Walking straight uphill this early morning onto a flower-covered hillside above the ocean. I can hear the waves crashing below. My pants are already soaked because the deep grass is drenched from last night’s torrential rain.
Just as I left the beach last evening and wandered back to the alicoop, a woman about my age wandered by, smiled and said hello. I followed her and asked if she might sell me a beer. She looked dumbfounded, “You need one?”
Yes, in fact I do after all those hot kilometers.
Turns out she doesn’t like beer at all. And and would much rather I share sparkling wine.
The next thing I know, I am included with husband, dad and cousin for cocktail hour. Tracy is a midwife, Ben, a carpenter. We natter for hours, and I learn much better Maori pronunciation – like wh is a ‘f’ sound, and that their home on the beach is called a bach, pronounced “batch.”
I get an early start. It’s overcast just as I like it. Someone else is up with a weed wacker. I wonder if he’s the same guy with the music. Soon I’ll use the river as a trail.
A big bull leaves loud patties in a screen of trees. I’m already a bit lost. Not exactly, I have GPS but nothing is marked and it’s a weedy, wet, barbed wire nightmare. Is it too much to put up a few signs?
This area is Maori and off the grid. Cars, garbage, rusting metal implements lay about. Poverty? Sure, but it’s a community too. I was told I’d meet trail angels. I’d like that.
Finally signs appear to tell me I’ve entered the Russell Forest.