Throwback Thursday: The Mirror Lake
I met Deb climbing up Fox Glacier. She was from Albuquerque and had traveled completely around the world over an entire year. Nzed her last stop before going home. With a few days to go, she was down to existing on the safety and comfort of peanut butter and crackers because—well, these things happen when you’ve circumnavigated a planet.
I was headed to Mirror Lake and Gillespie’s Beach and asked if she wanted a lift. Seeing the Southern Alps reflected in the mirror of Lake Matheson, seemed a befitting end to any journey. We hit Lake Matheson, before sunrise to catch the sight of Nzed’s tallest peaks reflected in water that’s black as crude oil. But when I stuck my finger in, it was crystal clear. The blackness was actually a silt on the bottom of the lake.
These young islands don’t have have all the little lifeforms that resorb decay back into the environment. So the silt sits. And sucks in stray rays of light, creating this flawless reflection. The morning light was excellent, a low fog hung between the trees beyond the lake and Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook. But a cool winter breeze rippled the mirror waters. So much for photographic perfection.
Nzed had been in a six-month-long drought and then had a couple days of day nonstop rain that cut 10-foot deep gashes in Fox Glacier the day I’d arrived on the South Island. As we headed out, the sign on the road said Gillespie’s Beach was 18 kilometers, but it took the rented Honda Civic a half hour to make it through the muck. And then it started to rain again. Drops the size of bullets.
The long road through Westland Tai Poutini National Park suddenly became some guy’s driveway. Literally, we rounded a bend and we were in his yard. He charged out of his hermitage towards the car. I told Deb not to worry: I’d found out NZ wasn’t an armed country. As he got close he almost smiled and stuck a letter in my hand. “Could you mail this for me? Thank you” and ran back to the house. I don’t think even had a chance to say yes.
His place was right on the beach. Because of the steep volcanic shores, six-foot waves were stopping dead at the sand. The storm had left driftwood from all over the world littering the beach. Black woods, stripped trees with sand-gnawed white heartwood, gnarled stumps with tentacles. This beach is nature’s junk pile. And the sight of it well made up for the ripples.