10/18 Ode to Foreign Groceries

Walking into a grocery store in a foreign country is thrilling. I mean, judge me if you will, but I enjoy roaming the aisles of a familiar grocery store, just to see if I can find something unusual that has escaped my notice before. Send me out to a store where I’ve never seen anything, and I could happily root through the shelves all day. Maybe it scratches an ancient acquisitive hunting/gathering itch; I don’t know why I find it so satisfying.

The main focus of today is Resupply 1 & Resupply 2. There is a Pak ‘n’ Save next door to the Motor Lodge, which is somewhere on the continuum between a Costco and an Aldi’s, a big draw when we were choosing where to stay.

One of the first things we notice is that New Zealand is really into granola. And muesli. Which may be two different names for the same idea, I haven’t figured that out yet for sure. (I choose not to google it so I will have plenty to wonder about on the four day beach walk.) Intricate permutations of these two choices make up the huge majority of cereals and bars. We go with muesli for breakfast since it seems more exotic than granola. We fill our cart with strange looking trail mixes from the bulk bins, here-to-now unimagined flavors of tuna packets, the sturdiest crackers we have ever seen (results of field tests of these to come), peanut butter with chia seeds already stirred in, all the flavors of Raw Balls, and couscous and rice with a selection of dried seasoning packets. NZ intelligently packages tomato paste in one ounce shelf stable packages, so we throw in several handfuls of those. The instant coffee and hot cocoa mixes are far superior to the US versions, as are the powdered non-dairy milk options. We top the pile off with an aggressively licorice tea named Black Adder, of which the aroma can be smelled from three feet away, with the plastic wrap still on.

The produce is inspiring. Not every vegetable of a type is identical; many are lumpy and knobby, the potatoes are still caked in fresh smelling dirt, the cilantro has muddy roots attached, the to-mah-toes still have green spots. They aren’t lined up, all equal size, unblemished, pretending to contribute to the illusion of the perfection of duplication.

And look at the carrots!

The apples have no waxy coating, and the bananas taste different. Sharper and sweeter? More banana-y? There are at least 30 different flavors of hummus. Who imagines them?

Nothing is so strange that it’s unappetizing, it’s all just unfamiliar enough to be exciting. At first I was not looking forward to the shop-as-you-go style of logistics, but the possibilities are growing on me.

Parker has settled on what I skeptically call the Steve Jobs approach for his menu. He has chosen a whole meal replacement bar, called One Square Meal, for all of his meals and snacks. For the next ten days. No decision fatigue now, no decision fatigue later. The variety comes from the inclusion of several dozen of his single favorite candy bar. He hopes he can implement this strategy the entire trail. I cultivate curiosity. Time will tell.

I had called ahead to the holiday park to reconfirm that they are holding hiker boxes. The woman on the line is encouraging and advises to “send courier” so it arrives at there physical address rather than the PO Box. What is that? Something akin to our UPS? I can’t find one in Kaitaia, or rather, the one we find is permanently closed. We walk to the post office with our for help. It turns out they have a method of mailing called ‘courier’. Is that what was meant? There are many words in the postmistress’s answer, but none of them seem to match the questions I have asked. I am tired of this chore, of all the chores, so we mail a box to ourselves courier method from the post office and cross the last to-do item off the list.

Finally, tomorrow is Trail Day One.

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