In the week after we moved to our second house in Mt Maunganui I got so very comfortable in my new routine- packing lunches, maybe running an errand or two, maybe taking a walk up the Mount or on the beach, definitely having a gin and tonic (made with the artisanal tonic syrup we picked up at the Hawkes Bay farmer’s market) while making dinner and listening to NPR online- that I was a wee bit grumbly when it was time to pack my backpack and head out on the 4 day/3 night Lake Waikaremoana Track all by myself.
I can’t even begin to feel remotely bad ass about this adventure for several reasons. For one, I was in the process of re-reading Wild about Cheryl Strayed’s 1100 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail which made my little trek look so easy (forget losing toe nails, I didn’t even get a blister.) For two, there’s that hut system again. While not as flash as those on the Routeburn, requiring you to carry your own tp and gas stove, these were still pretty comfortable with shady porches, clotheslines to hang gear, tables to sit at, etc. Although I hiked alone each day, I was shadowed by the kindest Australian couple (and that is saying something) who shared the same itinerary and caught up to me every afternoon in time for tea and a chat. Even though there is nothing in the New Zealand woods to harm you, I was still frankly glad of their company the night the three of us were the only occupants in a cavernous 36 bunk hut. Also, I had nice weather, not too hot, not too cold. The track went up one day, down the next, and then ambled along the shore of the lake for the next two days, passing coves where black swans either serenely glided or comically bobbed heads down, tails up, for lake bottom goodies. Several people I talked to compressed the hike into two nights, and I probably could have done the same, but I had the time and nothing to prove. In the afternoons when the walking was done and my bunk was claimed, I sat on the beach and watched the swans, I knit most of a hat for Miles, I read two whole books, I ate almost a whole package of shortbread fingers. I’ve been spoiled recently with a surfeit of excellent scenery; this wasn’t jaw dropping, but it was awfully darn nice. On day four, a little footsore and stiff, a boat ferried me back across the lake to the start, where I chucked my pack into the car and made the twisty drive to Rotorua to meet the rest of my gang for Miles’s birthday weekend.
Four years ago the Skyline Luge in Rotorua was Miles’s absolute favorite thing in New Zealand, and its memory endured fond reminiscing for years. I realized at some point that there are other Skyline outposts in places we were passing through, in Singapore and Queenstown, but Miles wanted to hold out for this one for his birthday. Last time around he had to pair with a grownup because he was too short to drive solo- this time he was allowed free reign on all but the advanced track. So we went, we rode many, many times and it was good clean fun for all. Rotorua is a hotbed of geothermal activity, so we took in some bubbly mud and steaming vents, and soothed my sore legs with a soak in some naturally heated hot pools. We learned about the vast array of sheep breeds at the Agrodome, and then we called the weekend a wrap and went back to Mt Maunganui for presents and cake.
Next week Vance gets a turn at going off hiking alone, while I work on wading through some trip logistics. Next week also marks six months of traveling, which means we have tipped way past the halfway point and only have four and a half months left. Our “down” time in New Zealand is ticking by so fast, I found myself wondering the other day if it would be possible to stay longer now that we’re so comfortable. But comfort wasn’t really the point of this year, I mean if I wanted to be comfortable I could have stayed home and saved ourselves all sorts of trouble and money. So we will proceed to steamy Thailand, Laos and Vietnam when it’s time, but thankfully not quite yet.