Mini-update from the Bay of Islands

Sunday, Apr. 25, 2010. 09:13 PM
Mangonui, Northland, New Zealand

I’m a bit energetic, so here’s my attempt to put it to good use. I feel a little silly typing in my tent when there’s a gorgeous beach outside, with a million stars that I can somehow still see despite the irradiant moon. But in all fairness, I have seen quite a bit of this lately. It’s easy to finally “get” why people star-gaze when you can actually see the sky, which is even more astonishing in the ‘winter’, like the ones that flickr blue and red, and when shooting stars are guaranteed. And when you’re with somebody who knows a thing or two, even more amazing. I’m hitting the local Observatory next chance.

Limiting tangents… okay! One month ago, I bailed on the lovely South Island in order to explore the North Island, before winter relocated my ass to warmer paddocks. Since then I’ve managed to cycle quite a bit, camp heaps, and stay with phenomenal friends of friends of friends. This is how it works: assuming all goes well and a new friend becomes a friend-indeed, the Kiwis will hook-you up, underground railroad style, with another substantially stupendous person to stay with down the line, until you are safely ejected from the country at the other end for enjoying yourself too much, awe-struck at the awesomeness of it all. I haven’t been given the boot yet, but I am at the other end, and smiling ridiculously.

This isn’t some inside club, either, at least I don’t think so. I was picked-up hitchhiking by a Maori girl and boyfriend, set-up in their spare flat at my destination, and referred to a friend not far away should I need a contact there. In the morning when they came to see me off, they even offered to drive me 20km up my major hill to cross that day. I opted to bike up and camp out, for fun and self-sufficiency, but I love (and am getting used to) these “are you kidding me?” offers… it’s the Kiwi way. Happily, it’s contagious, making New Zealand a damn fine place to practice the code of Universal Love.

But what am I going on about? I’m here to update. So I’ve been warmly received in many places, working my way up the upper island. One day, smack dab in the middle of my North Island crossing, I felt the exhilarating chill of the Mount Tongariro Crossing (the coldest I’ve been in 3 years) and after stripping my way down to the relatively warm foothills, I decided to hop the train conveniently located in that nearest village up to Auckland, my gateway to the beaches and ancient forests of ‘winterless’ Northland.

In Auckland I got comfortably held-up among some choice company at my friend Ema’s flat called the Halfway House, which is not too far from the truth – just kidding – but was once upon a time an actual center for helping former drug addicts, prisoners, psychiatric patients, or others to adjust to life in general society. (thanks Oxford Dict, too lazy to paraphrase.) The vibe was sick, the 9 housemates were excellent (two of them accomplished female world-touring cyclists) and Halfway had policy of openness that included many house guests, like another world-class cyclist from France who’s clocked 55,000+ km in 4 years, and a charming Brit whose flight home was delayed a week due to the volcano. One fellow in particular impressed me most, Michael, with his passions for natural living, Aryuvedic medicine, and really healthy, home-grown food. He gave me a much-appreciated ride out beyond the sprawl of NZ’s largest city, enriched me with knowledgeable info on growing (like how he plays special music for his garden), and invited me to stop over on his 10-acre slice of permacultural goodness. Not only was his land, fiancé Jocelyn, and their food delightful, but they live in a tepee! Most fun of all, besides the great connection which I intend to revisit when I cycle back down that way, I felt like Superman on my bike the following day. It was the food and good tepee vibes! And there were hills, man! I could’ve kept going all night, tho, but the psychedelic sunsets are over by 6pm nowadays. (Humph :)

Back to my point, I was actually in a bit of a rush to get up to the Bay of Islands, the stuff of Travel Channel segments and postcards, so I could hang out with a German friend, Kathrin, one of my first friends here in New Zealand, who I met at the Rainbow gathering. This would be our third rendezvous since the festival, all the more reason to live it up before her flight home this week. For the last five days, we’ve been on cruises, seen pods of giant dolphins, snorkeled with families of squid, felt the toxic prick of sea urchins, kayaked in the moonlight, meditated at sunrise, and camped out on ‘our own’ island. Was sad to see her go today, but c’est la vie of a traveler!

Today I met a real oddity, a man who chatted me up about all the conspiracy theories about 9/11, Obama, the New World Order, the falsehood of money, the Federal Reserve, birth certificates, and passports. In truth he was fascinating too, if not a hustler (he gave me a ride and managed to get $5 out of me for petrol), but meeting him and his Maori girlfriend was a good prelude to my 75km ride, sampling some beautiful country and coastline. I met more Maori people today than ever before, all of whom were awesome (and helpful), which is how I found this camp site. My own beach, rock pools, trees poking out of the high tide, then a long rock jetty (1 hr return) at low tide, covered in mussels, so fun! As I was setting up my tent, another pleasant Maori in a Security vehicle drove up to say hi and check on me. He was with the construction team on the road above, and wanted to make sure I was okay and didn’t need anything. “Are you kidding me!?” I love this place. Good night.

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