The days of the “lasts”

As the end of the project draws closer I realized that as we are flying North, I am saying good-bye to many things for the last time. Well, maybe not as dramatic as that but for the last time in the foreseeable future.

It was the last time in several years at best that I had a chance to walk through Willowbank in Christchurch, and the silly wallabies knew that and bounced right up to me and sat almost in my lap, sniffed at my photo pack and took leaves that I brought for them out of my hands. Their dreamy eyes with lashes that would make any supermodel envious looked at me as the silly things made faces, and I said good-bye to them as I walked out of their secure little world.

The farm animals and peacocks were all there and walked along my side as if knowing I am leaving. Even an eel bit me on the finger when I unwittingly stuck my hand in the water while feeding them, which had never happened before. The otters all ran up front, making their squeaky noises, and all plopped down all of a sudden, as if their tires just deflated. And the next moment, just as suddenly, they got up and ran off again on their otter business, looking back at me every five seconds, as if inviting me to come along or at least stay.

The kiwis were out of hiding, walking around in the dark, peeping and purring, sometimes scared of something and running for 10 feet, just to calm down instantly and stick their nose in the dirt, smelling for a worm. They were there for me every time, and they were there this last time too. I waved good-bye to them and forced myself to go.

It was the last time in Rarotonga, too. Who knows when, and even if, we ever are going to visit Cook Islands again. We have no project in the next years that I know of that plans to go in that direction. The ocean calmed down since our last visit and the smooth surface of the lagoon behind the reef brake was glass-like and shallow, not indicative one bit of the churning and intimidating mass of dark water that we have seen there just 10 days ago. And again, I waved good-bye to the island, the friends I made there and the slow flowing life of it, the way it has been forever and of which I was allowed to become a short term participant.

Kona. Another “last”, for a long time now. Again, we have no plans to go back soon that I know of. The folks of Air Service Hawaii are on the first name basis with all of us by now. I am saying good bye to them too. Mahalo! Stay well. I hope to see you all again some time.

Anchorage, and the Arctic. Today was the last Polar flight, the last time we flew at 500 feet over the Arctic ocean, and it was as calm as ocean can ever be. One might have thought we were in the tropics, except the color of the water was not deep blue but lead gray and the clouds were not the puffy cumulus but little patchy clouds or fog, hugging to the surface all the way down. But no whitecaps, no waves, just scattered ice everywhere, soon replaced by solid, somewhat cracked ice shields. At 500 feet altitude, 87°N we turned back – another “last”. Who knows when, if ever, we might do something like this again.

We flew past Mt. McKinley one last time, the summit having a bit of a cloud clinging to it. Good bye! I hope to see you again, the Great One.

Tomorrow there will be our last flight of the Global Project. Another last… We are all tired and worn out, and want to go home and leave the vibration of the plane, which by now lives inside our bones, behind… then why am I feeling this quiet regret that it is almost over?.. Why is it that tears roll up in my eyes when I am leaving, maybe for the last time, the places we have visited?.. Did I leave a larger piece of my soul attached to them than I thought?..

I think I am beginning to understand what called the great Captains of the past, like James Cook, to leave the home harbor over and over again…

P. S. I have a couple more articles in drafts that will be added in the next few days that are about the return part of our unprecedented journey. They will pre-date this one; if you are interested, come back and I should have them ready for you.

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