Kiweeks

“I came here for two weeks…that was six years ago.”

Robin, Wharariki Beach Holiday Park

“I came here for a week’s vacation…that was about five years ago.”

Roland, Coronet Peak Ski Resort, Queenstown

“I visited for a couple weeks fifteen years ago. I went home, packed, came back, got a job, and I never left.”

Patron at The Ballarat, Queenstown

Welcome to New Zealand.

*This post was edited and published after my return to the U.S.*

I’d had another long layover – the downside of budget travel – spending the night sleeping on a wood and metal bench in the brightly lit, cold, and desolate terminal of the Melbourne International Airport. It was after 11PM and there was just one other traveler, asleep on a nearby bench, and only the occasional worker walking by. I had on my longsleeve shirt and the EMS windbreaker my brother Steven had gifted me at the beginning of my yearlong journey. Knit hat on, hood up and pulled down over my eyes. I wedged my backpack between my bench and the glass outer wall, and used my daypack as a pillow. Not exactly memory foam, but I’d gotten used to giving up so many of my creature comforts by now. It wasn’t the best sleep I’d ever had, but it also wasn’t the worst. I’d spent one night in the hedges in the UK ferry town of Portsmouth, after all.

When I woke for good, around 4AM, the benches and floor along the windowed walls were full of waiting travelers, some entire families. I repacked my gear and walked to the nearest restroom to brush my teeth, splash some water on my face, and wait half an hour to check in for my flight to Christchurch, New Zealand, the final foreign country of this amazing adventure. When I finally reached an agent, I discovered I was not only in the wrong line, I was in the wrong wing of the terminal.

Not a great start.

When I finally reached an agent in the correct line of the correct wing, I was asked for proof of departure from New Zealand.

“I don’t have a ticket out yet,” I said without worry. If this has been a year ago, I would have been panicked. Better yet – I would have been prepared. By now, though, I’d reverted to dealing with being entirely unprepared with the same concern as that of a lazy teen.

“Well I’m sorry, but you’ll need one in order to board the plane,” he replied.

Fuck.

The challenge for travelers on trips like mine is we don’t always know how long we’re going to stay in any particular town, never mind country. A week. Maybe a month. Who knows. And New Zealand is a country that allows visa-on-arrival, so I’d gambled I wouldn’t be asked for proof of departure, and if I did, eh, whatever, I’d figure it out. The old me wouldn’t have dared leave something like that to chance, fearing the rubber hose treatment and weeks in solitary eating goulash. But now? Now I was a man who needed to do math to know if it was time to change his underwear, so worrying about a departure ticket from a country in which I had no idea how long I’d be staying was like preparing my taxes months in advance.

Luckily, I’d also learned about companies like onewayfly.com. For around fifteen bucks you can get a very real reservation on a very real flight, a ticket that checks out even when searched online by an airline agent. Your reservation is good for 48 hours, and then it disappears. You get to fly, and the airline still gets to sell the seat. Win-win.

Five minutes later, despite the agent looking at me and my business class international airline ticket with deserved suspicion, I had my boarding pass in hand.

As smoothly as that wrinkle was ironed out, however, I still couldn’t shake the feeling I’d made a terrible mistake. Indonesia had been paradise. I could have extended my visa and stayed another month, even more. I could have searched out those wild orangutans. I could have gotten dive certified. I could have done nothing more than snorkel coral reefs, swim with endangered turtles, and drink $2 Bintangs all day. But I’d left, and Australia had been a bit of a bust, not to mention a pain in my wallet. I’d just spent the night sleeping on a bench like a hobo. I was bone cold. I was hungry. I was tired. And now I was flying to equally expensive New Zealand. Sure, it was July, but in New Zealand that’s not just the dead of winter, it was the dead of a La Niña winter, and I would be living out of an Astrovan for the entire month.

My arrival wouldn’t go much smoother. Despite reservations and payment in full, my van wasn’t there. I didn’t have a SIM card to make phone calls or send texts to the crappy, shitty, awful rental agency, Spaceships, Limited (that’s a quote from my Yelp! review). And the only time they replied to my email – in which I told them I had no phone service – was to tell me to call their office. I might have just walked the couple miles to the rental agency if not for the raw, cold rain.

Fuck. Again.

I’d been remarkably lucky, really, over the past year. I’d grown very accustomed to inconveniences like these. I’d even learned to find the silver linings. Every negative, every glitch, every little bump in the road had led to something new and unexpected, things I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. My immediate reaction to plans gone awry used to be frustration and expletives only Ernie and Hadley would hear, but over the past several months I’d learned to simply take things as they came. Everything works out, after all. It always does. I still hadn’t lost this new, positive perspective, but something deep inside me was being poked. My inner curmudgeon was being awakened, perhaps.

“This was a mistake. Goddammit. I never should have left Bali,” I suddenly found myself muttering.

And then something remarkable happened. A miracle, really. A final gift from Dad, perhaps. Standing in the middle of the terminal, frustrated, defeated, I looked up from my email and there it was: a payphone.

To some of a certain age, finding a payphone is hardly worthy of being called miraculous. But when you consider that many more are likely asking, “What the hell is a payphone?” you might understand where one could see the divine.

While Perth, Australia, is literally the farthest place on Earth from Narragansett, Rhode Island – for me, New Zealand was its figurative. It was the destination after which, every mile east would be one step closer to home. It was the one place I knew that if they hadn’t lifted their covid restrictions just in the nick of time, I would very likely never get the chance to return. And shaky start aside, I was actually here, after all. I’d done it. The final bucket list box for this trip was checked. And just like that, thanks in no small part to an antiquated piece of technology, my head and heart were suddenly back in the game.

Prisoner of Zed-na.
Okay, so the sun didn’t suddenly come out and color the day with singing songbirds. No, not quite. I still needed to shop for winter clothes and find a warm bed for the night. I thought it’d be kind of cool to book a room at the Jailhouse Hostel – an actual, former Christchurch prison. Cool? Eh. Cold? Definitely. I hadn’t been truly warm for several days, and this place had no heat. Zero.

Here I can be seen getting into prison character while looking for the cappuccino machine.

Life on the inside of a prison hostel isn’t easy. I remember one time during my single night stretch I was lying in my top bunk streaming Netflix, probably something violent and manly – definitely not a period piece – while enjoying a bottle of toilet Cabernet. It was late, and one of my nine roommates had come in and taken the bunk below. Soon after I corked the bottle and placed it in my daypack at the foot of my bunk, I heard a clank, a slide, and a clunk – the bottle had slipped out of the pack and down the wall to the bunk below. It didn’t sound like it hit the floor, and the guy below had already begun to snore. I would lie there for a moment, thinking, “Okay, well, this is awkward, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…,” so I did what any man would do – I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

In the morning I would have to wake my downbunk neighbor to say “Sorry man, but I need to lean over you for a sec,” grabbing the wedged bottle from between his bunk and the wall. A short time later I would use fine espresso coffee grounds to draw a teardrop tattoo upon my face, forever marking the darkest moment of my time on the inside.

Time served, I did what any newly freed man would do – I bought a box of warm supermarket fried chicken and ate it on front seat of my Astrovan while sitting in a mall parking garage before heading into KMart to buy some discount winter clothes.

Now I was ready to begin my final adventure.

Tinkerbell. My transportation and accommodation for roughly half of the coming month’s nights.

“Tinkerbell? Seriously? I have this thing for a month. Any chance you have a Magellan on the lot? No? A Raleigh? Hell, I’ll settle for an Attila if you got one. No? Dammit.”

Tinkerbell would serve me well. She had no heating system for camping, but she did have a comfortable mattress, clean linens, curtains, a fridge, sink, gas stove – she even had a portable toilet, though I made the executive decision that it would be reserved only for the most dire of situations.

Within an hour of pulling away from the raw and rainy gray day at the Mall of Christchurch, the skies began to clear, and I got my first taste of the New Zealand that lay ahead.
My route would take me NW from Christchurch to Abel Tasman, then farther NW to the (unmarked) peninsula of Puponga, then south to Westport, Greymouth, Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers, Aoraki Mt. Cook, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Te Anau, Invercargill, The Catlins, Dunedin, Moeraki, Oamaru, Timaru, Akaroa, and back to Christchurch. My route followed almost the entire outermost red-colored road system shown on the map above.

I’d drive northwest from Christchurch, crossing the frosted Southern Alps, through Lewis Pass at an altitude just shy of 3,000 feet, to get to The Barn Cabins & Camp and the Abel Tasman Coast Track, at the southern island’s northern point. The hostel campground had a community cabin with kitchen and appliances, a wood stove, clean bathrooms and showers. It was a comfortable place to test my mettle in the evening’s 30 degree temps. I started the van to run the heat before bed, and slept just fine, but stepping out into the morning cold took some getting used to.

The first morning of my roadtrip around the Southern Island, I’d hike several miles of the gorgeous Abel Tasman Coast Track, crisscrossing beaches and forest, caves and hillsides. While I would stick to day trips, hikers can spend several days on this nearly 40 mile trail alone, camping out or spending nights in cabins along the stunning coastal trail.
Tinline Bay.

Tinline Bay Intense Spelunking Video ; )
Apple Tree Bay.

Despite plans to begin driving south along the west coast, I decided to drive even farther north, along the hairpin mountain roads leading to the hip, hippy town of Takaka, then farther along to Puponga, the northernmost spit of land, in search of Wharariki Beach. I changed plans on the impassioned advice of Julie, a fellow traveler I met at The Barn – and my lord, was she right.

The hike to Wharariki Beach was spectacular by itself, a right-of-way through peaceful and picturesque pastureland accompanied only by grazing cattle and bleating sheep…

Holy Sheep (video)

And then, this…pastureland, woodlands, and a stunning first look at Wharariki Beach and the roaring Tasman Sea, all in one view.
The only way to access this end of Wharariki Beach is if you catch low tide. Luck was with me – with a little help from a wonderfully kind and knowledgable woman at the Golden Bay Visitor Center in Takaka, who told me not only about this track, but the timing of the tides as well.

Beach (low tide) panorama video

Despite a few footsteps in the sand, I walked Wharariki Beach alone until five riders on horseback appeared in the distance, providing a spectacular sight as they passed.
With winter in July, some New Zealanders do in fact celebrate the Christmas season twice a year. I was told that this tree, at Noah’s Ark Backpackers Hostel in Greymouth, however, was actually in honor of the Māori, New Zealand’s indigenous people. The Māori finally received a long-awaited apology and millions of dollars in reparations for atrocities committed by the New Zealand government, which included mass killings and stolen tribal land. The apologies and acknowledgment of land ownership can be heard and seen everywhere, on tv and radio, in airports, restaurants, museums, and more. Many nations – including my own – could learn a thing or two.

From Greymouth, I actually backtracked a bit, having bypassed the northern coastal route to Punakaiki the night before due to a rockslide. Heavy rains had been wreaking havoc in recent weeks, and while I’d driven through my fair share of wet weather, the timing and duration of the rains had mostly worked in my favor. Backtracking proved worthwhile…

The Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki, layers of limestone formed by fragments of marine organisms 35 million years ago. Scientists have yet to determine how and why the rocks formed in layers.
One of many blowholes along the Punakaiki coast. The more famous, massive blowholes near the Pancake Rocks were a bit dormant, my arrival coinciding with low tide and calm seas, neither of which are ideal for a show, but I got the occasional treat from smaller ones along the shoreline.
Punakaiki Cavern is another popular destination, better at night due to the presence of thousands and thousands of bioluminescent blue glow-worms that hang from the ceilings. I was tempted to come back at night to see the amazing show until I discovered what exactly those bioluminescent strands actually are – a vomited string of mucus and urine. In other words, a cavern by day, a frat house by night. Time to move on.

My ride from Punakaiki to Franz Josef would take me along the coast via Route 6, The Great West Coast Road, picture-postcard after picture-postcard. In fact, the coastline and inlets around the entire Southern Island, West and East, were stunning…

…and at times, adorable…

After a freezing cold, rainy night in Orange Sheep Campervan Park in Franz Josef, during which I woke and started the engine at least once to heat the van, I decided it was time for a warm bed at Glow Worm Hostel. I’d get a private room for a couple of nights, crank the heat, buy some cold beer, and make myself at home by the common area wood stove with views of Mount Muller, Mount Burster, and other snowcapped peaks.

It was here that I met Alex, a 20-something German woman, and her partner, a 65-year-old, bearded, overweight, shoeless, limping bundle of laughter and talk named Milton. Milton had spent the night sleeping in the car, he told me, an electric that had run out of juice just 10km from the hostel. They’d flagged down a passing couple, and Alex came to the hostel while Milton stayed behind. Not for lack of money, he assured me – earlier in the day he’d used a sizable inheritance to pay off his and his kids’ mortgages, with plenty left over – he was just more comfortable sleeping out there than in here.

A storyteller, Milton eventually got around to the fact he’d cut his entire left hand off with a power saw some thirty years ago. It was hanging by a flap of skin, he said. The surgeons were on strike at the time, but there was one young man still on duty, fresh out of University. He’d just spent nine hours in the operating room, and was napping “under the stairs” when he got the call to work on Milton, to whom he would later say, “Thank you for your hand – most surgeons spend their entire careers waiting for such an opportunity.” The young doctor would reattach Milton’s hand during 16 hours of surgery – far from the last he would need. But seven hours after the initial surgery, Milton had movement in his fingertips. Today he has the grip of a bear, and can even play piano, writing and singing an original song after the loss of his wife, Teena. He couldn’t have been happier when I asked if he had it on video, and asked only that I “like it” on YouTube if I thought it was worthy. I did, and hope you do too:  

Milton’s song for his late wife, Teena. Give it a listen, and then please give him a LIKE on YouTube.
We New Englanders like to say, “If you don’t like the weather, just give it a minute.” But here, the weather truly does change in minutes and around the next bend. This was on a 10 minute drive from my hostel…
…to here.

Okay, fine, to the parking lot that got me here, to Franz Josef Glacier, which is a pleasant hike of just 15 minutes more. Depending on the time of the year, the river bed below can fill quickly and become unpredictable and dangerous. Due to safety concerns and repeated stupidity, hikers are no longer allowed beyond this point.
The snowcapped mountains, glaciers, and iceberg lakes proved picture-book stunning, but were accompanied by sobering realities. New Zealand does a tremendous job with trail maintenance and signage – even in the most remote areas. This sign snapshot was from Franz Josef. The main photo shows the glacier in 2010. The circular inset warns of a dire scene in 2100 should the snow melt continue at that same rate. My photo (above these) is Franz Josef in 2022. Notice that the glacier today has already receded farther than the dire prediction for 2100, still 78 years away.

It’s already too late, folks.
Peter’s Pool!

Okay, fine, it’s actually called PETERS Pool, don’t nitpick.

I mentioned the fantastic maintenance and signage on even the most remote trails, but sometimes, well….

By far, my favorite is top left. I don’t know how to feel about a bridge that’s safe for five, but will completely collapse and kill everyone with six. What if there are just five of you but you’re all oversized Americans? What if there are five of you but one fat one? What if the fat one is your significant other, and you’ve been wise enough not to mention those extra holiday pounds up to this point? Do you risk your life to save the lives of your friends? So many questions…
Much of the southern island was home to Lord of The Rings location filming. This moraine trail to Fox Glacier definitely conjured images from the movie series.
Fox Glacier.
New Zealand was the home of rainbows. I must have seen 10. All were stunning, but it’s hard to beat a solid rainbow in front of a glacier. Hot damn.
This was my view for weeks. Or pretty close, anyway. I would pull over dozens of times. Another mountain vista pic would always come with the justification, “Just in case it’s the last one!”
It never was, but I don’t regret a single photo-op stop…

The ride on Wednesday was gorgeous. I would stop at Lake Matheson, hike to Jetty Viewpoint, then drive the World Heritage Highway to Knight’s Point, Fantail Falls, and finally, to Ahuriri Bridge Conservation Area for the night. It was very cold, but clear, the constellations ablaze. I could see “Milky Street,” reminding me of Indonesia, of how far I’d come, all I’d seen, everyone I’d met along the way, and that my adventure – this one, anyway – was drawing to a close. Did I really even imagine I’d make it this far? During Covid? With so many potential pitfalls? And was I ready to be done and go home? That last question would be answered emphatically, first thing the next morning.

There was only one other group in the campground, and they would be gone when I awoke, leaving me to enjoy this gorgeous sunrise on my own…

Morning at Ahuriri Bridge Conservation Area with the sun rising behind Benmore Peak.
Cold, creaky, and exceedingly happy.
Peters Pool. Peters Lookout. I’m a big name here.
Today’s destination – Mount Cook.
Tasman Lake in Aoraki National Park.
And yes, that’s an iceberg.
I would see Mount Cook, hike Tasman Trail to Glacier Lake, Kea Trail to Mueller Lake. The winds were unforgiving, but the chill I felt had more to do with the scenery than the cold.
Did I mention the winds were unforgiving?

I got out and walked toward the camper (for pictures, not to help, pfft…) but the wind was so fierce it blew me onto the grass and I had to kneel in the field and cover my head from a relentless hailstorm of BB-sized pebbles.
Just your everyday single-frame photo of bluffs, beach, gorgeous glacial waters, and distant snowcapped mountains. In New Zealand, I call this “a Tuesday.”
No, wait, it’s Wednesday.
Wait, no it isn’t…
From Mount Cook (behind that distant cloud) I would head for Mackenzie Basin, then bed down for the night at Lake Pukaki. Heavy rain and high winds would arrive after dark, and Tinkerbell and her occupant shuddered for most of the night. Morning would bring calmer winds, but the evening’s rains would prove to be the last straw for many roads and crumbling hillsides ahead. I would fjord overflowing throughways, appear on the news in a shot of flooded Omarama, and pass my breached Ahuriri Campground on my return – had I been one night later, I would have woken up afloat.
White Fallow Deer along the highway, just outside of Twizel.

Video

The iconic Lake Wanaka Tree. Wanaka is a very, very cool ski town, with hip shops, galleries, craft brew pubs, a lively social scene and some amazing views of Lake Wanaka. I came “this close” to staying, but Queenstown beckoned.
It wasn’t just mountain vistas for which I pulled over…the Cardrona Bra Fence is one example. More than a quirky tourist attraction, it also serves as a fundraiser for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. And yes, I donated – I gave two dollars, I took two bras. That’s how it works, right?
When people think you’re taking a picture of them…
…but you were really just taking a selfie with the espresso martinis you’re about to drink. The Ballarat in Queenstown was a blast. Jam-packed with kind and courteous people, and The Execs were maybe the best cover band I’ve ever heard. Or maybe it was just the martinis. Either way, I hadn’t had a night out in some time, and I didn’t let this one go to waste. As Johnny Strat used to say, “One martini is not enough. Two martinis is too many. Three martinis is not enough.”
I passed a female hiker on Abel Tasman Coast Track and remember being confused as to whether I’d just seen a goatee, a tattoo, or maybe just some sloppy soup eating. It lingered in my brain for longer than it should have. Much later, I would see New Zealand news anchor Oriini Kaipara (in pink) on tv, sporting what I would finally discover was an ancestral Māori chin tattoo. Thoughts?
Falls Creek rapids, on the way to Milford Sound.
An early mountain moon in Milford Sound.
Besides being picturesque, Milford Sound is an active fishing port. Grouper, Kingfish, Tuna, Broadbill, Crabs, Crayfish, and more. But only the hardy need apply, as conditions here can be unforgiving. I walked to the waterfront in the late afternoon of an evening that would see temps dip close to 30, and found two women on the docks looking for the Seven-Gill sharks that frequent the port looking for scraps and bycatch.
Water, marsh, woods, and snowcapped mountains.

I would hop aboard Milford Haven for a two hour tour of the sound, which, ironically, isn’t a “sound” at all – it’s a fiord, but that’s for another day… There were only twelve of us aboard a boat that could carry several times that number, and that suited me just fine. In fact, it was worthy of a toast.

It took only a minute or two before a half dozen porpoises appeared and stayed alongside for the entire ride out. We also saw two Fjordland Crested Penguins, and a handful of seals.

Within a minute, the porpoises joined us for our cruise.

Porpoise video? Of course!

The waterfalls of Milford Sound were astounding, but truth be told, New Zealand was as rich with waterfalls as it was with rainbows, snowcapped mountains, and mesmerizing shoreline…
Aboard Milford Haven I met a very nice couple from Christchurch. The husband asked if I was going to Invercargill to see “The World’s Fastest Indian?”

I am now.

The late Irving Hayes was a dear friend and financial sponsor of world record motorcycle speedster Bill Munro – who was clocked at 183.586 MPH on this very motorcycle (and it’s aerodynamic body shell, also on display).

E. Hayes & Sons Hardware not only offers all you need in the realm of hardware, they’ve also got a full-service café, gift shop, and an astounding collection of classic motorcycles and cars, none more famous than The World’s Fastest Indian, its story told on the silver screen starring Anthony Hopkins.
Hangin’ with a Sea Lion at Waipapa Point Recreation Reserve. Alone once again – or so I thought – I was at least 200 yards from the water, with a steep bluff to the shoreline below, reading about where the sea lions rest, recreate, and what to do if you come across one, not realizing this guy was 15 feet behind me the whole time.

A Half-hearted Hello

Equator? Check! Slope Point? Check! Next up -The South Pole????
Slope Point, the southernmost point of New Zealand’s southern island.
In search of the Yellow Eyed Penguin, the rarest penguin in the world! Sure, it’s a bit reminiscent of my experience with Puffins in the Faroe Islands, but this was decidedly different. First, this was as close as they ask visitors to get to these rare birds. Second, I met a couple from Dunedin as I climbed down the hillside from the Petrified Forest of Curio Bay to the beach below. They’d been coming here for 10 years in hopes of seeing just one of these guys, and the last time either had seen one was 7 years ago. We would see THREE come ashore this evening alone, and make the hilariously goofy and arduous walk across a hundred yards of craggy rock to their homes in the dunes. This one stood perched upon a rock for a bit, apparently waiting for a potential mate to come ashore. Tough to see, but I assure you it’s a Yellow Eyed Penguin. After all, have I ever lied to you?
Sunset at Curio Bay.
In search of Little Blue Penguins at sunrise.
Evidence of an early-rising Little Blue Penguin making its way out for a long day of fishing – but it’s as close as I’d come this day.
Nugget Point Lighthouse in Otago.
Of all the penguin blinds in all the world, she had to walk into mine…
At the nearby Roaring Bay Penguin Blind I would not see any Yellow Eyed Penguins, but I would meet a 6’5″ professional basketball player, a singer, and a model – and they were all the same person. Shelby Cheslek, an American, Gonzaga grad, former Phoenix Mercury player, New Zealand Penguins player, and today a center for the Dublin, Ireland, Tolka Rovers, came into the blind along with her biggest fan – her Mom. They were a delight, and I’m a new fan. Follow Shelby on Facebook and IG!
Sandfly Bay
Windy, cold, steep, and – despite the footprints – entirely void of humans upon my arrival, but humans are not what I came here to see…
Sandfly Bay is a favorite hangout for Sea Lions, and there were dozens.

Sea Lions of Sandfly Bay (video)

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little intimidating crisscrossing in between these massive animals, as sea lions can be very protective, sometimes aggressive, and faster than you think.

A Sea Lion Rebuffed! (video)

Sure I lost the damage deposit, but only a fool passes up free horse manure.
Atop Harbour Cone, Dunedin’s volcanic peak, via Bacon Track.
Chalet Backpackers. Dunedin, New Zealand.
The first restless night’s sleep I had in months. I took it as a sign the end is nigh.
But first…fur seal viewing at Shag Point.
The fascinating Moeraki Boulders along the Otago Coast.

Obviously, these boulders are septarian concretions which have been exhumed from the mudstone and bedrock enclosing them and concentrated on the beach by coastal erosion...but if that’s not obvious to you, just click the underlined link above and read about them on Wikipedia.
I was too early to see the Little Blue Penguins at Oamaru Penguin Colony, but the place was silly with fur seals. Later, at Empire Backpackers Hostel, the lovely manager Vivian would take me to the waterfront after dark, when the Little Blue Penguins come out in droves. The first of many we encountered were a couple streets in from the waterfront, running around and vocalizing in the shadows. An amazing way to spend the evening, with some wonderful company. Thanks Vivian!

Fur Seal comes ashore at Oamaru Penguin Colony (video)


The next night I found myself back in Christchurch, at Urbanz Backpackers.

I was so close to being home, this amazing journey so close to being over, that I was finally feeling ready. I was tired, and I was looking forward to seeing Mom, my brothers and sister, nieces and nephews. My friends, my house, and of course, Ernie and Hadley.

From here I would be flying to Auckland, and then to Hawaii. All of my connections went through Honolulu, and I discovered that it was actually cheaper for me to buy two separate tickets to get home to Rhode Island, rather than have a couple hour layover before continuing on – so what the heck, why not spend a couple days in the Hawaiian sun? I mean, seeing the world is exhausting, and who deserved a little vacation more than me, ammiright?!?

Hello??

Well, anyway, I’d just spent a cold and wet winter month in a van, and I could use a couple days of warm sun and sand, not to mention a little color.

I rested in Christchurch for a couple of days. I found a nearby Irish bar for a pint or two one night. I cleaned Tinkerbell. I organized my gear. I washed my clothes. I wrote.

I arose at five the morning of my flight. No one else was up, the hostel quiet. I left my extra propane, water, food, and a couple of beers in the kitchen for my fellow travelers.

On the way down the hall toward the stairwell, I stopped at the door of a family – a mother, father, grandmother, and three young children. They were refugees from Afghanistan, living here at the hostel. I quietly left a bag at their door. My hoodie, flannel, fleece vest, socks, winter hat, gloves, a deck of cards for the kids. Then I continued on and out into the brisk morning air.

I drove to the rental agency and dropped off Tinkerbell, the van that had been my home for the better part of the past month. I dropped the keys in the lockbox, and pulled out my phone to call for a ride to the airport, just over a mile-and-a-half away. But then I looked at my watch. I was early, and I had time. I lifted my packs, and walked off into the darkness of the crisp New Zealand morning, toward my final international flight, homeward bound.

2 Comments

  1. Jackie D says:

    Well this is a nice surprise

    Liked by 1 person

    1. peteredodd says:

      We all need a little something during the bleaker months. 🙂

      Like

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