Continuing my drive South took me along the Great Desert Road. For those of you not familiar with it in real life, you've probably seen it as the hinterland of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings movie. Half of it winds with hairpin curves through a sinister dark landscape laced with icy streams. The other half is long stretches through golden tussock parallel to giant power pylons swooping between the road and the snow covered mountains. There's not much variety otherwise, except for the inevitable traffic cop catching the inevitable speeders.
I have driven through that desert dozens of times, but the most memorable was when I was about 17 and hitchhiking was my main mode of transportation. I saw most of New Zealand that way, with many rides through the desert. One time my friend and I got picked up in a fancy fast car heading south from Taupo. The driver was a taciturn drug dealer- my ideal lift at that time of my life. He shared a joint, cranked up Talking Heads and required no conversation. It was a bright sunny winter's day, the mountains gleaming white on our right, the tussock passing in a blur, the complicated music pounding in our heads. It was an amazing ride. But yesterday I tried the drive with a clear head and the Pretenders playing loud and it was even better.