attributed the probable Covid-19 symptoms to a radiation machine they were pointed at by the government.
Not all participants in the protest will have shared this madness or called for the execution of politicians and journalists, but tolerance of extremism has clouded all.
The protesters’ refusal to just want to be heard became bizarre. Haven’t we been hearing about them all along? Some mainstream media made the questionable journalistic decision to broadcast the event live for hours (and when you tuned in, it was pretty damn boring most of the time). Didn’t this risk giving the demonstrators more weight than they deserved?
When the protest is investigated, I hope the hindsight will extend to an investigation into why there was no authorization for a proper, albeit abbreviated, public consultation process before measures like vaccination certificates and no jab no job policies were put in place.
While the recent Supreme Court decision declaring police and defense force mandates illegal may remain controversial, it highlighted the confusion over the justification for those mandates at the time it was introduced.
A public consultation might have provided more clarity on what vaccination cards and workplace restrictions are intended to achieve and how long they are intended to last. It could have examined the social and economic impact of the ‘them and us’ situation and whether it would be desirable to further marginalize some people. It would also have provided an opportunity to see if early use of rapid antigen testing could allow employers who have put in place their own health and safety mandates to keep unvaccinated workers safe.
The absence of consultations has exposed both the arrogance of the government and the ineffectiveness of the opposition, particularly the National, which has been too self-centered for most of this legislature. (If lowering taxes is National’s only good idea right now, I have to wonder what lightbulbs they’re using.)
On the long drive home, I drank my remaining refreshing mountain water and pondered how we will ever develop critical thinking in those who find their community by speeding down the disinformation/disinformation highway cynically mapped out by big-tech algorithms is. When the water ran out, I wasn’t any closer to the answer, but I knew my vacation was over.
– Elspeth McLean is a writer from Dunedin.