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same place – one week later

Only seven days have passed, but the world has been reversed. German boys – done. Buh-bye. Yucky, depressing feelings of loneliness – adios. Say hello instead to CAR, MOUNTAINS, and SELF-SUFFICIENCY!

It's been an eventful week. I've got a lot to fit in, and no money to pay for extra time, so bear with me if I seem short…

Last Monday – Auckland, emails, etc.

Tuesday – Drove south through Hamilton to Te Kuiti (teck-oo-wet-ee) with Christoph and Christopher. Was ignored. Stayed at out-of-the-way backpacker's on a hill. Big farmer's porch overlooking the town and the mountains and fields. Warm weather and stunning sunset.

Wednesday – Bad, bad day. Peak of sorts of badness between me and the Germans. Bought a bus pass so I could get the hell away from them, then became further frustrated by the evils of the NZ bus system, and realized that I should have bought a car instead. Then, just as I was feeling incredibly low, in keeping with the continuing serendipity of this trip, I met Joachim and Sanjana, another German pair who were getting ready to leave the country and were selling their car. After much thinking and discussion, I made them an offer on their car. Hope dawns, and I'm actually able to enjoy the Te Kuiti sunset this night.

Thursday – Jo and Sanjana accept my offer, and I start moving money around to pay for the car. We agree to go our separate ways, and meet in Auckland on the 5th. Later in the day, I hop on the bus (might as well get a little use out of the pass I bought), and ride south to North Egmont – Mount Taranaki. Here's where it gets good. I spend the night completely alone at the base of the mountain, in the Camphouse. It's a pretty basic place; it's the oldest hostel building in NZ. Having my own space, being in the mountains, knowing that I'm soon going to have a car all make for a wonderful night's sleep.

Friday – I'm up and outside at 6:30 AM, in time to catch the mountain before it clouds up again. 8,000+ foot mountain. Snow-capped. Was used as a stand in for Mt. Fugi in “The Last Samurai.” WOW. You know how I feel about mountains. I'm in heaven. I pack up my stuff, scrounge together breakfast, and hike!! 3 1/2 hours up, with stunning views the whole way. An easy trail, but my body's not used to carrying 30 lbs. of gear, so I'm a bit slow and tired and sore by the time I reach the hut half way up the mountain. It's too early in the season to do a summit hike (you need crampons, etc… no thanks), and I don't make the snow line, but the hut is nestled deeply in the side of the mountain, and I've got the place to myself. I sprawl out on the grass in front, read, write, take a nap, and feel more whole and content than I have in days. I wake up and take a little side hike to Bells Falls, and on the way meet the first person that I've seen in almost 24 hours – this Brit from Manchester, Mark, who's on the last leg of a 4-day round-the-mountain trek. So, I don't get to spend a second night by myself. But that's okay. By the time I get back to the hut, there's another couple from Wellington (NZ) there, and later on a group of 17 high school students arrive. Full house! It's nice to have the company. It's even nicer that the company is fellow outdoorsy types, and that we're in the middle of wilderness. Mark gets a fire going, and we sit and talk and let the students swarm around us, cooking, etc. So cozy – worlds away from the stress of the days preceding.

Saturday – Try to get up to see the sunrise with Mark, but there are too many clouds. They're settled right on top of us, so the air is thick and insulating, but damp and chilly. We're on the trail together by 8:30, and within the hour, we're out of the clouds and can look up at the sun on Taranaki's peak. We take different routes down, but meet back up at the bottom, and I catch a ride with him into New Plymouth, the closest town.

Jeez louise. I'm not going to have time to cram all of the past week into here! There's so much. Okay – lightning round – I'll try to fill in details later.

Saturday, again – Xmas parade in town. Strangely emotional. Oh, holidays. Meet two more Brits, stay up late talking.

Sunday – CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY (YAY!!!!!) with Mark and one of the Brits, Jo. Len Lye exhibit of kinetic sculptures. Much will need to be said about them later. To quote Jo: “bloody gorgeous.” Spent day with Mark doing coastal walk, buying groceries, enjoying the sun, kicking his butt at Jenga, feeding the eels at the hostel (oh, yeah: eels).

Monday – Walked the 15 minutes into town at 7 AM in the pouring rain. With all of my stuff. Good times. Caught a bus and rode for 6 1/2 (AUGH) hours to Auckland (AUGH). Met Joachim and Sanjana, and am now the proud owner of a 1980 Toyota Grande Mark III. It's blue, and the side mirrors are mounted on the hood. Oh yeah baby. Other excitement for the night, after the business is done – HARRY POTTER!! Finally! Good, good times, but now I MUST look for actual paying work to offset the cost of the car. Not sure where I'll be tomorrow…but I'll be in my own car, with my own itinerary. Excellent.

Hope to write more soon – love!

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