I’m having a bit of a problem understanding the NZ accent. For the most part I do ok, but if I get one that talks extra fast (they all talk somewhat fast) or over a speaker system, I’m losing important things in translation.
Which is how I found myself running after a bus I was supposed to be on.
We had caught the early morning bus out of Auckland and were on the way to Kaitaia via Kerikeri. As we walked up to the coach, the driver hailed me by name. “How did you know?” “Well, you’re the only one on here with three in your group, ahn’t you?” (Kiwis tend to inflect as though they are asking question after question.) With everyone aboard and the route underway, the driver proceeded to rattle off the passengers scheduled to get on and off every stop for the duration of the 4 hour trip. He performed like an auctioneer, barely taking a breath. “That’s the most transparency I’ve ever had on public transport,” observed Prana who apparently has no difficulties understanding. As we got close to each town, the driver would give instructions, which I’m sure were useful, but since I couldn’t make them out I just relied on copying what others did. We had a lengthy break at a wonderful German bakery (those custards- my god, those custards!), and the driverr kindly waited and chatted with everyone as they straggled back on. The road wound sharply through forests of new vegetation- strange enough to be fascinating, not strange enough to seem hostile- with intermittent views of the ocean dotted with tiny jagged volcanic islands.
A long string of friendly sounding noise comes from the Auctioneer right before our transfer stop. “Sounds like we have 15 minutes off the bus, and then we have the same bus with a different driver for the second half of the trip,” translated Prana. I jumped off to find a bathroom, and the first place I tried had full stalls. As I emerged to try the business next door, I saw my bus pulling around the corner at the far end of the block.
What the! I think, and take off at a sprint after the bus. Where is Prana? How could he let the bus leave without saying something to the driver?! He must have fallen asleep! Or he told the new driver and the new driver said tough shit. Oh no!! I could feel panic fighting with logic. I would be stuck in Kerikeri! No, another bus would come through, at the latest tomorrow. I can survive the night. It’s not like Prana and Parker will start the trail without me. Ok, I’ll just find the nice driver, he might be around here somewhere, I bet he’ll help me, even if he makes fun of me first. I turn and start back towards where the bus had been parked. When behold, a vision! I see Prana walking towards me! “What, what?” I babble at him. Oh no, did he jump and roll off the bus as it was pulling away, refusing to leave me alone? How romantic! But what about Parker?! “Calm down, calm down,” he says. “The driver is just switching our luggage to the bus we are taking from here. We don’t stay on that bus; new bus and new driver.” Chagrined, I’m grateful now that I didn’t manage to catch the bus as it pulled away. We all have a very big laugh at the ridiculous situation.
We board our second much smaller bus. At the door Prana asks the new driver, a woman with a pinched face and sour expression, “are our bags on board?” “Well. That’s what the last driver said, din’t he?” she snaps. We went from full disclosure of every person’s itinerary on board, to not even knowing if our luggage was traveling with us. Miss Sour Face has nothing to say to us through the entire trip, whipping the bus, and subsequently the tow-behind trailer that may or may not contain our backpacks, around the curves at twice the recommended speeds. I bet I wasn’t so far off that this driver would have told Prana tough shit if he had pointed out I wasn’t back from the bathroom yet.
Kaitaia is a pleasantly small and quiet town, and the motor lodge we have our reservations with is run by a warm and generous soul named Gina. The lawn is thick and spongy with moss, ringed by bright flowering plants and dotted with whimsical iron bird ornaments. Our suite is extremely pink, but in gentler and less oppressive tones than many all-pink areas I have previously seen. It’s actually surprisingly soothing. I am relieved to call this home for the next two days.