May 21, 2011


A lady at a bar in San Francisco had told me that if I was going to New Zealand and was wanting to do some surfing that I had to check out Raglan. Indeed, it did turn out to be an idyllic little surf town. When I arrived I parked and took a stroll down to the waterfront where a river fed into the sea and out on a peninsula I could make out a skatepark. But my skateboard was long gone by now (I imagine that the security woman who took it from me at the Sydney airport took it home to her son. I could only hope that he'd make use of it). I stopped in at the grocery store and bought peanut butter, jelly, bread, and beer and then drove along the coast to Solscape.
I'd read about Solscape in my travel book. It sounded like the hippie/surfer place to stay, and that's the sort of experience I was looking for. For the time being I'd had enough of crowded backpacker hostels. I wanted to spread out and kick back. At Solscape they've taken old train boxcars and cut them in half and turned them into bunkhouses. That sounded pretty cool to me. But they also offer accommodation in tipis. I opted for a tipi, and I'd even reserved it ahead of time, booking it online for a three night stay.
I arrived to Solscape and checked in. The lady at the front desk explained that the tipi retreat was about a five minute walk from the parking. I grabbed a few things from the car and walked through the boxcar camp where there were a bunch of tan people chatting and lounging in hammocks. And then I saw the sign for the tipis and the trail took me down a hill and into a ravine of dense bush consisting mostly of ferns. There was a spring and a bit of a swamp at the bottom, and then the trail went up and out of the ravine, and the bush opened wide to a big, magnificent clearing, and around the perimeter of the clearing on the hillside there were six or seven tipis, each of which stood about twenty feet tall.
It sure was quiet out there. I couldn't tell for certain, but it seemed that I was the only person staying out there. But it was still early, and it was possible that others would arrive later on. Either way, I told myself, it was going to be awesome.
I went to check out the surf. As I drove along the winding coastal road my stoke ran high. It was a beautiful day out, and just a couple minutes down the road I arrived to a superb point break. The waves really were immaculate. I wondered if I should go and rent a board immediately, but I hadn't surfed in a year and didn't want to get in over my head. I decided I'd get on the surfing tip the following day. After watching the waves break for a while I drove back to town. I had a few beers and scrawled words and doodles in my little black book. Eventually I made my way back to Solscape.
Back at the tipi retreat it was all crickets and cicadas. I sat on the hillside with my six pack and read. I told myself, You are so lucky to get all of this to yourself and for only twenty dollars a night! But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling a touch of the old loneliness. I knew that upfront amidst the boxcars everyone was being sociable, meeting new and interesting people, exchanging stories, maybe making friends. And on the quiet hillside I was drinking quickly, pissing every thirty minutes, waiting for the sun to set so that going to sleep was acceptable. I knew that I had it in my power to get up and walk the five minutes and say hello, but instead I raced to finish the sixth beer.

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