The day dawned damp and a bit chilly. Our tent city at the Pickled Parrot spreading out on the couches and picnic tables, most on their phones, others making choices about whether to move on or stay.
Some have swollen feet, blisters, a Rorschach test of sandfly bites scratched to bleeding. I’m amazed 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. Rich and I were stuck in Santiago due to civil strife on January and got to know a hostel well, but mostly I’m inexperienced.
All lovely people with Bluff another 1800 km ahead as their goal. Dutch, Australian, French, Belgian, Polish, no Americans yet. Three of us will kayak later today. The time has to be specific so the tide will push us there rather than pull us back.
We have choices as others will take a ferry and hitchhike, but I’m excited about getting in a boat up these bays.
In a place like this you relax, shave the legs, share Burts Bees with the girls, write postcards to my sponsors and strategize for coming days, just how much food shall I carry and ought I make a lunch of veggies before non-stop camp food. Most walkers are not thru-hikers. They are here to travel so try it out, or are backpacking for the first time. The trail is – so far – not the Sierras or Rockies, but the walking still requires humping a pack. I chose it because somehow I thought taking off the winter would be easier at MPR – and it was far and exotic and nothing like home. Got the second part right anyway. lol.
Bought fresh vegetables in town, putting my bare feet in the South Pacific on the way. Made a gigantic stir fry for Ondi and Bram with added hippie dust found in the bulk bins in Kaitaia.
Hiking resumes tomorrow, but now a wee nap in a hammock before kayaking. Absolute bliss.
Two men joined our kayak group, one Kiwi with a pretentious ‘trail name, the other French. I introduce myself and the kayak renters tell us to stick together, in fact I’m made in charge of our ‘group’ and given the radio. But in their fast tandem, these two blow us off went as fast as they can. I found my boat with a rudder hard to handle as it’s exactly the opposite feel to my boat at home with a skeg. There are fast following waves at first that threaten to swamp me as we’re sent out without spray skirts. We then come into a head wind. It’s gorgeous paddling – turquoise water, mountains, sailboats – but I am so turned off by their behavior and find it hard to enjoy.
I can’t keep up in wind. Ondi and Bram are in a tandem and pass me with more stability and strength. I wonder if something happened to me do you think anyone would notice? Does anyone even give a damn about anything beyond their own experience?
We stop on a small island with a beach filled with shells. I’m just in shorts, wool top and bare feet. I’m holding onto my own experience as best I can, though I can’t help wondering why this is happening.
It’s one thing that always trips me up, this idea that if I’m kind to people, they’ll be kind to me. But life is not transactional. People do as they please regardless of my actions. The only thing that keeps me balanced is to know I act a certain way for my own integrity and it’s best to sort out who’s worth the effort and who’s not as quickly as possible.
We leave the beach and the boys again pull forward like they have to prove something. The water is the color of milk tea when we finally enter the estuary, the wind and current push us into mangrove swamps and oyster beds, sometimes beaching my boat. I try to explain why I am upset to Ondi and Bram, but they have no experience to know staying together is important. I tried to explain feeling disrespected like I can’t possibly know what I’m doing or have any skills since I’m a middle aged woman, the feeling that I’m invisible. I’m lonely.
We finally land in sucking mud and the boys roll a cigarette. The sun is going down and it’s cold while we wait for the kayak renters to return with our packs. Just a few k’s walk to a home where we pay to camp on the lawn. Rain is predicted in the coming days. As beautiful as it is in this stunning valley, I feel depressed.
A half hour passes and still no sign of the van. We stand on the side of the road shivering. The kayak folks messaged Ondi to wait for an hour on the little beach. I’m not sure what the message means as creepy locals speed by and honk. It’s getting colder.
Finally the van arrives. We pack up and walk down a beautiful country lane, wild horses, trees with huge canopies and gnarled roots, mountains surrounding where we’ll climb tomorrow.
Sheryl’s place is off the grid with a drop toilet and a hose of cold water for my salty legs. She brought out hot water for my soup but I’m unhappy about having to pay day after day ti camp. She then confuses the issue more by sharing her concoction of tee tree and kawakawa leaf lotion which she lets me sample then wants me to buy. Fair enough, but I begin to feel uncertain that this is the hike I want to be doing.
It’s time to sleep but I’m churning inside. Crickets saw away in the fragrant meadow competing with the Chinese water torture of someone’s music and a low bass back beat. I feel sad and guilty for having reacted so strongly. I’m trapped inside my emotions, unable to express myself effectively, unable to shake off how hollowed out I feel. Only ten days and I’m not sure I can get myself back on track. Did I make a huge mistake coming here?
The music finally stops and delightfully strange night sounds fill the air. I poke outside and see the milky way brighten the sky. I wonder if I’m too trusting – or maybe it’s that I expect too much. I’ll have to contend with all sorts of people on this trail; ones like Ondi who gave me sound advice to let things sort themselves out in the morning, and ones like these boys who appear self-centered and totally uninterested in being supportive or caring. I guess I came here to do this alone, but there are dangerous parts ahead. Will it be sink or swim then as well? I will do what I can to be safe, but at the moment, I’m despondent.