Nelson, New Zealand . March 2007
After being dropped off, I hitch a short ride with a very friendly, frightfully dull driver who talks at me about housing rates, orchard dispersement, subdivision codes, and types of grass. I thank him for the ride.
Almost immediately after he drops me off, I’m picked up by a Maori brother and sister. The brother is a chiseled beast-man who smiles with the furious intensity of a tribal mask.
His sister sits in the passenger seat with her arms crossed, sunglasses and frown on, unimpressed with all surroundings and events. She murmurs, “Hellew.”
The brother has just come from a wild pig hunt. He describes the hunt: “I ran right through the forest! I chased that pig, yeh? I saw him a coupla times! I got close, eh?!”
He wears only a tank top, shorts, and sandals. I ask him if he hunted like that.
“Well, I didn’t wear the sandals,” he says.
I’ve been to the rain forest he describes hunting in. Precipitous hills cut through it, and dense undergrowth hides the true ground. Bounding through it seems impossible, at least for a human. He’s unscathed, white teeth gleaming.
“Look at this!” he says. He reaches under the seat and pulls out a horrible cleaver. He hands it to me with the excitement and insistence of a child. Wet leaf blades still cling to it.
“I was in the military!” he says. I think of anyone I know, military or not, who could hunt pigs barefoot in a rain forest with only a cleaver.
He talks about his military training and how much he loved it. He interrupts himself when he sees a sign for a scenic overlook (“Hey! Look!”) and veers the car to it. Up to the lookout, he explains how he and his sister are on their way to visit another tribe’s area for the first time in his life, that they’ve only recently been granted special access to visit. This vista will give them a view they’ve never seen.
An elderly British couple with binoculars stand looking out, quietly pointing out landmarks. As soon as the brother stops the car, the sister almost leaps from her seat and hustles out to the vista’s edge.
“Ah fuck, it’s fucking beautiful!” she yells. “Fucking shit, that’s gorgeous, innit?!”
The British couple gasps and clears their throats. They shuffle back like hens disturbed. They all but say, “Well, I never!”
“Ah yeah! Real nice!” says the brother.
The view is beautiful, even fucking beautiful: the plush green of pig-hunting jungle sloping down to the Cook Strait. We admire it for several minutes, the sister shouting amazed epithets every so often. She might wipe away a tear. I envy her astonishment.
We get back in the car and the road splits soon thereafter. “Too bad, eh?!” the brother asks. “Real nice helping you out!”
I thank him, unable to match his enthusiasm, grateful in a lame way. He roars off, honking up to a dozen times. I watch him go, then stick out my thumb.