Well it was bound to happen – I wake up in pouring rain. I pack up anyway and figure, it can’t last all day, can it?
Of course the forecast is for the wettest Christmas in years. I’m in full rain gear and it’s just a drizzle right now. These days before Palmerston North are notoriously bad. It’s mostly road walk, but with the temperature cool and the sun hidden, I don’t mind it too much.
Cows follow me again as I come close, inspecting closely this passerby . In the next field, it’s perfectly sketched The Far Side sheep. They take one look at me as I baa, and bound away on fat haunches.
I realize as I walk here that most of the hikers I’ve met will skip this section. They call me a ‘purist’ which I actually find pretty insulting. I prefer ‘thru-hiker’ to their some kind of ‘tour hiker’ or, truth be told, ‘hitch-hiker.’
The TA certainly challenges the concept of ‘hike your own hike.’ I realize we can choose to do what we want, but when I meet them ahead of me at a fabulous hut on a mountain and they talk about how fast they’re moving, I’ll try not to laugh.
I pass a lot of beautifully built homes facing the mountains in the high-rent district of Fielding as the rain eases up. Corrugated iron cows graze next to flesh-and-blood sheep.
In town, it’s a row of settlers’ homes with curved metal roofs. A little girl in a pink bathrobe carries a cat as big as her, it’s legs flopping in front.
Friendly Fielding welcomes me as ‘New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town.’ Oh dear, make that Feilding, the Scottish spelling.
Next, it’s Bunnythorpe, a name that sounds like a character from ‘The Great Gatsby.’ So far, it’s a big wide bike path. C’mon DOC, connect it to Palmy! At least the rain stopped and I’m back in my groovy hat.
Jean from two days ago commented I was quite ‘distinctive’ in my hiking outfit, though she assumed – by my hat – I was Asian. I am using the best sunscreen of no skin showing. Seems to be working – somewhat.
No such luck on the trail front, though. I’m on a busy road next to a busier road, no shoulder but a white line next to muck. Most people give me space – or not. At least they can see the ugly look of horror I make as they pass me in a massive hurry for Christmas cheer. I hold my sticks out and that usually encourages them. Who cares if they wipe out a middle-aged American solo hiker on Christmas eve, but god forbid the car gets scratched.
I meet a really nice Kiwi mowing the side of the road for us walkers. He laughs when I tell him what I’ve walked.
I see a fair number of vintage cars and trucks drive by, especially Fords Chevies. The hill ahead is crowded with windmills. The trail suddenly veers into an ugly piece of forgotten property, but someone made an effort to clear it and place stones strategically at the creeks. At the public notice board, the official TA Association trail notes for this section are posted. It’s really nice to feel good vibes from the town.
A mass of stiles, a bouncy bridge and a clear path keep me off the road. A big Kiwi in gumboots and short-shorts stops his mower to wish me a Merry Christmas.
Finally off the road and on the Manawatu push bike way and in no time at Robb and Tara’s and welcomed right into the family.
Laughter, music, all kinds of off-limits topics, food and more food and drink – and I only asked if I might camp on the lawn tonight. “You’ve come a long way from the lawn,” I was told as we watch a video of grandpa backing up and tripping on a tombstone – don’t ask – then danced our hearts out to Gelantis ‘Peanut Butter Jelly’ (twice) and watched National Lampoon Christmas.
It was a perfect Kiwi Christmas and I feel so blessed.
I hope you and yours enjoy this special day with traditions – and maybe make a few new ones.
I share this blessing with you from Robb –
Kia hora Te Marino
Kia whakapapa pounamu Te Moana
Aroha atu aroha mai
Tatou ia a tatou katoa
Haumi e Hui e Tiaki e
May peace be widespread
May the sea be like greenstone
A pathway for us all day
Let us show respect for each other
To one another
Bind us United