Sitting in the back of the land rover, sipping a cool L&P’s with the glare of the sun painting the marks on my sunglasses.
Cows grazing on golden grass along the roadside, while blueish black pukekos play chicken with the traffic.
Guitars whine on the radio – another rock god blowngs and twangs to the beat of steering wheel tapping.
The shining mirage of water as the heat rises off the road, shimmering in the sun and vanishing again.
This is New Zealand.
Late February: endless summertime. Of blues and greens like sapphire and emerald, and hazy black mountains on every horizon. Of longboard evenings and paddle board mornings, and gentle strolls in the shallows of the ocean while gulls placidly paddle nearby.
Soon, Autumn will dye the world ochre, and the horizons will be topped with white icing sugar, and the surf will grow fierce and impressive so that only the experts can ride it.
I met a man the other day. I was waiting at the bus stop and he was leaving his house on his pushbike.
“Have you seen the bus go past the other way yet?” he asked. I hadn’t. He told me his name was Rich and he was born just north of Auckland. His eyes were the blue of Paua shell, and he had a tinge of grey in his beard, but he was ageless. He told me about a lake just beyond the Rainbow Mountain; a mountain striped with a paint pallet of rocks and plants. The lake was called Waikaremoana. He’d picked up a German hitchhiker just around the Rainbow Mountain, and they’d carried on until they came across the lake, and they were both rendered speechless. He said it was the most beautiful lake he’d ever seen.
He told me about the time he did the Tongariro crossing in 100kph winds. By passers warned him not to venture up into the mountains, but he bypassed their caution and battled the great force of the weather. The rain lashed at his face and the air blew his weight around, until, losing track of his location, he found himself on a peak, gazing down upon sheer, brilliant blue. It was like he’d climbed to heaven and was looking down upon the sky, he said. He’d stumbled across one of the mountain lakes.
My bus arrived, and with that, Rich bid me a safe trip, and he cycled off.
Later the same day, I was waiting in a cashpoint queue behind a toothless maori. He turned to me and asked, “Hey, miss, do you like Bob Marley songs?” I nodded. Naturally. Who doesn’t like Bob Marley songs? The toothless maori then told me that he was a busker, and he sang Bob Marley songs for money. He told me his name, (which I couldn’t pronounce let alone write down), shook my hand and asked where I’m from. I told him and he grinned a toothless grin and said, “Well, Jaimie, if I see you in town, I’ll say hi but I shan’t bother you,” and he wished me a good stay in New Zealand and went about his business.
The next day, the toothless Bob Marley fan was working by the bus station – busking, singing songs and asking for a spare bob or two. He saw me waiting for my bus, pointed at me and with a big toothless grin, he waved and moved on.
Honest? Who knows. But he was a man of his word.
The sky may be upside down, and north may be the new south, but it is still the same planet; the same sun; the same moon; the same stars.
Only two weeks ago I bid my island farewell; standing atop the red funnel ferry, watching the little seaside town of Cowes growing smaller. Yachts bobbed in the harbour, their rigging clanging against the masts they clung to. The white heads of the waves smashed against the seawall where we walked between shifts at the Yacht Haven. I saw all the pebbles on the beach by the green that I hadn’t skimmed across the sea, and the beacon on the corner, in the void between Gurnard and Cowes, leading beyond which the eye can see, to more secret memories.
It’ll all be there waiting when I return.
But for now…