After little sleep, I awake early this morning to sit and stare at the raindrops dotting Ludwig’s window. When Friday awakes, I let him know that I’d like to go back to Auckland. He he appears to accept this but says he doesn’t know whether we can make the drive back early enough to return the camper van by 4:00pm, the latest drop-off time. I make the point that Google Maps says it’s only 251 Kilometers (155 miles) and he points out that we’re in a camper van and there are no super-highways in northern New Zealand, not to mention Auckland’s terrible traffic. I take the point and we decide to travel to a town which, he says, is an approximate halfway point and we can reevaluate then.
We both make attempts to be civil and he even waits for me after I’d pointed out the previous night that it appears he doesn’t even wish to be seen with me, as he walks ahead and doesn’t wait if I use the restroom (he says he’s like this with everyone, yet he waited for the younger girl at the sand dunes to get to the top with her surfboard). Throughout the short trip, I’ve asked questions about his family, the places he’s lived and his history, in an effort to get to know him, as you would with any travel companion. He doesn’t ask about my history. Today, he appears to want to find out more about what it’s like working on a cruise ship and for Disney.
After three hours, we arrive at the halfway point and decide that we, most likely, won’t make it to Auckland in time. Friday gets his wish and we’ll be spending another night in Ludwig. We pull into Helensville and decide to walk over to the beach just across the road. We actually walk together which is something new and different. The huge waves crash fairly far out before creeping up the shoreline to meet the sand. I notice something moving on the beach trying to waddle towards the water. As we get closer, we see that it’s a lone seal pup. As we watch, it slowly works its way towards the incoming tide until it meets the remnants of a wave and follows its nose to disappear under the water. It’s a beautiful moment of peace and tranquility which would be incredible if shared with someone I actually like (or even by myself). As this entire experience is one of learning, I decide to check on the internet what symbolism a seal might hold. One article I found says, “If seal enters your life, you are being asked to review the ebb and flow of your thoughts and emotions and find and keep up a point of balance.” So there’s that. As we walk away, I worry about the seal pup and wonder why he was alone and if he’ll be okay in that vast body of water. Perhaps I also relate a bit.
We head back to the holiday park, pick up Camper van Beethoven, and drive up the winding road to grab some fish and chips at a shop we saw on the way in. Neither of us feels much like cooking as the cooking and cleanup can be a team-effort and this team is beyond repair. And neither of us could face the one-on-one quietness of eating at a table in a camper van in the woods. We stop in the Waimauku Foodstation where I have my first bite of New Zealand fish and chips. It’s cold and rainy outside and the waitress there is warm and welcoming. It’s amazing how far a little kindness can go when you really need it.
After downing our fish and chips, we head back down the long and winding road that, with all respect to the Beatles, doesn’t lead to your door, but to the campground. We use my wireless modem which I bought at the beginning of the trip; me to search out AirBnB’s in which to stay and Friday, to make his plan (though I’m pretty sure he mostly had it when we started out). I’ve already had to spend another NZ$50 on more data as I don’t believe 2 Degrees Wireless gave me the 4 GB they promised, as it ran out after two days (my kingdom for an honest man!).
We awake in the morning and decide to head to the café at the entrance to the park to grab breakfast. This was originally suggested by Friday but, thirty-minutes later, he looks at his watch and suggests we just head straight to Auckland. As this feels like he’s confirmed his plans to meet this other person earlier, I insist that I’d like breakfast.
As I stop the van, he bails and walks into the café and, when I enter, he’s nowhere to be found. I assume he’s gone to the restroom. I also assume he’s attempting to contact whoever he’s meeting to tell them an approximate arrival time. An older man sitting at a nearby table begins making pleasant conversation, asking about where I’m from, how long I’m here, and where I’ll be heading next. It’s difficult to explain. When Friday returns, the man asks the same questions and Friday tells him he’s renting a car in Auckland today and heading to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. I’m floored. This is the place that I’ve said, no less than three-times, that I wanted to go. When I initially mentioned them, Friday said there are many of glowworm caves as he passed countless ones before we met up. When we passed the Waitomo ones on the way up, I was told we’d catch them on the way back down. I said I’d read about the boats at this one which you can go through in and, surprise, the old man talks about the black water rafting there and Friday seems to know all about it. Apparently Friday will see glowworms and I will not.
I can no longer find it in me to be nice. We get in the van and do as little talking as possible. We arrive at the Maui Camper Rentals by about 11:45 and clean out the van while saying as little as possible to each other. His few words to me are, “Can you empty the toilet? I only used it about half the time” (He’s a guy and often stepped outside to pee.) Gotta love a gentleman. As he only has a backpack, it takes longer for me to pack as I’ve left my summer things in my big bag which I stored at the camper van rental office. As I finish packing and head off to empty the toilet he waits inside.
We both catch the shuttle to the airport where he heads to the rental car desk and I head for Super Shuttle which will take me to my AirBnB accommodations. We sit nowhere near each other on the bus and, when we get out, he tries to say, “Well, some things were fun, and some weren’t.” Ya think? My response, “You know, some day I think you’ll look back and say, ‘I was a real asshole to that girl and she didn’t deserve that.’” He just grunts and says, “Well, I don’t know. . . “
I wander around and, finally locate Super Shuttle. I climb aboard and, after we drop off one business man at his hotel, Don, the driver tells me this is his last run and he’s headed home for a drink so, if I’m up to it, he’ll take me on a short tour of Auckland center. Again, a moment of kindness goes a long way. I accept his gracious offer and he points out the ferry terminal, where I can catch a ferry to Davenport, where there’s a hill to climb with a great view of Auckland and the harbor, a waterfront area with shops and cafes, and a maritime museum. Ferries also go to different islands with wineries (oh yes, yes, a thousand-times yes!). He shows me where the Auckland War Memorial Museum is (it’s huge!) as well as Queen Street (a central street with lots of shops, galleries, and more) and the wharf area where there’s a fish market. We arrive at my AirBnB and I thank Don for his kindness in taking the time to get me comfortable in the city.
My host is out but has left the key and texted me with instructions of how to get in. Though it’s more than I’d like to pay and further out than I’d like to be, I didn’t have a lot of lead time to search and I’m just looking for a soft place to land.
Tomorrow – Exploring Auckland.