“Oh man, I just realised that this is probably the weirdest thing in the world for you,” Heather said out of the blue. She was driving her bird-pooped old Mitsubishi hatchback with me in the passenger seat, on the way to meet an acquaintance of her’s in Picton. “You’re coming along with me to meet someone that I think you should meet. How often has that happened on your travels? A stranger going 30 minutes of driving out of their way to take you to meet another stranger. Now that I think about it, this is kind of strange.”
If I tried hard, I could see her point. It did take some effort though, to see her point. To me, nothing much seems strange any more. A trip like the one I experienced teaches you to roll with it. Or, on a more philosphical note, I have been taught to be open to circumstances. Willing to approach most circumstances with a mind wide open.
I assured Heather that I was quite OK with it all, and was in fact looking forward to meeting this man that she had told me nothing but good things about.
Peter Yarrell is, among other things as I found out, the race director of the Queen Charlotte Multisport Race in the Marlborough Sounds. Heather had been singing his praises as a very inspirational person, and had mentioned my journey to him. She deemed that a mutual meeting between us was called for while I was in the area.
I have to thank Heather for her enthusiasm for arranging for Peter and I to meet. It was quite possibly the most ‘consolidating’ chance meeting since I have arrived back in New Zealand. I left Peter’s house inspired and energised, and most of all, with a real drive for the next big thing for me; a book about my travels.
A strong north-west wind stretched the New Zealand and Canadian flags flying outside Peter’s beautiful modern home in Picton. Both vehicles in the driveway were adorned with adventure race stickers and outdoor brand logos.
Heather had visited several times before, and made her way to the back door. Walked through the door, through to the entrance of the mansion. I felt slightly ill at ease, as if I was breaking and entering.
We were met by Peter’s son’s girlfriend, Sarah, who informed us that Peter was taking a nap. It was Sunday afternoon after all, and by the sounds of things, the previous weekend’s race was an organizational nightmare.
Heather had arranged to visit Peter this afternoon at 2:30pm. At 3pm he emerged as we were chatting with Sarah. “I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “Sorry for keeping you waiting. Terribly sorry. It has been a chaotic week cleaning up the aftermath of the race.”
He went on to tell us about the chaos of the final stages of the race. Kayakers were reported to be missing in 150km hour winds. Race placings were being muddled, Changes to the course were causing a constant stream of confused race officials bombarding him with questions. “And then, amongst all that,” he said, “I got a call on my cell phone from a volunteer asking whether I was still planning to let the pigeons loose at the awards ceremony, since it looked like it was going to rain, and they would get wet! I tried as diplomatically as I could to tell her that pigeons were not my main concern at this point.”
What I felt emanating from Peter was a passionate enthusiasm for humanity. A passionate empathy for others. It is hard to describe how he influenced me, but I left his home two and a half hours later with a drive and direction for writing a book about my travels.
Peter is just a shade over sixty years of age, and for some reason his enthusiastic interest in my journey and what I had learned along the way woke me up to an important fact. Despite the fact that I came to view my daily life on the road as a totally and fully normal existence for that period of time, to others, the journey is in fact a multi-faceted, inspirational journey with much to offer to others from all age levels and walks of life.
So a big thanks to Peter, and thanks to Heather for taking me to a person she thought I should meet.