About a lost continent, 53 volcanoes, and … walking

While spring has been slowly arriving to Japan, bringing the annual round of changes (those who work in Japan and Japanese companies will understand), I squeezed in an opportunity for a short escape. The truth is that when everyone around you starts moving, you find yourself wondering if you should stay or move as well, and I would say this feeling of doubt gets stronger every year. If quite many Japanese get a bit depressed during May (we talked a bit about the May syndrome here), I personally feel that way around the end of March and early April. It must be just a coincidence that financial year ends exactly then!

To stay, to go, to stay, to go… (in the photo: Auckland, New Zealand)

Some of you may still recall that initially I came for only one year, and while there are many things I like about life in Japan (I would not be here otherwise), one thing I am getting tired of is starting over and over again. Think of colleagues rotating every year or so in the departments you work with, think of friends leaving (moving back or moving on) every year or two, and if you do not go with the flow, you end up building new working relationships and new friendships over and over again. While the same may apply to any place and company, in some places this cycle repeats less frequently and in smaller scale than in others…

Recently I was reading a book series about a man who lost everything and embarked on a walk across the United States as a way to deal with his loss and find a new path in life. The intention here is not to talk about that book and that particular story, but it is nevertheless true that going away and creating some distance even if for a day or two generally helps to refresh your mind and perspective on things.

A perfect get away, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

“We plan our lives in long, unbroken stretches that intersect our dreams the way highways connect the city dots on the road map. But in the end we learn that life is lived in the side roads, alleys, and detours.” (Miles to Go, Richard P. Evans)

And if you can do so, why not to go somewhere you have not been before? This is how I ended up in New Zealand.

You may or may not know, but many scientists agree that New Zealand meets all the criteria to qualify as a continent on its own and even have a name for it – Zealandia. Mostly submerged, with only about seven per cent of the surface above the water, it would be as big as the Indian subcontinent if we could see it all. Looking that way, the part that is above the water today would be approximately in the middle and could well qualify as the Middle Earth that we know from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit series.

Somewhere in the Middle Earth…

It becomes even more interesting when you come to Auckland, the city sitting on about 53 volcanoes, luckily all dormant. The place must have looked quite dramatically at the time of eruptions many thousands years ago, but in case you are getting worried, these volcanoes are of a type that does not erupt twice in the same place. It is possible to climb one or several of them, as the views are great and, at least theoretically, you may be safer on a volcano than anywhere else (should a new one decide to wake up at some point).

One of the many volcanoes, Mt. Eden, and Auckland in the background.

“We are all in motion. Always. Those who are not climbing toward something are descending towards nothing.” (Miles to Go, Richard P. Evans)

A place from where you can get a glimpse of both coasts, Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

If you are looking for something special to add to a list of your accomplishments, you may walk across the country (or a continent, if and when it becomes official). It may take over five thousand kilometers to cross the United States (e.g. Seattle to Key West as in the book I mentioned), and it may take just about two kilometers to cross the New Zealand in its narrowest part (shhh, don’t tell anyone). Choosing a recommended trail would extend your walk to around sixteen kilometers from one coast to another, but is still nothing for a “walk across the country”.

On the way to the West Coast, New Zealand

“History bears witness that our lives are far more influenced by imagination than circumstance.” (The Road to Grace, Richard P. Evans)

The “Wild West”, Piha, New Zealand

It is not possible to really get to know a new country in a few days, and it may not be possible to come back with answers to all the questions that kept circling in your head before you embarked on a trip/walk/journey. However, it may be just about enough to know that you will get where you are supposed to. If not, it is always possible to walk somewhere else, for instance, across Tokyo!

“It is good to walk. Even if you have somewhere to go”. (The Walk, Richard P. Evans)

West coast, Piha, New Zealand

I was a bit disappointed that I did not get to see the once famous Hobbit-inspired safety video on the plane, but am nevertheless grateful for the adventure that both this trip was and life itself is.

Walking on the sea, low tide, Piha, New Zealand

“I do not know what lies beyond the horizon, only that the road I walk was meant for me. It is enough.” (The Walk, Richard Paul Evans)

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