I ducked for cover before spinning and swearing up at the sky.
My hopeless case of tunnel vision had left me so focused on trying to photograph a small bird that I failed to notice the swooping magpie taking aim at the top of my skull, and I was forced to wave my hiking poles above my head like a lunatic to avoid being struck again.
I hated magpies, I decided, and I hurriedly marched towards the hills and away from further avian assaults.
Desperate for some time to myself after some hectic weekends, I’d headed out to camp at Danseys Pass to explore a new area of my beloved Oteake Conservation Park.
I was starting to feel much better after two days of self-reflection and hiking and was happily singing in the car on the drive back to Alexandra when I noticed another entrance to the park via Hawkdun Runs Rd.
I couldn’t pass up the another quick hike, and carefully made my way down the stony road before leaping out of the car and making for the hills.
Winged assailant aside, I was having a terrific time. I couldn’t quite place what I liked so much about the conservation park – whether it was the mighty Hawkduns engulfed in low-lying cloud, the isolation, or the fact the deserted tussock grassland reminded me of spinifex country back in WA, but I felt at ease as I wandered further up the hills.
It was an easy trek up the grassland, and before long I was finally overlooking what had to be the Manuherikia River.
There were so many tracks, and not a soul in sight, I had the sudden idea that I should start training and hike the whole park from one side to another.
But it was not going to happen today, so I instead made my way back to the car, careful to wave my hiking poles in the air and maintain eye contact with the magpie as it glared down from the tree above with a manic glint in its eye.
I slowly pulled out of the campground and watched the mountains disappear in a billowing cloud of dust in my rear-view mirror, before I was interrupted by a familiar grating sound.
Surely it wasn’t .. and yet it was. Another puncture.