A fine mist descends from the mountains, the fields are drained of all their painterly colours, and at the end of our road, dark cumulus clouds are set in thick, bulbous chains all the way to the sea. The coming of Cyclone Vita has fuelled all a quiet mayhem in the South Island vicinity. Warning signs ‘stay 20 miles from the sea!’, brace the verges of every passage and roadside, a hushed frenzy thickens across the air, and when we arrive at the local supermarket, the aisles are found stripped bare of all the blessed essentials, bread, water, milk and eggs, all of them far gone, stocked to fill the cellars of South island residency and see them through the storm.
It is no great surprise though, that on this darkening road through the southern alps, as the rains prepare their descent upon the land and a thousand winds herald the gathering storm, the driver James listons intently to a hard-core history, the fellas in the back read grapes of wrath (on the left) or watch two towers (on the right) and I in the passenger seat, sit smirking out the window, jollied about by the musings of mr Mark Twain.. For all the excitement of the world outside our window, this band of merry folk was a nucleus of calm, compelled to silence and meditative study, and entirely oblivious to all the symptoms of ‘the storm which is scaring a nation’ – as the headlines had it. According to Tom, there was no danger that could stir the force of good insight – and we believed him. This should explain Nates sudden and unexpected urge to announce, with characteristic composure and eloquency, the appropriation of a camper van library, in which our various collected literary items “would be stacked with care between the two front seats, affording us both ease of access and an air of hopeful enlightenment which could be relished in even the dullest moments of a day”. And even then, as a lightning bolt ripped sideways through the sky and acknowledged the van with its blinding light, the boys nodded amiably at each other and shuffled to the centre to share a collective fist bump.
In the hour that’s passed between that last sentence and this, the atmosphere of the van had quite begun to change.. With the cyclone showing us its full might across the open stretch of land we’d settled, books could no longer be comprehended, podcasts no longer enjoyed and all conversation halted for the duty we now owed to our safety in the storm. After a short intersection of manic wailing on James’ affront and a blockade of fear which was spreading virulently throughout the van, Cyclone Vita had taken now what one might call ‘precedence’. It seemed apparent now that there was indeed a danger which could stir the force of good insight, and the danger was imminent death. With closed doors pulled from locked positions by the sheer force of wind, use of gas burner rendered utterly futile and trees looming and threatening the windscreen with every creak and sway, the decision was reached to drive out toward the grassy plains and find shelter for a meal – which is what we did. As words cannot describe with any success the experience that followed, I captured a few clips on the brink of the chaos.
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