I’ve been invited to stay the night at one of the most extraordinary homes I’ve ever been to, in the countryside near Kerikeri, out on a peninsula looking towards the islands. I have a huge, soft bed all to myself, the window open to the crashing waves and a full-on, thru-hiker sized pasta dinner. Incredibly generous Cam and Vicki take in a few strays and let us clean up and rest.
And now I have pink eye. Irene has been sick this entire week unable to shake a sore throat, and maybe I caught something from her. Or, it could have been the battering sand, wind, and never being quite clean. Likely a signal to chill out now after over 200k tramping.
What do you think, is a rest – or ‘zero’ – day warranted? I have been driving pretty hard, mostly to be able to share the limited time with Irene who flies home Tuesday. Don’t worry. That cool hiker friend will make another appearance in the story when I make it to Hamilton next month.
When I was a little girl my parents divorced. It confused the hell out of me. I never quite felt certain I was loved and belonged, mostly because the two were so wrapped up in the unfolding drama. I remember one particular Thanksgiving shuttled off to my dad’s and then driving to friend’s in Maine with his latest girlfriend.
I think of it this morning as I wake up early, reminded of that other morning long ago not knowing what to do with myself – not knowing what I was allowed to do.
That lonely seven-year-old follows me every step even now, as though at any point, for whatever arbitrary reason, I’ll be abandoned. An odd way to feel when taken in so lovingly and generously this past evening. I need this time to rest and be fed, but I don’t feel like I deserve such kindness.
Everyone is stirring and I should get up soon. I know I need more rest and sorting out before moving on. I know I need to shake this insecurity and take a risk in believing I’m ok and accepted as I am.
I’m eating a New Zealand kiwi in New Zealand. Sour, juicy, hearty. Cam drops us all back in Kerikeri – pronounced Kihdy-kihdy. Irene flies home and Bram and I wander into the gigantic Countdown supermarket. They don’t have quite the gummy selection of PaknSav, but I did discover couscous and tuna packets and they are a new backpacker fav.
The air is yummy. Cool, light ocean breeze, and full sun. I’m wearing shorts and brand new socks. I gave two charity shops a try as well as the Hunting and Fishing New Zealand store, “100% Kiwi and operated.” My favorite long sleeve hiking shirt is in Auckland just now, and not sure if purple merino will be too hot. I’m not wild about slathering on sun screen and just cover up. I strike out out, so sitting in an on sale camp lounger in the parking lot.
Bryce picks me up, as well as a tent for his journey south later this week. He has errands and I trundle along. Score! I find a perfect shirt on sale in a big box store. Then we meet Verne who takes one look at my eye and sends me over to the Waipapa Clinic.
American voters, New Zealand has proper healthcare for all. A pharmacist looks at my eye, assures me it’s likely irritated by sand and could turn into conjunctivitis, and gets me just the right drops. I’m out about ten bucks and on my way to healing. That’s how things ought to go for us too.
As my zero day progresses, I laugh thinking of my fears earlier in the day. I forget to mention I call Dan in Paihia, the town I’ll walk to tomorrow, and organiz our kayak launch to Waitangi. The tides have us squeezed a bit, but we’re sorted for a paddle the day after tomorrow and one long walk. I feel proud I pull it together, especially when feeling discombobulated earlier today.
Vern and Bryce live in a converted container atop a hill above Whangaroa bay, the deepest in New Zealand. Aquamarine with fishing boats and yachts parked at low tide, I peak through ferns and Manuka and see row upon row of oyster beds.
They’ve put me up in a caravan, private and quiet, I doze off through the hot afternoon until we don fancy hats for the Melbourne Open at the pub and I get to taste some of those succulent fruits of the sea.
Kathy, Doug, Alan and Paul show up to talk and laugh through a few rounds. Now, it’s mussels in bright green shells as we talk politics, everyone wondering if the Dems will take control of the House.
I begin to speak like a Kiwi, everything, “No worries, mate.” and “Good on ya, eh!” But the day must end finally and I crawl into my giant bed, sad that neighbors have music cranked to 11 in the valley below.