Despite the ear plugs, I couldn't sleep. At least they muffled Brett's monologue and allowed me to sift through the wild ideas bubbling away in my neural circuitry. This journey down the length of NZ now had an end date less than four weeks distant. "Let's finish on a real high note," I thought and allowed myself to dream big. Almost at once, I knew what I would do.
You just never know what you’re going to find on a Kiwi bus. After a night with a drunken Dutchman in Picton and a marrow-chilling one in Christchurch’s ravaged embrace, a nice warm six-hour coach journey to Cromwell offered what I so desperately needed: sleep, preferably of the coma-like variety.
My already frazzled spirits sank lower as yet another voice on a telephone from distant but ever-approaching Christchurch informed me, “I’m sorry, sir, we’re completely booked out tonight.”
It was all a bit of a rush catching the morning bus from Levin to Wellington, this country's capital and political power centre. Nor had it been a good night either, what with a cold wind blowing across my face and a streetlamp shining through my tarp.
What's your instinctive reaction to an invitation to try something different?
On the trail, my default setting has gone from a cautious, "Maybe", to an enthusiastic, "Yes," which explains how I went from sitting in a quiet library to thrusting a paddle into the gale-tossed waters of the Whanganui River in less time than it takes to watch an episode of "Man vs Wild.”
At around midday, I paused for a breather where the single road to Pipriki crested a high saddle before winding down a narrow forested valley.
It's our last night before I start the trail again tomorrow. I'm lying in bed with Rosa and we're staring at the ceiling. It's painted with moons and stars that glow in the dark. We know the plaster walls are painted in psychedelic swirls of blue and yellow, A frieze of painted wave forms girdles the room just below the ceiling. We're in Crazy-land.
At the end of your life, you don't get any medals, you only get a stupid badge for not being happy. - Ben Rowlands, father-in-law
It's a dangerous idea.
Kerikeri boasts a "New World" supermarket. 24 hours after leaving Camp Paradise, I wandered its neon-lit aisles in a daze, my senses bombarded by distraction, with my rucksack dominating most of a shopping trolley. The shelves were stocked with choice and yet offered so little of what I really wanted.
I'd originally planned to hitchhike from Auckland to Cape Reinga where the Te Araroa trail starts. However, that was a step too much for Rosa who booked me on a Naked Bus to Kerikeri, the gateway town to Northland.
Since time immemorial, men have left their caves, igloos, grass huts or whatever with their women's parting counsel ringing in their ears. "Make sure you keep your feet dry, dear!", "Don't come home until you've found me a nice big fat woolly mammoth!" or, "There, that buckskin pouch I made looks just lovely against your bark loincloth!"
People have been asking, "When are you off, Richard?" "When I'm ready," I reply.
Now I'm ready. It's a new moon, New Zealand's unpredictable weather has settled down (for the moment) and there's a 'Village Gathering' party tonight in Grey Lynn when I can say, "See you on the trail, mon brave" to those I want to.
Where would we be without our mums? I don't know about yours but mine is a down-to-earth woman of Finnish descent.
Running along the beach at Milford on Auckland's North Shore every morning, I see a few older men walking very small dogs. Some of those pooches sport pink collars and some of those collars are studded with diamantine beads.