This is Lake Tikitapu, or Blue Lake, near Rotorua, New Zealand. I spent a good number of weeks here, where I lived close to the water and woods. Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity, with natural hot springs, mud pools, geysers and the like drawing droves of visitors. Unfortunately many of these spots have been commercialised and charge for entry — coupled with tourists, they naturally repel me.
Instead, I find myself gravitating towards the quieter corners of this small city (large town?). My weeks there can only be described as tranquil. Curiously, I don’t regard Rotorua as being particularly sunny and vibrant as the image depicts. Instead, I’d say it’s mostly grey to me. But not grey as if dull or dreary; rather:
Grey, of the sulphurous smoke from hot springs and morning fog.
Grey, of the dancing of droplets on glass.
Grey, of scracely populated pavements.
Grey, of thick flannels and warming hands over a fire.
Grey, of beckoning the cat inside when drizzle turns to shower.
Grey of solitude.
Underlying all this, is the grey of the mystery of Mt Tarawera. Mt Tarawera is a volcano sitting on local Maori land, forbidden to the public without permission. Daily guided tours, barring research expeditions, are the only way of access, which until today, I regret not going on.
The first time I beheld Mt Tarawera was during a virgin-solo attempt at trail running, where after a couple of hours of torture I emerged through a clearing in the bush onto a pebble shore. Still panting, I noticed first the lapping of the water, then a pair of black swans, then a little boat down the end of the beach, then finally, the majesty of the mountain ahead, at which point its presence was felt so strongly and so solidly that I could only gape.
I’m annoyed because I can’t climb it. I’m annoyed I didn’t put aside the time and money for it. And so we are drawn, perpetually, towards things we cannot have, chasing after feelings we’d like to have.
Whenever it rains and I’m caught outside, especially among trees, I remember the mountain, the lakes, the woods, the trails, the smell of the wet earth and decomposing plant matter around Rotorua.
O Grey Rotorua, that serene and secluded corner of the country, of the earth — boasting silently, knowing it possesses what the world seeks.