I am drunk on the sight and smell of lupins.
They are a colour palette profusion – from pales pinks to deep purples, oranges, reds, whites, yellows, a whole galaxy of blues. Standing bright against the rumpled browns and dry yellows of the McKenzie Country landscape, they wave a wild garden welcome from what are usually more subtle ends of the colour spectrum.
It started just short of Lake Pukaki – small bunches of bright colour that grew into roadside swathes demanding to be photographed.
First against the rounded yellow hills; then contrasted with the startling turquoise of the snowmelt lake; then as foreground against distant sharply silhouetted, snow-flecked peaks. And as we turned to head for Lake Alexandrina, just for the sheer boisterous joy of a lupin carpet that stretched in every sense-drowned direction all around us.
By now, the perfume is overpowering. On olfactory overdrive, I inhale a secent that is sweet, subtle, clinging like bees feet in a gentle breeze.
There are stories about the lupins. The mainly yellow breed that once hugged coastlines and river edges was seen as a weed that blocked the natural flow of water along stony braided river beds. At one stage, it was being poisoned and grubbed out.
Someone told me that the multi-coloured variety now springing from roadsides and riverbeds is the result of one high country sheep farmer – a woman I think – who collected seeds and chucked handfuls out as she drove the country.
They are seen by some as interlopers that subvert the almost monochromatic subtlety of this sharply etched landscape. Others regard them as useful survivors that help nitrogenise the snow blasted soil. Visitors like me just get drunk on their sassy exuberance.
I’ve never driven the Lindis Pass when it’s been so vibrant with colour. The stark layers of mountains stacked like so many triangles of gold or umber, edged in black or brown still dominate. But the lupins offer a soft laughing counterpoint.
I want to roll in them, eat them, to briefly become a bee so I can enter the heart of that sensuous scent.
I am drunk on lupins.