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loose ends

For the first time in two weeks, I find myself with cheap and unlimited internet access! Hooray! Not free, but I'm willing to pay for the chance to get fully caught up on emails and journaling without feeling like I have to rush so that Maureen can get back online. I'm back in Auckland (the cheap internet cafe capital), just for the night, so I'm going to make the most of it.

Got up this morning, did the usual morning routine, and then started packing up my clothes and getting ready to head out on the road. I picked up the shorts I'd been wearing to work in the orchards, and did a quick sniff test to determine if they needed to go in the laundry bag. I decided they could probably stand a couple more wearings, and spread them out, shaking the last bits of grass and dirt off them. And then I see it. Right there on the waistband: a cockroach. Not one of the tiny, annoying babies that fall into the sink and are harmlessly washed away. No – this was all grown up. Probably about an inch long, and fat and brown and disgusting. AND ON MY SHORTS. Oh, so wrong, in so many ways. I did the obligatory shriek-and-drop-the-shorts-and-writhe-with-horror dance, and then repeated it when I realized that I'd had my face buried in those shorts not moments before. Oh, the horror.
After I used my hiking boot to dislodge the cockroach, I gingerly finished packing and joined C & C in saying goodbye to Wag and Maureen, who loaded us down with a bag of oranges and lemonades, and waved to us as we pulled out of the driveway. I was in the backseat of the car, sprawled across the seat and on my backpack, comfortably watching the scenery as we left civilization. It was abrupt, the shift. One minute pleasant farmhouses and cows and sheep, and the next, the Mangamuka Gorge – back to the jungle. Christoph hooked up his iPod to the car stereo, and I smiled at the ferns and palms and green undergrowth that sped past my window to the sounds of Rammstien. Oh, German metalheads. The music stayed loud for the entire trip, and since none of us could figure out how to stop the vents from blasting us with hot air, the windows stayed down, meaning that the backseat was a windtunnel of noise and music. I was further isolated by the fact that the two boys talked almost entirely in German. My mind wandered, and I tried to do some writing, but the road wound itself up and down the mountains so thoroughly that I eventually had to keep my eyes directed forward. On a side note, I LOVE that this is the main road – the highway – barely wide enough for two cars, steep, no shoulder, no guardrails, hairpin turn after hairpin turn…very, very fun.

We crossed Hokianga Bay on a ferry, then continued on through Rawene (Rah-wen-ay), Omapere and Opononi, which had the bluest water I've seen yet, and then entered the famous Waipoura (Why-pour-ah) Kauri (Cow-ree) Forest. The Kauri trees used to cover the entire country, but for some unknown reason, began to die off around the same time as the dinosaurs. Now they only remain in select pockets, and the Waipoura Forest is the largest pocket. It's difficult to truly grasp the impressiveness of the trees from the car, which is how we viewed all of them but one. We did pull over at the Te M(something) tree, which is either the widest or the tallest Kauri tree in the country. It's 51.5 meters tall, but I didn't get to read how wide it was. C & C spent a week in Sequoia country before coming to NZ, and were not impressed, so we kind of sped through the walk, which is why my facts are a bit spotty here. I let them lead, because boys who are bored are poor traveling companions, and I know that it would be quite easy for me to come back this way again.

The rest of the day was spent just driving, covering the 200km distance to Auckland. After the Kauris, there came more mountains, and near Dargaville, the land flattened, resembling Kansas, only with trees. As we drove down the last mountain into Dargaville, the view of the country ahead was like a watercolor painting – all soft lines and indistinct shapes fading into the horizon. The clouds, too, were high and light, like chalk dust shadows an eraser left behind on an old blackboard. My notes from the day are random and scattered, though this seems to be the nature of 'on the road' field notes (road notes?). I write in abbreviations, questions, split second observations. The boys in the front chattered on happily in German, and I felt like I was traveling alone again. No one to talk to, only the passing sights for stimulation. This quiet sort of travel is meditative. The mind is urged to remain unfocused by the constantly changing scenery. It's free to skip around, to take in and put out images and ideas thoughtlessly. It's cleansing.

Though I felt somewhat revived by the trip south, it was quite difficult, for I felt more alone than I have in the last three weeks. It's incredibly hard to be in a car with friends, and yet be completely cut off by noise and by language. I'm not sure how long I'll be staying with these two, because now that we're off the farm, they seem to have forgotten that I exist. Perhaps it's the stress of a long day of traveling that has gotten to all three of us, but tonight I walk back to the hostel alone (they've already finished here at the cafe), and anticipate that tomorrow night will see me independent once more. I'm missing you all a lot tonight – much love.

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