It’s around 3 p.m. now and we are outside of the city, heading down through Western Lakes. Eventually, the road disappears completely and we are scraping and crashing through rocks and small rivers hoping the van doesn’t give us the finger and refuse to keep moving through this 4X4 world. We drive along the coast for a few minutes until we reach a patch of beach that feels habitable. The wind kicks up soon, so we go in search of a protected place. We come upon a grove of Manuka trees bordered by a forest of reeds and ocean. Yes it is the backyard of someone’s bach – but we are unaffected. This is the spot!
I see a sign down the way that says “Corner Creek.” If I were to dream up a spot that deserved the name Corner Creek, I’d think of a swimming hole in Y-City, Arkansas. This place is wild and windswept, gorgeous with its teal water and feral waves. If by creek you mean the South Pacific and corner you mean corner of the world, I’ll take it. Either way, this is the most understated sign I have ever seen. It’s funny that way in New Zealand. You’ll have a conversation with someone about a particular place and they’ll say “Oh yea, that place is nice as eh?” and then sort of shrug it off - kind of like I’d describe somewhere like Lake Catherine State Park. Yea, it’s pretty cool, whatever (no disrespect Arkansas, much love). Then you go to these places that elicit no more than a shrug of ordinary, and you are absolutely floored. Jaw dropping and gorgeous is New Zealand, so multi-dimensional that it’s hard to understand how it has remained so effortlessly striking.
In the backyard of the bach, we build our tent, lay out the hammock, and ready Myles’s bed in the back of the van. The fire glows, like the sun that is beginning to set, behind the miles of long white clouds. I take a walk along the water’s edge as the world slowly turns inky black - the moon and stars blanketed by dense clouds.
Dinner, drinking, and laughing begin, and do not stop until midnight. One particularly funny scene – Myles is in the hammock, Holly decides to sit beside him. Kaitlin and I are sitting across them from the fire. The trees buckle, the hammock becomes taut, SNAP, they fall to the ground. Kaitlin and I laugh at them for a solid five minutes.
As the night comes to a close, I sit and watch the embers from the fire swirl in the coastal wind. The air is warm tonight, heated by our fire and a northerly coming in from the ocean. Kaitlin is sleeping behind me on her newly secured blue and yellow hammock, lulled to sleep by the waves crashing against the rocks. The fire glows red now, slowly burning the last strips of Manuka branches. It cracks like pop rocks across your tongue. The wetas seem to be attracted to the fire, constantly walking into an early death. All feels quiet except for the wind and the waves, a melody I can’t wait to close my eyes to.
My skin feels like peppermint, cool and clean against the wet rocks underneath me. Kaitlin has gone now, and I am left with fingers and toes made of pure cold. Sunlight breaks through. I can almost feel my freckles resurfacing, saying thank you thank you to the week long hidden sun. As the waves flow in and out, the huge chunks of bull kelp swirl and swim in the bubbles, seemingly as happy about the sun as I am.
The Wairarapa feels quiet, like the personification of solitude sitting beside me. I hear nothing but the soundtrack of the waves and the wind on repeat. This New Zealand song, water on rocks, sings here just as it does in Wellington Harbor. The ocean clutches the pebbles with so much force the ground seems to tremble under the grasp of it. While walking along the beach earlier, it occurred to me that I’m living out one of my perfect days. We wake to the sound of the water and rocks chugging around in the sea. We walk down the beach, swim naked in the ocean, and are hugged by a wind so strong that it feels like it’s pulling us down on all sides. Rough and real life without all the screens and phones that feel like tethers every single day.
Back at the campsite, we snuggle in the back of the van as the wind blows cold. We’re reading Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer outloud to each other, talking about memory with Kaitlin who studies it everyday. Thirty pages in and I’m committed to checking it out when we get home. There’s a Texas sized bumblebee zipping around us now – so big I’m afraid he might carry my pen off. Speaking of Texas, Holly is coming around now, and she’s back in action. Here goes day 2 J