March 13, 2011

CHCH -> KAI 2011

I arrived to Christchurch and rented a car. It wasn't until I tossed my bags in the trunk and changed into some fresh clothes that I smiled big.
On my way out of town I stopped at the first bottle shop I saw and picked up a sixer and a pack of Winfield's. The cigarettes had a warning on them about heart disease with an image alongside. Back at the car I cracked a beer and took the cellophane from the box of cigarettes. I was disappointed to find that the health warning was not a sticker that could be peeled from the box and forgotten about but actually printed on the packaging. From then on I'd fetch a cigarette without looking at the pack, avoiding at all costs that diseased organ.
At first the landscape wasn't much to talk about - just a flat suburban spread of dull colors -, but once out of town it quickly came to life. It's a dense and diverse patchwork. From one side of a fence to another, depending on what's being farmed or how heavily the land is grazed upon, the colors and textures can vary dramatically.
I was reluctant to pull over and take pictures. I just wanted to get there. But I did pull over. I brought along my old super8 video camera. The first time I pulled the car to the side of the road it was to shoot the hills with their almond-colored grasses blowing in the wind (and I worried that I might return home with my video footage consisting entirely of grass blowing in the wind). There were sheep up the hillside and a dry brown gully ran through the land with green-saturated palm trees in it (the kind you'd find in a Dr. Seuss book)(Seuss lived in New Zealand for some period of time).
Popping a second beer I carried on.
The hills are reminiscent of those along Northern California's coast - the golden grasses of Pescadero (ironically, I was travelling along New Zealand's Pacific Coast Highway 1). The further north I headed the more lush the bush became. From golden to lime green the grasses went. There were more and more of Seuss's palms, and there were ferns, and higher up in elevation lines of pines looked like corduroy.
I stopped briefly in a town called Chivton. I filmed a fat boy riding his bicycle. I climbed a fence and filmed forty old men lawn bowling. I got a bloody nose and got back in the car. I opened one last beer and lit up another cigarette. I hate cigarettes but I felt them really working, melting away all the layers of stress accumulated on all the flights over from San Francisco.
Next thing I knew I was taking turns at 100km with a cig between my lips, a cool beer held between my thighs, and my camera in my right hand shooting blindly out the window.
I laid eyes on the ocean and attempted to let out a sort of celebratory yodel but it came out as more of a wolf howl, but the wolf howl felt more appropriate.
As I arrived into the small beach town of Kaikoura I thought about what all I remembered from when I was here last. It was seven years ago and I was nineteen years old. I remember this bend in the road, and that's where we ran out of gas that time, and around this bend will be the skatepark! (O! Skateboard! Where are you?!)
I rolled up to the same hostel I stayed at the last time I was here - The Fish Tank. I got a room and it was the same room I slept in the last time. I told the guy at the front desk that I'd stayed there before, seven years ago. He said, "Well, you'll see that we've made some changes, cleaned it up quite a bit." I asked how so? He said, "Well, we don't grow dope on the roof anymore and we don't let hookers hang around." I wondered to myself, "Were those girls hookers?"
That evening in Kaikoura I didn't do much. I had some beers, walked along the beach, and cooked some pasta. After dinner I took my little notebook and pen and went for beers down the street. It was a quiet night in an already quiet town. It was the kind of bar where you can sit alone without looking lonely.
Sitting there at the bar having my drink, my only thought was of how anonymous I felt, of how anonymous I really was. Nobody knew a thing about me, and I found such a feeling of comfort in that.


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