I TIGHTENED on Sam's troubled expression. He bit his bottom lip and stared back up the path. "But how do you know, Izz?"
"Because we're part of something bro," I said, "can't you feel it?"
I panned away from him, out over the lookout's edge. Out and over and down to where the Riwaka Valley lay shimmering under the sharp southern sun like some great, sea-coloured serpent.
Coiling to the distant Cooks Straight it was a view to intoxicate, deep and wide and wholly alive, and I drank it in, was drunk on it, and when I returned to Sam, Joseph was at his side. "Yeah, Sam," Joseph said, "can't you feel it?"
Sam shoved him away. "I’ll tell you what I'm feeling. I'm feeling like that taxi driver just took off with all of our stuff."
But then, in those tall midsummer days of late 1999, after driving eight hours the length of New Zealand's North Island in raucous convoy - a convoy complete with blinker signals for toilet, food and spliff breaks -
two days of twenty of us charging around Nelson, and one tremendous twilight piss-up in a park - before the temporary separation, reduction to the four of us now, in the taxi van, for the final drive in:
after all that, boy, we were so amped to be on the last stage of our journey, so full of our youthful almighties and so sure of our righteous positivity, it simply didn't register anybody might want to steal all of our stuff.
I said, "Sam that guy loved yarning to us. He'll be back."
"Hell, he'd probably come with us if we asked," Joseph added.
Sam snorted. “I hope you’re right. Because I don't want to be the one telling the cops we left everything with a stranger - let that stranger drive off - and then went off on a hike to sight see."
We laughed. We weren't worried.
Life was too glorious to us then to worry.
"Give him half-an-hour, bro," Joseph said. "Come on, let’s go have a chuff."
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