June 21, 2011


I'd overslept. Quickly I packed my things and threw them into the car and drove along the coast and into the tall bush and over the rolling hills and into the farm towns and through the suburbs to the city of Hamilton. Initially I'd hired the car for a week's time. The plan was to drive it south along the west coast back to Wellington. This would take several days and cost a few hundred dollars. Here I was two days later, dropping it off only an hour's drive from where I'd first picked it up in Auckland.
The guy at the rental car place gave me a ride to the train station where I hopped the train all the way back to Wellington.
The train ride was much the same as before, but I did not have the nice woman beside me, nor did the mist coat the mountains. I read and slept and ate. And for a while I hated on myself so hard.
If one were to look at a map and see the path I'd taken, where I'd gone and what I'd done, they'd be baffled. I was moving from one town to the next, covering so much land and passing by so much in between, and stopping only long enough for a beer or two. I felt like I was making a mess of this journey of mine, that I was throwing away money, that I wasn't trying hard enough, that I was fucking failing.

But at the end of the train ride all those feelings went away. I arrived in Wellington and collected my things. With my big duffel bag on my back and a smaller backpack on my chest, instead of getting a cab I hoofed it into town. The wind was really whipping, and my back was aching, but the evening sky was beautiful. I didn't know where I was, or what I was doing, or where I was going, and I didn't give a shit.
I was doing it the right way, I told myself. I was doing it my way. I had no ties and I was embracing that. I was taking in the atmosphere and appreciating the landscape and enjoying the food & drink and avoiding the tourists.
That night at a bar alone, in my little black book I wrote:
"This evening in Wellington I get drunk and extremely positive. God Bless this World."


I woke up scratching at my legs. This was the day I learned of New Zealand's sand flies. You can't see them, but boy can you feel them. I'd been bitten the day before as I sat on the beach, and I'd scratch at those bites for the next few weeks, an itch that meets pain.
I grabbed a few things and I set out for the surf shop. Thirty minutes later I was suiting up at the beach. I jumped into the surf afloat on a nine foot board.
The surf wasn't very impressive compared to the day before. And I'm not much of a surfer in the first place. The waves were few and far between and I was fighting for one in a group of twenty. Really, I was just trying to keep from killing anyone. A nine foot board easily gets swept up in the white wash, and from time to time I found myself tumbling underwater attached to a big bludgeoning device, hoping to God that it wasn't beating the shit out of anyone. Eventually I'd pop up and check my surroundings for injured surfers. Everyone was O.K. A few looked frightened.
In two hours I'd snagged a few waves, three maybe, and while they weren't much, one of them got me high. It was breaking to the left. I popped up to my feet, tucked and held onto the rail of my board with my right hand. As I glided along the wave's face I smiled and hollered in joy, and a guy paddling out saw my stoke and it got him stoked out too.
When I climbed out of the sea my upper body had really had it. My arms and chest were drained of energy, and a cracked ribbed from the past sticks out at an angle, and it had really been working at the skin between it and my board. But I was so happy, just happy to be coated in a thin layer of sand and salt, my lips tasty, my hair malleable.
I spent the rest of my day roaming. I ate. I had coffee. I had beer. I went to the waterfront and crossed a bridge to the peninsula where I examined the skatepark. It looked like fun. On my way back over the bridge I encouraged a small, red-haired boy to jump from it into the water below. It took some convincing but eventually he made the leap.

Raglan is a beautiful place, but going it alone has it's challenges. Relaxing alone has a lot in common with being bored alone. So when I returned to Solscape I told the woman at the front desk that I'd only be staying one more night, that I'd like to be refunded for my third night, that it was just too quiet out at the tipis. She offered to move me to a bed in a boxcar, but I politely declined. While I didn't want to be bored alone, I guess I also didn't want to relax with others.
That evening I found myself, once again, sitting on a hillside pounding beers. After a couple I gave myself a stern talking-to and I walked to the boxcar camp where I did my best at mingling. In a letter to friends I described the crowd as "a bunch of gnar surfer jocks." They weren't really that though. They were just young and uninhibited and killing it, and while I too am young I'm not as young as them, and I find that with age I've lost some of my ability to flow so easily and seamlessly into a group of total strangers. I felt like I was sitting on the edge and peering in.

I made some conversation though. I talked with a guy from Oregon, and a guy from San Diego, and a googly-eyed German girl, and it was alright. But in the end I raced to finish the sixth beer.

I'd made the evening walk to the boxcars without a flashlight, and then I had to make the night walk back to the tipis in the dark. I thought it would be easy, but it was not. Carefully I placed one foot in front of the next as I descended into the ravine, and the ferns brushed me in the face whenever I got off course. And I heard the trickling of the spring and felt the squish of the swamp and I moved so slow I hardly moved at all. I found myself wondering:
Where am I?
What am I doing?
Where am I going?