TA Day 18, Ruakaka to Dragon’s Spell – 26 km

Note to self: no more setting up on a slope. It was relatively wonderful at Betty’s but I couldn’t find a completely flat spot, so slid a bit and faffed with my mat until one strip of equilibrium materialized. Then one happy bird cranked it up at sunrise. Love the exotic, you bet, but this guy had a mic!

Having a cuppa with the sunrise before heading on. A hiker ahead of me speaks my language of low pack weight and walking every step. I have used boats three times – but that’s part of the fun of this ‘trail!’ – and twice accepted rides for short distances by Peter when we were walking together and Betty when she brought me to her home. It’s not so much that I’m a purist, though I guess I am a bit, it’s more to do with taking the bad with the good, the boring with the thrilling. This is a walk of the entire length of the country. When I split off from the beach last night, I encountered a less affluent district, some houses unkempt. These were not the private gated communities, but the working class. And yet a woman helped me get oriented towards the stores and on my way. Her two little girls posed for my picture and we all shared a tiny slice of life. These moments resonate and remain long after the views blend into one.

Shells are everywhere on the windswept beach, sand dollars broken in triangle pie servings crunch under my step, flattened scallops that look like bate feet and fluted spirals, the clouds mirrored in the low ride shellacked surface. I polish off a bag of chips, a Dutch woman marches ahead head down, earbuds jammed in. I prefer my roaring companion to my left and chatting up day walkers.

I can’t help but wonder who I’ll pair up with when I’ll need to canoe down the Waiangi River. That’s a long way off and, if I’ve learned anything, best left there, in the future.

A kiwi setting up a long line shot out two k into the ocean by a torpedo just sends it out, takes a two hour walk, and then he has snapper for family and friends. Too bad I’m walking on.

He also tells me where to get coffee ahead. I’m too polite to tell him I’m off caffeine, but appreciate knowing there is nothing after Waipo.

I stop at Little Red Coffee and take a beetroot black currant ginger almighty and unload my rubbish. Too early for pizza and beer and they’re closed anyway. Small sand blister on my heal but plenty of bandages still in the pack. Small bit of road walk and I wave at every car; seems to keep them from getting too close to me.

Ah, a separated walking track. Kiwis have told me that NZ is slowly building bike and hike trails and here is a beautiful example.

But it’s a tiny few k, and then back on the road. Dangerous curves, fast drivers, nerve-wracking. Trucks whizz past and my hat flies off in a cloud of dust.

I finally peal off and go uphill to views far back to Bream Head. Now I can see how high Mt. Lion is. No wonder I had a fantastic appetite!

Having a pause near the top. Logging scars and no shade, but cooling wind and a view to the humpy islands. I drink a can of sparkling Marlborough blush. I bought two to share with Betty but she’s a teetotaler, so all mine in this enchanted place, quiet, alone, only the fresh air, sausage, cheese and melting Whitaker’s chocolate.

With a wee sugar/alcohol buzz I go on, up and up with million dollar views. Signs begin to appear; red hearts and arrows. Trail angels lead the way.

Young men come by to poison the gorse. I know I photographed its yellow flower on the C2C, here it’s a menace. Where I walk is being zoned for homes. NZ is the apocalypse shelter for many uber-rich tax-dodging Americans. The gap widens here in NZ too, even in the Maori trusts where I’m told those in power funnel most of the windfall to themselves. Is there any escape the world over? I am lucky to have the money to take a leave of five months. Not all is guaranteed; no job for sure when I return, American healthcare stinks and all our retirement is at the whim of the market, but overall, I am rich and have access to abundance.

What I don’t understand is why we all don’t participate in ensuring good for all, why the wealthiest want the biggest tax relief when so much needs to be done to ensure a healthy world. How much is enough to live on?How many houses, airplanes, vacations does one need?

Soon I come upon Dragon Spell and just have to take a peak even though it’s early in the afternoon. Part hippy commune, part backpacker paradise, it’s prime property on top of the hill looking back to the head and distant islands surrounded by bush. Ramshackle in character, there’s an attention to detail including comfortable bunks, a well stocked kitchen with free veggies and eggs, a hot shower, toilet, spring water, clothes line and awesome hang out area.

Johnny greets me when I ring the bell, full beard, bright blue eyes and the most generous nature. He offers me a cuppa right away on his balcony, rolls a cigarette and it’s as though we are old friends picking up from wherever it was we left off.

I set the tent, attend to chores and explore the grounds including a cool lookout up a few well placed boards on a tree. But soon wander back to the balcony for more conversation. Neighbor Omra joins us, a psychologist who studied with a guru in India and specializes in astrology and numerology. No subject is off-limits and we talk non-stop and laugh about life, love, and how badly I need this trail to sort out myself just now.

I am the only guest until one young man shows up and tucks right in, so after Omra leaves, Johnny rolls another cigarette, we talk some more and finally combine resources to come up with a pasta/fresh veg/salami and cheese dinner creation only a hiker could stomach. Johnny tells me Venus is in retrograde which means it’s time to develop self love. Omra earlier mentions the same; without self love, we have no identity. No one else can fulfill this most basic need.

The stars come out competing with the half moon and it’s time for me to tuck in, completely bowled over by today’s beauty, friendship and all the serendipitous moments.

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