Luke. What a guy. A guy who thoroughly deserves his nickname. I first met him in 2012 (that was the year, not the university room designator), at the Otago University Tramping Club pre-meet for Fiordland. So much has happened since that first day when he placed his faith in my leadership and navigational abilities. Our tramping trip to Lake Adelaide in Fiordland was, on the whole, a success. We both learned a lot – him about trusting strangers, and me about my straight-line navigation technique. It set the scene for many more trips in to the great outdoors to come. Little did I know that this trip, and those that followed, all had a part to play in what is now our lifelong friendship, and a similar sojourn to that of Lake Adelaide, except from London to Mongolia.
He was not always known as “The Bastard”. And it’s only a tongue in cheek nickname. It’s nothing so glamourous as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, or the chardonnay by a similar name. It came from a trip we did together later in 2012. I was surprised he wanted more after the Lake Adelaide experience earlier that year. We had decided to do the Milford Track, seeing as it was one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. But we wanted to do it on the cheap, student style. This didn’t mean not paying our hut fees, which we gratefully did, but in order to save money we aquanaughted across Milford Sound in The Warehouse inflatable toy boats. Then at the other end, to save us a water taxi and the associated cost, tramping out over an alpine pass.
Along the way I’d come across a copy of The Wilderness magazine, which I duly carried the 11 or so kilometres to the next hut. After diligently completing my study for the day (I had an exam the day after the end of the trip), I went hunting for my Wilderness magazine, eager to devour its contents. Upon entering the communal area of the hut where the fireplace was, I encountered a room full of smoke. It turned out that helpful Luke, attempting to take the chill off the sub zero temperature, had endeavoured on light the fire. When asked if he’d seen my Wilderness magazine, he replied coolly that he’d used it to light the fire. Only that there was no fire, and a room full of smoke. And no Wilderness magazine. He’d burned it. I was rather unhappy about the situation, and vaguely recall even calling him a Bastard in anger. It was one of the few times in my life that I can remember being truly annoyed. I’m not usually so petty, but one craves a bit of variety and external mental stimulation after a few days in the bush. This nickname then stuck, and created quite the reputation. Even though many didn’t know its origins.
It was Luke’s idea to choose The Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust as our charity of choice for this sojourn. His passion and enthusiasm for the little blighters is infectious and who was I to say no. It reminds me of one of his stories of taking one of these endangered wee fellas on a road trip from Bluff to Dunedin in order to get it to the hospital. He has a great ability to tell stories, and I’ll often feign a lack of memory just so that I can hear him retell them. I know this is going to make those long days in a foreign country, in our inevitably little vehicle, a real joy
Luke’s propensity for solving the immediate problem at all costs, like lighting the fire which led to his nickname, will no doubt ensure many hilarious situations and hopefully not as many diplomatic incidents. He can be impatient sometimes, which I know will serve us well when we undoubtedly break down to which his attitude will spur us onwards, to reach a solution, to continue the journey.
That reminds me of an unrelated story about him unknowingly yelling at a funeral procession, thinking they were Sunday drivers purely intent on holding up traffic. I’m sure it’s these traits, and a knack for storytelling, which will keep us entertained long in to the night as we desperately wait on that spare part to appear to get our car going again.
His combination of an incredibly large heart, ability to endure suffering, willingness to call me out on my straight-line navigational ideology and similar thirst for adventure makes him the ideal travelling companion. And there’s no better person I’d like to share a cramped little car with, especially given his 6 foot plus frame, for the better part of 20,000kms.