On the Road (Again)

wizard sticksWe had all partied pretty hard on Sunday – it was a combination going away party for me (and Lou, who leaves Rags next week) and birthday party for Chris.  On Laura’s suggestion, a few of us decided to play Wizard Sticks – a strange and awesome drinking game where you tape your empty beer cans to the bottom of your fresh beer, resulting in a long staff of beers.  Sound stupid?  Try it yourself, its pretty awesome!

Anyway, it was a night of standard debauchery – plenty of cheap beer and promiscuous young travelers, and with Dede cranking out the funk on the ipod, it was an awesome night, and a very hung over morning.  Joana and Lou and I decided to go to the Harbor View for breakfast, I ran a couple errands, and said some goodbyes to some lovely people — and then I was ready to leave Raglan.

Back on the road and on my own again for the first time in 6 months. Almost.

My transition back onto the road was easier than anticipated, mostly because Lou and Chris decided to road trip with me to the Bay of Islands.  It was nice to leave with friends, even as I was leaving so many friends behind.  We stayed the night in Whangarei, then spent the day swimming and soaking up the sun on the beach in Pihia.  Lou and Chris drove back to Raglan that night, and I booked into Captain Bob’s Backpackers, a sweet little beachside hostel.

Corrine, who I had met months ago in Raglan, happened to be working at Cap Bob’s, so we went out for drinks, which culminated in her betting me that I couldn’t hitchhike in one day from Paihia to Cape Reinga, the Northernmost point of NZ, some 250 kilometers of twisting, windy road, through the almost completely uninhabited bush of the far north.  Challenge accepted.

I left at 10 AM, walked about 20 minutes in the wrong direction, ran back along the beach and then cut inland towards the main road.  I stopped at a petrol station just outside of town and stood there for ages, trying to hitch a ride.  A delivery van picked me up and drove me about 3k up the road – every little bit counts. My next ride came shortly after I had been dropped off, and he was an interesting old Brit who had been living on a sailboat for the last 30 years, circumnavigating the globe twice.  The conversation was inspiring, but I only got about 30k before he turned off the main road towards the golf course.

I plugged in my headphones and had a little boogie, singing at the top of my lungs as I stood on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere.  It was a beautiful day, but it was hot, and the black asphalt burnt my bare feet.  I waited 20 or 30 minutes as a number of cars buzzed past me.  Finally, a bright little bluish-green rental slowed and stopped.  I hopped in, and was delighted to find that my driver was a sexy and charming young Italian woman named Valentina, who incidentally happened to be traveling to the Cape and back to Paihia.  Life is good, I thought to myself, but tried to play it cool.

Giant Sand Dunes on the way to Cape ReingaThe bet stipulated that I had to make it back to the hostel by 8:30 that night, and while I could have made it, Valentina and I were having so much fun that I didn’t really care if I lost. We stopped at stunning Cable Bay and stripped down for a swim in the cool refreshing Pacific, then drove on to 90 Mile Beach, a seemingly endless stretch of yellow sand on the Tasman Sea side of New Zealand.  We made our way up to the giant sand dunes where we climbed dune after dune, always expecting to see the ocean, but never making it – I was reminded, of the proverb that Julia had tattooed on her arm, “Beyond Mountians, there are Mountians.”

Justin Jones at Cape Reinga NZNext we bounced down the unsealed gravel road, to Cape Reinga.  In stormy weather, the cape is said to be spectacular.  It is where the swells of the Tasman Sea meet the swells of the Pacific Ocean, crashing and thrashing in a maelstrom with waves up to 10 meters high.  Today however, the sun was shining and the seas where quite placid.  Still, it was a beautiful setting, spiritual and serene. The place had an end of the world feel to it, or perhaps it was the beginning of the world, as Valentina suggested.  Either way, it was beautiful.

We hopped back in the car and I drove most of the way home. I got back and met up with Corrine, who gloated cheerfully about winning the bet, but I certainly didn’t mind as I enjoyed a cold beer with Valentina and a few others, while listening to a blues and jazz band at the Beach House.

A whiskey, another beer, another whiskey.

The others went home and the Italian and I went for a walk on the beach – an awesome end to an awesome day.

I leave the Bay of Islands tomorrow morning to meet up with Gaby in Auckland, then catch my flight to Sydney on Saturday.

It’s good to be on the road again.

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