Ancient. Mysterious. Humbling. Such was the energy emanating from the Pearse Resurgence. I sat perched on a mossy rock overlooking the opening of the cave, staring at the deep, dark blue pool. It was silent. The water was still and crystal clear. It made me feel like keeping still and quiet as well. Some people instinctively whisper when entering a church, out of respect or because they feel humbled by the place. Sitting there, at the door of this abysmal mystery, I felt that the river was my sacred place.
The Pearse River comes out of the Nettlebed Cave, the third longest cave in NZ with 24Km of passage, one of the deepest cave system in the world and still largely unexplored.
For once, good weather was coinciding with my days off from work. The temperatures were supposed to reach the high twenties in Motueka which made me decide to build a hike around a river. An overnight at the Pearse Resurgence became then the obvious choice.
To be honest, the start of the hike didn't offer the best vibes. To reach the trailhead, I drove through a pine forest in full logging operation, then the track crossed a rather messy private property. In these places, the energy was one of domination by humans over nature. All harmony was broken, destroyed by heavy machinery.
The track, at times overgrown with ferns and brambles, first climbed up to cut across some steep cliffs. The sound of the river resonated against the rock face; the heat of the hard sun radiated from it. Even the song of the cicadas was deafening.Though slowly, the atmosphere shifted.
The walk to reach Pearse Resurgence is a short 6Km, but is classified as a route because of its eleven river crossings. These, as well as the unmaintained state of the track, increased considerably the sense of remoteness. And I loved it. The high cut banks and the river bed filled in places with massive logs attested of the immense power of the river in heavy rain. In these places, the energy was untamed.
In others, the flow would slow down. Deep clear pools would reflect the sunlight under walls of lush green bush. There, the energy was peaceful, inviting, but still wild.
At camp, I enjoyed a snack and a cup of tea while observing a wild goat grazing nearby. She had a shiny black coat, with a patch of white on her forehead under two little horns. I later noticed she also had a speck of white fur above her front left hoof. A weka inspected my tent, my backpack and my stove. I felt welcomed and safe.
In the evening, I sat on a log on the edge of camp, and read "Wild Places" by Robert Macfarlane. I read out loud to the river, the trees, the birds, to the cicadas and the fish I could see jumping to get some insects. I read until I could see no more. It wasn't cold, but the pages of the book got softer with dew.
So then I lay back on that same log, watching the stars filling up the sky, slowly at first, then by the million until sleep drove me to my tent.
The next day, I played hide and seek with shafts of light as gostly mist rose over the river. Then I stopped for a break near a striking beech tree. It stretched itself horizontally over the water before thrusting its branches upwards and out in a bonzai-like shape. A couple of whio, the rare and treasured torrent duck, swam in the fast-flowing current. The place was filled with a ethereal energy, serene and almost spiritual.
I felt reluctant to walk back to a world of work, clocks and noise. But I knew now that if I was to endure too much stress and worries in that world, I could go back to this one. I could sit on a rock overlooking a deep, dark blue cave and feel its wild, bewitching and rejuvenating energy.