Narrative, Travel

Jet Lagged in a Forest Somewhere in New Zealand

From the sleepless flight from Kuala Lumpur to the two hour interrogation at airport customs, New Zealand’s throwing hurdles at me. I woke up today at 2:30 pm on the floor of my hosts disheveled loft somewhere in the boonies outside of Auckland. I don’t know where I am, and the lack of WiFi and GPS is keeping that secret from me, however, in my sleep deprived state, I managed to ask my host, Andrew, which way the nearest grocery store is, before he left for work in the morning. “That way,” he pointed away from the direction we came from.

When I did finally get up, I decided to do a hitchhiking test-run to the grocer with all my gear without knowing where it is. So I packed everything, knowing I’d return in the evening. I walked outside to realize that I left my sandals on the back of his pickup truck, as made obvious by the one remaining sandal that fell off when he left for work. With that harsh bite of stupidity on my mind, I started down the country road, accentuated by rolling hills and a forest in the distance, plus fields of sheep here and there.

Most of the stereotypes I’ve heard so far about Kiwis and New Zealand have been true: they’re friendly, they leave their houses unlocked, and they’re so trusting that farmers leave their produce in fruit stands with an honesty box to leave money. I was eager to see if hitchhiking is really as easy as waving your hands in the air like an impassioned Italian and catching a ride. It turns out, if you’re walking on a narrow country road, then no…

So far, I’m most disappointed how everything is fenced off, though I hope it’s not everywhere. After an hour, I learn not only that I’m on Peak road, but I learn from a golf course cafe that the grocery store is “…about 12-kilometers from here. Go two kilometers and make a left at the church and then keep going…” And I keep walking with my thumb out.

Not far after, a tanker truck passes and stops ahead of me. “Are you going to the nearest township?” I ask and he replies, “I’m going to Kerikeri.” I just landed here two days ago, I haven’t the slightest clue if that’s nearby or hundreds of kilometers away. It turns out the ladder. “It’s up towards Cape Reinga [the northern most part of New Zealand], 250-kilometers from here.” I take a split moment to decide, either catch a lift one kilometer and hope I find a ride back, or… “Let’s go an adventure!” I reply. Without any way to tell Andrew I won’t be home tonight I sit back for a long ride.

One things I’m noticing that what Kiwis consider an average view is what people from other countries idolize and boast about in their tourism ads. I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of New Zealand’s landscapes and I can tell it’s going to be stunning. In the four hours, we pass the largest harbor in the lower hemisphere; at one point we drive up a mountain with it’s own tropical microclimate, made obvious by these skinny leaved palm trees that dotted the hill sides, and descending the mountain I see the aqua blue waters of the eastern coast where a mountain overlooks the ocean.

The next thing I know I’m in downtown Kerikeri staring at a darkening sky wondering where I’m gonna sleep tonight. Good news is, I found my grocery store and shortly afterwards a rugged and unoccupied forest. Bad news, it’s 4:42 am, the animals are crawling about and I still can’t sleep. Thank you jet lag…