The day dawns damp and chilly. Our tent city at the Pickled Parrot spreads out now over couches and picnic tables to dry, most everyone is on their phones, others making choices about whether to move on or stay a few more days.
The reason is because some have swollen feet, blisters, a Rorschach test of sandfly bites scratched to bleeding. I feel fine and just look around in amazement at the luxury of a hostel.
Spending most of my young adult years chasing a flute career, I never did the ‘gap year’ backpack through Europe. Though one January, years ago, Richard and I were stuck in Santiago due to civil strife and got to know a hostel really well. But mostly, I’m inexperienced.
Everyone is lovely with Bluff, another 1,800 km ahead, as their goal – Dutch, Australian, French, Belgian, Polish, but no Americans yet. Three of us will kayak later today. The time is specific so the tide will push us up the estuary rather than pull us back to sea.
Another lovely night’s rest and now Vern drives me on the windy rollercoaster of a road back to Stone House to begin the next section, this time alone. The morning is cool and quiet and I’m on my way to Paihia, tuis fluting in the trees, a few roosters announcing a new day.
I already lost my trail notes. Not to worry, since they’re on my phone, but damn if they didn’t drop without my noticing. At least here it’s a sidewalk until the forest and my breakfast spot. My eye is much better. I’m covered head to toe, gloves, buff, long sleeves and pants, hat, sunglasses. The flowers are ridiculously fragrant.
I enter the Waitangi forest. In New Zealand, the g’s is soft, so it sounds like I am describing the reason I love a tasty morsel. Why, tangy! It’s just me here on this cool fern-lined track. The pines are American imports.
The morning comes full of birdsong. The first few nights – especially going this hard – are tough. My legs feel great now, but laying down, they seize up and I shift nearly all night. Woe to the neighboring tenter!
My eyes have their ordinary “check-on” bags, and this morning a bonus – wrinkles! But hey, in this humidity, my hair looks fabulous. At least I’ve got that going for me, though not sure if it’s these killer first days or my aged self, but I am going full on gray (at last!)
Looks like Andi – make that Ondi – and I will tackle the kayaking section together in the coming days. We both want a pause in Kerikeri and so will be well timed. I find her a bit prickly, but she did hunt down the best site here far from the ukulele strumming party hikers. Nice enough, but not quite my cup of tea.
We both pack fast and agree how much we like the little routines of thru-hiking. Funny we also use the same tent. Friends suggested to me before I left that the day-after-day of walking would be boring.
To revisit the topic, isn’t everything a little boring some of the time? The fact is, every day is different, around every bend is something new for the eyes. And isn’t that where attitude comes in?