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.