1. rock, mud, logs and europeans
Here is my mini-mini version of Wild (probably—I still haven’t read it. But I want/plan to!). A grueling two-day hike is like every life journey: If you could see what you were getting into, you probably wouldn’t sign up for it, but in the end you’re glad you did it.
We rented a car (left side of the road—I was happy to be a backseat passenger) and drove through the sheep and cattle pastures of the NZ countryside. NZ is a big dairy exporter, and these cows look much happier than the ones you see on the side of the 5 freeway in smelly Hanford, California. These cows gambol.
|Happy as cows in spring.|
Doing something physical and faraway always makes worries fade. You also have plenty of time with your thoughts. I thought of Zoey on bed rest and how lucky we were to be able-bodied in NZ. It’s rare that I feel lucky next to any pregnant woman, so maybe that is the profound though I worked my way to on that long hike. But mostly the trip wasn’t that profound. No crying. An escape, but a subtle one. Maybe that means my life is actually okay right now?
|I'm smiling because I'm still wearing the small backpack.|
So I was pleasantly surprised to walk into the dining room, where there was a coal fire going and several dinners steaming up the room. There was a middle aged Australian couple, a funny thirty-ish German couple named Kat and Matt, and a young Dutch woman named Irene.
Later we were joined by Pete, the hut warden, who showed us slides (actual slides!) of the camp’s logging days: photo after photo of ragged men in front of kauri logs the circumference of Emily’s living room. Thousand-year-old trees felled and shoved down the mountain in various haphazard, inefficient ways (screeching down train tracks, crashing through dams).
|Irene and AK.|
|I need to stop carrying a Fossil purse on hikes if I want to look like a true mountaineer.|
I love traveling with a historian. Whenever things got dull, I could basically be like, “Emily, tell me a story.” She knows about NZ, Japan, Mormons, socialists (Marxist and Christian English subtypes) and much more.
|The original log ride.|
|Emily's fancy camera would do this scene justice.|
We landed, tired and cold and hungry and dirty, in Thames, where we had steak and fish and chips, respectively, at a sort-of-Indian restaurant. (My new fitness app said I’d burned something like 1,200 calories, so if ever there was a time to eat fish and chips, it seemed like now.)
2. adventure hub
This morning we bummed around Auckland in our creaky bodies. We went to the nicest souvenir shop ever, Pauanesia, site of stuffed kiwis made from salvaged fabric and handmade tropical textiles and expertly curated jewelry from local artists. The woman who owned the shop talked about the kiwis like they were her little buddies and wrapped everything in colorful tissue and stickers.
|One part store, one part art gallery.|
Emily drove us to Rotorua, two hours south, where we are now. It seems like a kind of adventure hub, with all kinds of manmade joyrides to fill up your free time between nature-based adventures. We keep joking about Zorb, a human-sized hamster ball you can roll in down a hill, and Wet Zorb, which is the aforementioned + water. The main draw is the geothermal pools; the whole town smells like sulfur, but in a comforting, spa-like way.
|Paella in Polynesia.|
|AK and Old Jemaine (who was really nice and is rocking the gray!).|