An absolutely beautiful rest in a beautiful room awakened by the smell of toast, eggs, bacon – a full English breakfast New Zealand style.
We speak of past lives with George having been the CEO of the New Zealand kennel club, owning a bar, and practicing law. Rob makes me laugh with an escapade of outrunning a possum trapped in the shed.
Then Rob heads to the hospital and George puts on a backpack and grabs a Gandolph stick to start me on my walk into their charming little city on the river, with everyone out on a Saturday morning.
It’s leisurely this cool morning as we walk to a Christmas market of food and gifts and music. I absolutely hate to go, but George kisses my cheek, tells me to call any time and wishes me a lovely sunset as I revisit the Tasman sea the first time since Ninety Mile Beach.
The breeze is delicious and I am so grateful because coming up is supposed to be the worst of the road walking on the entire Te Araroa.
As I approach the final bridge that takes me away from the Whanganui, I think of Rob’s words last night that all things come from the mother. She is with us – whether goddess, life force or our moms – all the time.
I miss my mom. I told Andrew while paddling that no one makes me laugh harder than her, no one has listened to and analyzed every boring detail of my life except her, there’s no one I have so many inside jokes with than her and there’s no one who frustrates me as much as her. But I’m glad – and lucky – she’s following my walk and sending me good energy as I carry on.
I do wonder what she’d say knowing I have 19 km in front of me of pavement on a very busy highway. At least the shoulder is wide – for now. NOTE: This section has recently been diverted to a less-traveled road-walk and I hear is far more manageable and pleasant!
The road curves up and down small hills, the wind fluttering grass in a field, green-silver-green-silver. I put sunscreen on my nose. At a shaded picnic area with double-carriage trucks passing, I eat smoked oysters and mixed nuts, right away spilling oil on my recently clean trousers. My new laces are far too big and look like clown shoes, but they stay tight.
I stop at a huge antique store filled with glass in many colors and china, no bulls allowed. I have a Bundaberg bitter then try a Kiwi treat, a lolly cake, sweet and sinful. In the shade, the wind actually feels cool as Aretha tells me she feels like a natural woman.
Thankfully I’ll be off the busy road which had me trudging through uneven grassy bits and holding my sticks out to keep drivers from venturing into my tiny space. I now head to the beach with a sugar buzz. I pass fields of corn under a fluffy cloud-studded sky. It’s the kind of day that keeps me totally in the moment.
A woman in a lapis blue sweatshirt tries to control a large greyhound, then invites me to her backyard for juice and a biscuit. OK, make that six biscuits. Jean won’t let me take her picture mainly because she won’t bother to put in her false teeth, but I do snap her funky boots as we sit on the edge of the dog kennel in the shade. She comments this is a strange way to spend a holiday and refills my drink in a bigger cup. What a delight she is, 82 and marching around her property, hugging me hard and telling me to be safe.
The land gets flatter and the wind picks up as I get closer to the sea, though no sign as the road twists and curves and finally comes to Koitiata with a wild assortment of ‘baches’ or beach homes cozying up to the dunes. I set the alicoop in shade by a picnic table and crawl in for a few moments of quiet.
Later, I walk on black sand past flax and a graveyard of driftwood. People leave painted rocks along the path. Like snow, the surface of the beach is crusty and my feet sink in, soft, warm. I haven’t been to the west coast since day four and it feels like coming home, a full circle.
There are other campers but no thru-hikers here. I’m in between everyone right now and loving it, savoring this place to myself.
The water is golden in the evening light, warm on my skin. The salt pulls out the itch from all my sand fly bites. Soon, I’m in a ring of purple oversized cotton candy clouds tinged with pink and orange.
At 8:48, the sun sinks down, a last yellow point of light flickering below the horizon. First mauve, then gun metal gray. The sand is so soft and the water warm, but now I shiver in the wind and walk slowly back to my tent. As I turn, the full moon peaks through the bluish-pink clouds just for a moment as the sky continues to glow on and on, a long magenta swipe across the horizon.
Christmas lights toggle on and off at the baches, a silvery moon makes another shy appearance and I crawl into the alicoop, the wind whispering good night as my heart soars for this tremendously rich day.