So, the news that I was immediately greeted with up here was Crocodile Hunter had been killed (I still can’t believe that) and locally there was a fugitive running around Bay of Islands. He had killed his 17 yr old girl friend and then took off in a stolen BMW with some other lady accomplice or whatever. Imagine hearing that as I walked in the door of Jennifer’s after hitching up here. Oops, and before that I was going to eventually let Jennifer figure out my recklessness. She does know that I hitched up last time. Anyways, for two days it was phone calls from concerned friends of Jennifer´s warning her about the news. All neighborhood gossip was about who had seen what and all the plans to keep doors locked. Everything was a buzz until he was finally apprehended a day or two later. Even still after all that I decided I didn´t want to be around when Jennifer found out how I had arrived at her place without public transport. Sorry Jennifer! We have very differant ideas on safety and adventure.
Really, it´s a matter of odds. How many seriously dangerous people are actually on the North Island of New Zealand with the hopes to take advantage of a hitch hiker and how many are driving by at the same time that I am hitching? I´m never on the road for more than a few minutes.
I´m sorry to say but hitching is such a great experience. I love the randomness of meeting new people. Especially in NZ. NZ is a wonderful friendly place despite what the locals think. I know it´s not perfect and you have to keep your head, no place is perfectly safe any more. One guy warned me that one ride had driven off with 2 people´s backpacks when they got to their destination. They had unwittingly left their passports in their packs. Bad, bad idea, I say. Honestly, I really do pay attention when I catch rides. I got a couple of rides from elderly ladies, one from a skipper of a 120 ft sailboat that had just sailed from Bala(?) to Thailand or something like that. I met wonderful friendly helpful people that were looking for some company on a road trip or were just glad to help a stupid girl out.
I actually headed up to Bay of Islands on Monday but it was a late start in the day. I didn´t realize the distance I had to travel. I didn´t want to start hitching in Auckland so I found the furthest metro bus north to some little spa resort town (so you could say I took a bus I guess). I stepped out onto the road thinking that this might be a bad idea, I wasn´t saving that much money and it takes a lot of time to catch one ride, go a ways and then find another. I had about enough time to stick out my thumb and think ¨This is going to take awhile,¨ and the skipper was pulling over. My first hitch in a year, I think. I was off. Then it got dark and I was stranded in a town with no hostels. The lady at the bar was so sweet and called around to several places to find the nearest hostel . There was one only a few minutes away, I think I was in Wellsford, Wellside? I can´t remember. Anyways, I unhappily stuck my thumb out under a street lamp telling myself that it was only 6:00 or so. “10:00, that´s when the monsters come out.” That´s Bill Cosby´s rationale. I think that´s been engrained in me, and I reassured myself with that. I really don´t condone hitchiking in the dark but “dark” can be a relative term. For instance it was just after 6:00, like I said, whereas when I was hitching in Alaska before dark I found out that it was really after 10:30. So, it took a bit under the street light but a car stopped and it was a wonderful construction worker just getting off work and heading for home. I told him about my plans for the hostel but he was heading further up the road and gave his wife a call to see if I could stay with them.
They both welcomed me into their home and the rest of the trip was spent explaining all their kids. They had a tiny house, not one for putting up guests but they made room for me and I am forever grateful, I was definately more cozy in a family atmosphere rather than a hostel. We sat and talked about travel and what-not but I was so tired. I didn´t converse with the kids much. Little people are a strange phenomenon for me. I haven´t seen anyone under the age of 19 for 6 months. Little excuse, I suppose, I´ve sort of lost my touch with kids, I think it´s because most of my exposure is on long trips on some form of various public transportation and one child screaming their lungs out. I now hibatually tune them out. I´ll work on that. I got a view of the neighborhood and its beach the next day and I got as far as Wharangarai with help from Colleen and Lee before I was on my own and thumbing it again. I got to Pahia within 2 rides and was soon at Jennifer´s driveway, just before she was about to head out on a Tuesday.
I had a great time zooming around with Jennifer. We did some mulching, checked on houses she was watching and even got to stay at a $600 a night B&B. Crazy. We still had to clean up after ourselves, of course, but the place was amazing. Can´t quite understand paying $600 for it but I had a great time. They had a sweet cat that had broken its back. Jennifer said that some homeopathic therapy got it to walk again, now it sort of runs sideways.
Jennifer also took me to meet her son Brendan who was a great host, made us fritters and rice dishes. We stayed at his place a couple of nights and in the morning I walked out into the living room to nothing but a bay of sailboats and distant hills, it was aboslutely breath taking, his entire living room wall is a window. We had arrived in the dark, I had no idea of the view. What a way to wake up. We also went for a day to a Lion and Tiger reserve. It´s new since I was last here. Some guy, Craig?, has started this. Saving endangered lions and tigers. Amazing. One is even the one that they modeled Azlan after in the Chronicles of Narnia – you do know it was filmed in New Zealand, right? These lions are raised as cubs and are very tame. They sort of treat them like domestic cats. Our guide would go into the cages to pet full size lions, he even went and played with cubs the size of dogs. He does have several mended holes in his shirt and added a few more that day. Those cubs are rough.
Jennifer invited Jason for a visit. He was hanging around Christchurch waiting to get inked, since he had gotten such a late time scheduled, he had decided that he wouldn´t mind hanging around a bit longer and then we could fly to LA together. When Jennifer heard about Jason´s eventual solo stay in Auckland she made the offer.
We had a nice rainy Sabbath service at Brendan´s, I actually got to hear a sermon, wow, it´s been ages. There was a bunch of little kids again and I just holed up in a corner. I´ve been so tired lately. Figure it´s jet lag finally catching up with me. I really felt like an unsocial wall flower as I scribbled away in my scrapbook and everyone visited. I did manage to join the conversation sometimes and everyone was so sweet and patient with me. I´m not usually like this! But I really didn´t feel like trying to prove it.
Jason arrived on the bus on Sunday afternoon with a new sword going down his back, pretty impressive. He had been in the chair for 5 hours. Ouch, is about all I can think of. I had already prepped Jennifer for this and told her to greet him with a big slap on the back. His tatto wasn´t even done yet. Hopefully he will have good luck getting it finished in NC. It was neat to have two of my worlds meet, NZ and Antarctica. I wish that would happen more often. It was fun to watch Jason try to keep out expletives from his vocabulary for Jennifer´s sake. He did better than I expected, I was worried he might lose communication. Jennifer gave us a tour of Russell, got to see the surrounding islands and inlets, absolutely gorgeous. I think of how nice it would be to work down here on a sail boat. December is the summer for them. I could still go back. Dad said I should have stayed the summer. Cool thing is that I had a 3 month visa for NZ after the Ice. It could have worked except that I had already bought my tickets. Oh well. I do want to be home so badly. I am turning into a very bad travelor.
Jason and I left the Bay of Islands the following afternoon. He had a total visit of 24 hours. Crazy guy. At least he got to see more of NZ. It was raining slightly as we left. It hadn´t really cleared up consistantly since Saturday.
Back in Auckland it was just the big city, and the count down to when I would be alone once again. I was not looking forward to it and dealt with the idea by not thinking about it. Jason took me to a scary movie and apologized for it afterwards since I spent the entire time cowered in my seat and often covering my eyes and/or plugging my ears. After that I got to be haunted about witch burnings instead of thinking of oncoming travel. It was nice to not have to say good-bye till LA. Nice to have a familiar face on a long plane ride. I think by the time we finally parted ways I was too dull to really comprehend the good-bye. I haven´t recovered from flights yet either. This will be my first night in a bed in who knows how long. Crazy date line. I slept at the Florida airport. I was planning on doing the same in Quito but there were so many gaurds and gates around that I didn´t bother to ask. I hadn´t purchased a ticket to Cuenca yet, I didn´t even know where I was trying to get to until I was able to check my e-mail again.
Instead I did the usual, let the airport people take advantage of me. I wasn´t too bad off. I got a ride from the airport for $6 and a single room for $7. Unfortunately it´s miles and miles from the airport. Whatever. I will think about it tomorrow. First sign that I am in a southern country? (well, besides the spanish) Check out isn´t till noon. How nice! None of this 10:00 crap. All right, I think I did it. I finally caught up. After days and days of staring at this. I hope in the end it makes sense because things seem real fuzzy right now. Talk to you later.