I TIGHTENED on Sam's troubled expression. He continued to bite his bottom lip and stare back up the path. "But how do you know, Izz?"
"Because we're part of something bro," I replied. "Can't you feel it? I mean, just look."
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-colored serpent.
Curling 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, draping an arm around his shoulder, "can't you feel it?"
Sam fended 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 long midsummer days of 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 - one of which I passed out in a park, after sampling my stash, to the immense delight of my crew - before the temporary separation, reduction to the four of us now, in the taxi van, for the final drive in:
after all that, well, we were so amped to be on the last stage of our journey, so sure of our righteous positivity and so full of our youthful almighties, it simply didn't register anyone 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. Otherwise we're going 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 and wrapped an arm around Sam's shoulder again. "Come on, let’s go have a chuff."
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