“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien, from “The Lord of the Rings”
Whither then, Josh and I definitely could not say. All we knew was that, in all honesty, we were quite ready to be leaving the South Island. On to the next adventure! The South Island’s landscape was breathtaking, and we had made friends along our journey. We knew we would be back to visit, for there is so much to explore, but the North seemed more appealing to us in the end, to live. We had several contacts and friends that we had made before coming and that we met our first few days in the country, in Wellington. Our plan (for now) was to go try out the adventure lodge outside of Napier, 4 hours north of Wellington, on the east coast. The idea brought our minds peace knowing that we would be closer, or at least have easier access, to our friends and the church in Welly. It also had a well-established congregation. As we crossed the ocean on the Interislander Kaitaki ferry, I wondered at what Napier would be like and if we would like our new job, and if this was a good idea. The work was for accommodation, something we still felt like we needed to save up a little money. I felt excited; it’s fun and mysterious when everything is just up in the air! A bit nerve-wracking, which Josh seemed more wracked than me about it. Before coming, we talked about traveling and how much better it is when there is no set plan (or so he was trying to convince me), to just go with it and see what happens, because that is the adventure of it all, and truly living like a vagabonder. I felt scared of that idea when thinking about it in Tyler, but now that we were here, our roles seemed to switch and I didn’t mind the not knowing feeling—most of the time. There were days when I just wanted everything to fall in place at that moment and find a place to settle. For the time being, though, I felt positive. “A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving,” said Lao-Tzu. We will see if I still like that quote by the end of our travels here in New Zealand, and know whether or not Josh and I are good travelers (at least, according to Lao-Tzu).
While on the ferry this time we stayed inside the ship more than out on the deck. We ate in the cafeteria, and I felt the rocking and moving of the vessel . . . made my legs feel shaky and I felt slightly nauseous and I didn’t want to eat. Thankfully I didn’t get sick though J I suddenly remembered something and dug in my purse to see if I still had it. A free pass to the Kaitaki lounge. Antony Raine had given it to us before we left Wellington, and we had completely forgotten about it. I hoped they would let us in the closed door reserved only for VIP. Well, not really on a ferry boat, I exaggerate, but nonetheless I felt sneaky opening the door and relieved when the little old man looked at our card and then treated us like we were something special. Too bad we hadn’t remembered earlier because we already paid for lunch and had just missed a free meal, oh well though. There wasn’t anything too fancy about the room, but it’s all a matter of mind, and I felt quite content. It was very quiet and calming in the lounge, with free drinks, cappuccinos, lattes, snacks and big screen TVs. And comfy couches to just lie on and relax. I had Josh get me a cappuccino and I rested on the couch and read the paper, occasionally looking out the window as we were approaching the North Island. I felt like we were living in the shoes of Jack Dawson in the Titanic, fictional character or not, when he dined with the rich folk in first class where he did not belong and gave his speech about living life to the fullest. Maybe I just sound like a girl who hasn’t been around or seen much of this world, haha, but I felt like a Queen. It’s the little things in life that make you happy.
The captain announced our arrival into the harbor. We left the lounge, hurrying up the stairs and out onto the top deck, crowded with tourists excited to see our destination. I felt my chest well up with happiness and relief seeing the tall buildings and the sprawled out city of Wellington and the houses scattered on the hills. Strange, I had been missing this place. It felt so good to be back, back into “the connect”, as Josh would say. That’s a phrase he taught me, though I have always known that feeling before just not been able to find the right words for it. The connect is in a place that’s alive…where you feel alive. Big cities define the connect. People, cars, buses, trains, planes, ships . . . everything is on the move. There’s action, always something going on, stores and restaurants are open late. There is life. The opposite of that, and how we mostly felt on the South Island, is being in the disconnect. Small towns are usually in the disconnect, or you can really feel that way being out in the country and going for hours not seeing any cars pass by. In really small towns, the shops shut down at five and then the streets are a ghost town. Then you just get that really bad feeling inside sometimes, especially at night in those places, like you are all alone. Everything is quiet. That is what it’s like to be in the disconnect. Or, just watch the movie “Napoleon Dynamite”, and then you will know what I mean. Anyways, so were back where there were people, lots of people, cars, rush hour traffic, and skyscrapers. I never thought of myself as a big city girl and I’ve always wanted to live in the country, but maybe the city is where I belong. Josh and I both automatically felt better inside and we both simultaneously kept sighing out loud, ridding ourselves of any anxiety that was there before.
We drove off the ferry and into the parking lot where Keith Copeland was awaiting our arrival. He was graciously going to let us stay at he and his wife Elsa’s house for the night, before we drove up to Napier the next day. And, Keith was there to take us to Red Rocks. We rode with him in his 4 x 4 Longhorn SUV out to his favorite place. The day was exceptional as we arrived late in the afternoon. The clouds had been chased away and nothing but blue skies to lighten our spirits as we passed through the city streets bustling with people and energy. Keith told us that there are not a whole lot of sunny days in Wellington, as it is generally cloudy and rainy (and windy), but he supposed it makes days like this one all the more glorious. We drove out to Red Rocks beach, as it is called, because of the red (obviously) and purple rocks from volcanoes—or as the history from the native Maori of New Zealand say, blood. I found an article on http://www.newzealand.com that describes the history a little more that I thought I would include:
“The Red Rocks are ancient pillow lava formed 200 million years ago by undersea volcanic eruptions. Small amounts of iron oxides give the rocks their distinctive colouring.
Maori folklore tells two stories relating to the colour of the rocks. In one, Kupe – the famous Polynesian explorer – was gathering paua (shellfish) here when one clamped his hand. He bled and stained the rocks red. In the other story, the red is the blood of Kupe’s daughters. Fearing for their father’s safety on a long voyage, they gashed themselves in grief over his absence.”
Now, we were going off-roading! I’ve only done this like once and I was leery of my stomach since I had just gotten off the ferry, but it was exciting too. Josh sat up front and I sat in the back holding on for dear life and laughing as we hit the rocks hard and fast and sped through puddles, jolting our bodies up and down and sideways. I didn’t like that the road was so close to a steep edge leading to the beach below, but I tried not to think about it. And I prayed. The scariest part was Devil’s Gate, a narrow crevice between two, menacing boulders, attainable up a steep slope and only if driven by careful and experienced drivers with the correct vehicle. The warning sign posted at the entrance of this crafty maneuver made me suggest, “You know, I can let you guys do this, and I’ll just wait on the beach for y’all to come back.” No, no, that wouldn’t be any fun! So I held on tight and closed my eyes. We got stuck at one point and I opened my eyes seeing how frightfully close the boulders were and one wrong move or spinout and . . .then the truck went for it and the truck sped up over the rocky hump (pretty sure we were up in the air for a second or two) and then I opened my eyes to see that we were safely through Devil’s Gate. My heart was pounding, but I was laughing and smiling to have done something brave and new. We got out and walked along the rocks collecting paua shells. That’s a New Zealand trademark, and a huge source of income. It was my first time to find one in the wild. The shells are rainbow glistened inside, and are polished and sold or turned into jewelry and sculptures. I looked around and once again felt myself so happy. “I really like Wellington,” I said to myself. I almost didn’t want to leave it. The smell of the salty sea air, the blue water, the mountains, the countless bays, the big city feeling; so much diverse landscape in one area.
We finally left Red Rocks and then followed Keith out to the suburb they lived in (Elsa had left a few days earlier to go back home to Mexico for the holidays and Keith would join her later). The menu tonight was creating our own homemade pizza, so we went grocery shopping together. Keith gave us a tour of the Countdown, telling us what all was different from back home (he’s from the States too) so that was interesting and very helpful. Well, while we were shopping, we had paused for a moment and looking up at the shelf about something Keith was explaining, when suddenly, I heard a loud noise and then the ground beneath me started shaking and swaying. . . just moving! The shelves shook a little bit, and I thought maybe a huge grocery ladder or a big box of crates had fallen in the back of the store. Now let me tell you, the floor moving like that, the earth itself . . . one of the weirdest feelings I’ve ever had. We all looked at each other and were thinking, “Surely not?” Yep. We had just been in an earthquake. When we got to Keith’s house, our theory was confirmed by news on the Internet. The earthquake had actually hit in Picton, on the South Island, where our ferry had departed from earlier that day. A 5.8, which is reasonable for one to raise their eyebrows at that number. It was the highest magnitude Wellington had felt in several years. The news said that people riding on the ferry when it happened had said it felt like the boat had hit something like a big rock in the ocean and that the ship jolted. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well that night, I just had a really bad feeling. I didn’t like feeling helpless as the earth just moved underneath my feet, and I kept thinking about the earthquakes in Christchurch earlier that year. Great, they never have earthquakes in Wellington, until we get here!
The next day, Sunday, we went to church at the Wellington Church of Christ. It was so great to see everyone again and I was encouraged to hear the singing filling the small building and listening to the lesson. Afterwards was a potluck lunch, which we stayed for and filled our bellies with delicious food before hitting the road. Everyone seemed surprised to see us again, so soon, but we told of our plans of going to Napier and trying that out; if that didn’t work, we said we would definitely come back here.
I had mixed feelings about leaving Wellington this time. I was eager to see more of the country and our new possibility at the adventure lodge, but felt a bit sad again to be leaving the city and the church. At least we would be closer and could come visit on weekends. We began our journey down a road we had yet to travel and headed north on the North Island. About an hour outside of Wellington we passed through the Rimutaka Ranges; a curvy, winding road through the mountains that makes you hold your breath the whole time. Thankfully, neither of us got carsick. The views were incredible though, of these bush covered, green mountains. The next three hours of our trip seemed long, but the scenery was beautiful as we encountered more green rolling hills covered with hungry, grass-eating sheep. When we approached Napier, the land flattened out a bit and I almost felt like I was in West Texas again except for the apple tree orchards and vineyards. At last, we arrived in Napier. We got there Sunday evening, and it was cloudy, not a good combination after a long trip and arriving at a new destination. I will be honest, and maybe I’m just weird, I was trying to be positive in my head and open, but I wasn’t too impressed with what we saw. As we drove into the downtown though, I liked it more and then we drove onto the Marine Parade and saw the ocean. I love seeing the ocean, if I haven’t already said that J We were worn out and tired physically and emotionally, and hungry. We found a motel on the Parade and grabbed a bite to eat. Tomorrow, we would be going to the adventure lodge, to our new job.
The next morning, we drove around and went to different hotels to see if they had any jobs available; our thinking was that we would work at the adventure lodge for a while and save money by staying there for free, then get paid work in town and find a place to live. That was just frustrating though as we had no luck the places we tried, and we didn’t really know what to do since the lodge was 45 minutes out of town and would be hard to drive in every day if we did get a job at the time. So, we decided to stick to our plan, and go to the lodge. Though the drive was stunning and through mountains, each mile we drove just meant further and further away from the store, and McDonalds. We were still trying to be optimistic; at least putting on a happy face for each other. Where is this place? We thought. After about an hour’s drive, we saw a big sign for the adventure lodge and turned off onto a dirt road. A dirt road out in the boonies leading to our new home? Man, we were far away from the rest of the world. The landscape was picture perfect, though, with the green covered mountains, pine trees, a river running alongside our car in the valley and we even saw a waterfall!
Finally, we approached the office, which was located right next to a horse stable. Maybe I would learn to be a horse whisperer during our time in isolation. There was the cutest dog (besides my Pomeranian, Rusty, RIP) I’ve ever seen sitting on the front porch of the office, a little snow-white Maltese that came running up to me and Josh as soon as we got out of the car, like he had been waiting for us, and a golden retriever to welcome our arrival. We were introduced to the owners and greeted warmly by them, shown a map of the area, and told that our caravan was ready for us. Oh dear. I did not have high expectations knowing it was a caravan (a camper), but was hoping that maybe it was a nice one, or maybe would have a little bathroom inside. We drove down another dirt road, and had to share the road with some horse back riders, then turned a corner and saw the campground far down below in a deep valley with the river we had seen earlier running beside it. Wow. When we drove down the road into the valley, we passed by the cabins and I was praying the owners would let us stay in one of those. Well, we rounded the bend and saw our new home. Three little caravan camper trailers–we were told we would know which one was ours . . . “it’s the bigger one,” they had said. What bigger one?! They were all the same . . . tiny. Silver aluminum exterior tastefully accented with bright orange, straight from the 70’s, or again, Uncle Rico’s nice little crib in Napoleon Dynamite. I didn’t even want to look inside! I did, however, have to look inside eventually. I stepped up into it, and well, what you see is what you get! One little room . . .to the left was the “bigger” bed or mattress, against the window, in the middle was the “kitchen” with a couple cabinets, a faucet over a covered up sink (which obviously didn’t work), and a mini fridge that wasn’t cold. A few feet over were two more mattresses against the wall. Orange carpet and red-orange curtains. No bathroom; instead, we had to walk up a hill to shared facilities. There was a little nightstand table in between the two twin mattresses that had a lovely decoration to add to the mood; a dead flower in an empty beer bottle. Which is exactly how I felt, after seeing our new home.
So this was the worker’s accommodation. Free accommodation in exchange for three hours of work a day; the rest of the day is yours. To do what in this forsaken place? My good, positive attitude was going out the window. I stepped out of our caravan and looked up at the mountainside looming over head and heard something I didn’t like. Quiet. Where was everybody? Where were all the campers and people . . . life? We should have known though, I guess, coming here blindly as we had done since our time in New Zealand, driving to new places and promises of good-sounding jobs and set-up, but not at all what we envisioned. There were two other workers there that day; one girl from Germany, Sophie, who lived in the opposite caravan, and a Canadian girl, Dakota, who apparently we unintentionally kicked her out of her caravan. She had been staying in the one we were in and I guess hadn’t moved out yet, but Sophie met us first and moved her stuff out for her, as they would now be sharing a camper so that Josh and I could have the bigger one. The middle caravan was occupied by another male worker, but he was not at the camp then. Our caravan was right by the kitchen/restaurant. Dakota was surprised and not too happy I think, when she found her stuff gone, replaced by our suitcases, when she walked up to our caravan after leading a group of riders on a horse trail. I felt bad for her and could sense her loneliness of being in this place.
Josh and I had bought an ice chest (or chilly bin, as they are called here) and we made sandwiches and ate at a picnic table and listened to the quiet all around us. I could tell he was not feeling well being there, haha. We kept saying we were trying to be positive about it, but we both knew we felt super anxious and not liking the idea of this at all. We’ll give it a try, though, and stay here a few days and just see how it goes, I’m sure it will get better. We had time to ourselves until later that afternoon, when the owner lady would meet with us to talk about our duties here. So we took our time looking around; we walked down to the river, skipped rocks on the river, waded in the river, took pictures of the river, listened to the river, thought about the river . . . yep, we were pretty bored. I could do this for a couple days to get away from everything, but day in and day out? We were told that the camp was about to get full with, the New Zealand Air Force. The vans filled with guys and a few girls arrived later in the afternoon, and then it was not so quiet anymore. They were pretty loud and obnoxious, but we were glad for the break in the silence. We met with the lady and she told us about the arrangement; basically what we already knew, two to three hours of work a day. The staff kitchen was ours to use, lunch and breakfast was up to us, though dinner we could eat at the restaurant in exchange for helping cleanup in the kitchen afterwards. That didn’t sound so bad, and I had a feeling this lady was a really good cook. She said the weekends get super busy and that there might be paid work upcoming with Josh helping out on the river rafting and paintball events, and for me working at the front office as a receptionist. That sounded a little promising, to actually get paid, but Josh and I were still thinking about our little caravan waiting for us outside. She was saying how Sundays are busy too, which wasn’t good because of church. Hmmm, what to do? As you can imagine, this was all quite stressful and didn’t seem like we had too many options. Maybe we should just do this for a while to at least save what money we did have and eventually get the paid work in town. Our hearts were troubled, as they would say, haha.
There were some beautiful moments we had there that day though. We had also spent some time on top of the hill by the front office (where we had to stand in one spot to hopefully find reception on our cell phone) and looking at the beauty around us. I loved seeing the horses in the pastures, looking so elegant and graceful. Also, playing with the little Maltese; he was so soft and would lay in my lap and playfully bite my hand and growl, he was a feisty little thing and it was so cute because I have no idea how he was able to see with his white fur covering his eyes. Another moment I will always remember was while we were waiting for dinner, I walked down the pathway towards the river for a little alone time. I felt God’s presence all around me so very strongly. That is why I love being outside, and it reminded me of my times at church camp growing up. It was my favorite time of the day, nearing sunset when the sunlight is in its golden moment and you can feel its warmth and comfort and the hope that it brings to your soul. There was a fence on either side of the path, which I love fences out in the country, and yellow flowers and tall grass just waving in the breeze. Not a bad view with the mountains surrounding us and hearing the sound of the river and birds singing. “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music . . .” it felt like. Or alive with God’s voice quietly saying and reminding me, “I am here. Look at what I have made!” It was a glorious moment. I sang a couple of youth group songs out loud, which just made me feel so good. Josh then joined me and we stood there for a few minutes taking in the sights and sounds.
Then, it was dinner time! We helped in the kitchen a little bit before it was ready, washing dishes as they were being used to make the meal. Our chore was to do all the dishes after the Air Force guys were done eating . . . there were about 50 to 60 of them altogether I think. We had a nice little chat with the owner as she was cooking and learned a lot about the hard work they put into making and running the camp. It was a pretty good set up for the campers who came to stay and all the activities they had to offer and the freedom people need to get away from the city life sometimes. I just didn’t feel too pleasant on the living situation for the workers. The food looked and smelled delicious; we were starving. I felt awkward when the army guys stood in line getting their food and Josh and I were in the kitchen with our aprons on. I felt like a dork! At last, though, we got to eat out on the porch; it was a pretty night. We sat with Sophie, and the owners. The vegetable and meat lasagna and garlic bread hit the spot, as did the apple crumb for dessert. A free meal; that was tasty! All that food was burned off very soon when we washed the dishes after dinner. I’ve never washed and dried so many dishes in my life; it was never-ending! Josh and I made a pretty good team, I was proud of us. It was quite funny, though, and I would laugh to myself at the sight of Josh and I in our oversized (on me) aprons, frantically working to wash all the dishes and get a good system going. I’d rather pay 50 bucks for a meal than to have to do that every night!
There was nothing left to do after that but walk out into the pitch black darkness to our awful caravan. We snuggled, as there was no other choice but to be wedged together close on our little mattress. It was very cold. The air force guys’ laughter filled the night air for a while, followed by the sound of complete and utter silence, interrupted only occasionally by buzzing insects. These insects dwelled with us in our home sweet home; we both kept slapping ourselves and itching, getting that creepy-crawly, tingling feeling you get after seeing a spider. This is just not going to work, I said to myself. It was neat at least looking out our window and seeing the diamond stars dazzling brightly above. Our weariness was probably a good thing that night. It helped very little, however, in the end, for we both kept tossing and turning and felt very cold, restless, and uneasy.
In the morning, after about two hours of sleep, we woke up to each other and did what any married couple would do in our situation; we fought. I’m surprised we didn’t wake up the whole camp as we were basically outside and not behind closed doors in your own home like it should be when you need to fight with your spouse, for it’s hard to keep your voices down when you are downright angry. The situation was neither one of our faults; we all know that, but who better to blame in the moment and take out the frustration on than the one you love the most and the one you should be supporting in a tough time as this? In hindsight, we can all say that, which is how we should have been, but the wrath of the gods seemed to have been unleashed. It was also the worst possible time to be a girl, which magnifies the situation a hundred times more. So, after yelling, tears, stomping away angrily, and a few minutes apart to cool down, we came back to each other feeling horrible, and sorry. After talking, apologizing, hugging, and me crying a few more tears, we came to a mutual understanding . . . time to hit the road Jack! Well, not for Josh to hit the road Jack and leave me, but for us together to get the heck out of dodge.
But how would we tell the owners? We felt bad about that, as they were needing our help, especially with the upcoming busy weekend and motorcycle rally. There was no other choice, though, we had to leave. We walked to the kitchen together and asked if we could speak to the owner privately. Thankfully Josh did the talking, saying our situation and how sorry we are, but that this was just not going to be able to work for us. If the accommodation had been better, it might have been a possibility, but considering that, the remoteness, not being able to get away for church, no paid work at the moment, and all the feelings mentioned above, we were sorry but we had to leave (we didn’t tell her all those reasons). We said we would stay that morning to do our three hours of work, though. She looked quite surprised and disappointed, but was nice and understanding about it. So, after that awkward talk, I was left to more awkwardness by Josh leaving me to go mow the property, and I had to stay with her in the kitchen as she made breakfast. Sophie later came in the kitchen and I watched as the two of them cooked and I helped with the dishes. I didn’t say much, I just felt really bad and hoped the owner wasn’t too upset.
After breakfast was made (which I so wanted to eat it, but couldn’t), then the owner left and said Sophie would show me how to do our duties and I would help. I would have done anything to have swapped places with Josh even though I don’t think I have every mowed a lawn in my entire life. We had bathroom duty. Yuck. And remember who we were cleaning up after too. Thankfully, the guests were quite tidy, so it wasn’t too bad. It was no fun, and I was thanking my lucky stars that in an hour or two, we were out of there! Sophie was shocked when I said we were leaving; “Oh, when?” I guess she thought I meant we would get paid work in town eventually and later leave like in a month and I said, “Today”. Haha. Yep, Josh and I don’t play around!
I feel like I should be paid to have to stay in that camper, but instead I was doing the dirty work, and not getting any cash. After two hours of cleaning floors, sinks, and showers (I am happy to say I didn’t have to do the toilets), we were finally done. And I was so relieved to see our red car parked by our caravan, meaning Josh was finished too. I walked up to him loading up our suitcases in the car, and he smiled and we both laughed and hugged each other. We cleaned up our caravan, emptied out our food from the shared kitchen fridge, and spit on the ground beside the aluminum and orange camper to show how we felt about that. We drove up the road to the office, said goodbye to the pretty valley, and goodbye to the owners. Another beautifully awkward moment. It was bittersweet to leave the snow-white Maltese whom I had befriended, but it was even sweeter to leave that bitter place. It’s a good thing we left, because if we hadn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing and you wouldn’t be sitting there reading this blog because Josh and I would have killed each other!
Dates: Saturday, December 3, 2011—Tuesday, December 6, 2011