i walk alone
912 TA kms, Christmas day 2016
But I don’t–not on this trail, anyway.
Mentioned before that I came to New Zealand with a friend I had met on the AT. So far it has been only two or three days in this hike we hadn’t hiked together. Now a whole month in as of Christmas day, I mean today, we both set off from Cape Reinga, the northern tip of new Zealand, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific, where the spirits of the Maori cosmology flea into th wild from their forest and mountainous haunts.
I am not used to hiking with people, not as a team anyway. I prefer to remain an outlier in a group, hike along the edges, deciding when to drift toeard the social centrifuge and when to swing to the outer orbits or simply dissapear altogher.
I loved that about the Appalachian trail. You can choose to be part of hiker bubbles while remaining totally prepheral. I feel like I don’t have that here and it is not as if anyone’s forcing me to do so. Part of it, I think, is my own sense of obligation.
That said I had found some of the best trail magic on this trail in those two short days when I had pushed through on my own, following my own intuition, sometime in the company of others, other times, alone.
I had mentioned Farmer Allen in one of my earlier notes. His timely hospitality was a fantastic augure for the trail. I’ll long remebered him as the person who injected much needed faith I had come to expect on the long windy road to nowhere.
If you aren’t familiar with Allen, he picked up K2 and I as th light was fading, took us home, shared his table and home with us when we were struggling to find a way to the cape.
Since then there has been a number of other individuals who have come to our aid in many ways and I’ll do my best to remember them. I want to omit their names not just because I can’t remember them all but also I because in a way their anonymity is part and parcel of their hospitality. Not always of course. Some love the publicity, like Sandra and Podge at the Mercer tavern who bill themselves as walker-stalkers. These couple own a tavern and a motel, invite hikers into their establishment, provide them with free showers and a space to tent, all 251 one of us at the time of my arrival, this year alone, because they simply get a great kick out of host us feral children of the bush. They are genninjnely interested in meeting walkers and take a certain pride in being part of the trail community. It helps their business too but I think that is a happy bonus that most grateful hikers are only too glad to contribute towards. Though I didn’t stay there I definitely used the shower and spent more money than I would have at a holiday park, most of which charge exorbitant amounts of money for a patch of grass and very little amenities, not even a shower sometimes unless I pay by the minute.
Th podges have inspired others in the community who see us a roaming money purse that’s hell bent on consuming copious amounts of food and drink. While wanting to be part of the adventure they clearly see a financial angle for hosting hikers for free. And this is awesome. It builds community, a linear family mutually benefiting one another while broadeningthe scope and scale of human interaction and kindness. I think anyway; The exver expanding linear family.
And there are the individuals little but their own sense of hospitality and kindness who take you in for the night. Share a meal and offer you a warm dry place to rest your bones. Sometimes it is a hitch across a dangerous highway for a few miles. Other times it is an fresh fruit and the offer water from a clean source.
I even dang happy birthday to a 13 year old girl at a pool pizza party whole eating some of her birthday cake.
Hospitality in this country is unforced and often gennuine, even from establishments that expect you to pay, like a hostel.
Its markedly different from the looks and stares I receive in North America or Nowhere else for that matter that makes keel completely out of place even if I had every right to be where I am, be it a bar, a laundromat or a small town library.
I don’t feel so judged and silently appraised here for what I look ad may seem like. Perhaps I am not yet clued onto the codes if appraisal here. Surely I am judged but the kindness I’ve received from folks even as they talk about white privilege in scarcely understood terms is gennuine. It seems that way at least and I sure hope I am not projecting some sort of pastoral bias onto New Zealanders.
I had respectful, candid conversation with a tavern owner about woofers, neo indentured servitude, the dearth of(cheap) labour force and its implications for the world economies, white preivlege, and Donald Trump to no end. Some with an European kiwi about his views on Maori relationship that borderd on bitterness but one that blamed the government than the maori. And countless individuals who decry the image of new Zealand as a ecological safe zone and the stifling holdtransnational corporations have begin to take on this country’s natural resources. This is all limited sample of course but all of my conversations thus far had been candid and there is a gennuine desire for human interaction over the mechanistic. This is changing of course in a mutable world. But newzeland along with their bees will save this planet. I don’t doubt it.
But I want to talk about Ralph. Ralph had always followed the borizon. He put his faith in what needed to and asked only for guidance and strength, he told me over a sip of rum. He distills the finest rum that Id ever likely to taste. And this is no exaggeration for Ralph is a rum connoisseur.he brought it six of his top shelf rum, some so rare that you can no longer purchase them. One had won the best rum in the Pacific ocean; it was French.
After sipping some of the best rims in the world we had to concede, Ralph’s manuka rum as superior in character, subtlety and flavour profile.
He began distilling his own rum when an accidident that severed his thumb forced him away from work. Even at seventy, Ralph is an avid builder of old world long homes. He made his money sailing, he told me , long ago in a small island off new york. He traded pearls and other precious objects across the world and had came to New Zealand on a whim, riding the crest of adventure in the ripe age of late fifties and settled in, building homes that didn’t leak–he had his own gripe about the building codes in this country dictated by industrial giants but that’s another story.
Point is Ralph and his wife Sharon took me in when I thought all hope of finding a shelter that night outside a forest was nill. I had hiked forty Km that day through muddy forests and winding, treacherous hilltops and farm paths.itwas already dark and I had given up hope when raplhy and his wife, returning from a party pulled up next to me on an gravel road offers me a ride, and then a spot to camp on their lawn, then their summer cottage, then dinner, then the rum and fine stories and inspiration.
This planet is full of people who want to explore and plunder and it also home to those who cherish it and give back when they could, take stewardship and ownership when they can.
Last night we made a hodgepodge dinner for fifteen hikers in a very communal informal kind of festive way…There were ample food and drinks and merriment and it was just fine. The owners here at casara Mesa hostel have been fantastic to us.they even made us some mince Xmas pies. The traditional fruit kind.
Blessed art those who deal in kindness for they inherit the kingdom beyond