Hamilton to the Church
We are up early this morning, picking off chores well before 5:30. We attempt to go to the free breakfast at 8:00am, but it consists of milk, cornflakes, Weet-Bix, and PBJs, the bread for which is still frozen. It’s too dismal, and the room is crammed with hikers, which is too much for this time of day. Prana and I look at each other, and without a word, quietly escape to the grocery store for an anti-social fruit and veggie breakfast.
We are just packing up for checkout when Parker tells us he won’t be leaving today. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully he will meet us at the next stop. We make sure we have collected all our flotsam and jetsam, then head out onto chore rounds. Pak n Save, check. Countdown, check. Resupplies done. Post office, check. New shoes from the bounce box! Ellie arrives in new shoes as well. Fleeces and warm gear packed in. A card from my mom! I cry when I read it. I miss my mom.
We eat a lunch of bread and hummus. Next, the phone store. It’s supposed to be along the trail, so we start hiking optimistically. When we reach the address, there is definitely no phone store.
“Are you guys looking for something?” a woman asks. We say yes, the phone store. “It’s in the mall.” She gives us directions that sound complicated, then apologizes. “I guess I’m not sure exactly where it is.” We thank her and head towards the mall. I can’t even remember the last time I was in one of these. The woman reappears. “Actually, I can walk with you to the spot. Then I can hear some more about your traveling.” At first, I am not sure how this will go; I believe she has the best intentions, but this could turn into the blind leading the blind. She chats amicably and indeed leads us right to it.
The guy at the phone store is able to fix the issue with my SIM card, and the last thing on my list besides some phone calls and emails is finding some kind of shirt that I can wear while laundering my hiking shirt. Prana has looked up a store called Trek and Travel, and we head to it hoping it will be less expensive than the big name brands. It’s much farther off trail than we anticipated. They don’t even have warm weather options that I can find, and the staff are too preoccupied with other tasks to ask. Frustrated and discouraged at the day disappearing with 18 k to hike, I defeatedly slump out to the street.
One of the things I hate most about being in town from the trail is how ridiculously difficult it is to go to the bathroom, and this country is a whole magnitude more difficult, as few businesses even have public toilets. Across the street is an art park or something. I tell Prana I am going to check it out. “Well I’m getting hiking,” he announces. Fine. I cross the street and though it takes longer to sink in than it should have, I recognize something about the park. Firstly, it does have bathrooms. Artsy ones.
Secondly, it has this.
And thirdly, this.
Apparently the creator of Rocky Horror Picture Show lived in Hamilton, New Zealand. I laugh. The obnoxiousness of the day has been eased by this gem of a moment.
I write off phone calls to family and writing out postcards until Taumarunui and get to hiking. Maddeningly, the trail leads back to the mall again, then actually through the mall and retraces a parallel to where we’ve been walking all afternoon. Circles!
Blast. My food bag feels heavy, and so do my spirits. I wish I could crawl into bed right now. But the only thing to do is walk. So I walk. I walk through the outskirts of town. Big thunderheads have been building through the afternoon, and a few drops start to fall. It’s been so hot today, that I welcome them. Soon they pick up size and frequency, and I pull out the umbrella. Before long it has become a full on gale, and as I march along a car slows down. “Out hiking huh?” “Yeah.” “Got some weather.” “Yeah.” I try to use my Jedi mind powers to convey walking in the storm is more than enough, that I don’t have any desire to stand in it and make small talk. Answering questions, I relate starting and ending points, start date, etc. “Well, I’m going to go.” “Good luck!” The next few steps bring me face to face with this sign:
And I stand, soaking, in the rain, considering this sign.
I get a call from Prana who is very keen to give me directions on how to find him, Bro, and Ellie, who are holed up in a little bench shelter in the upcoming arboretum. The rain is whipping in from sideways, and I indulge in some pitiful thoughts for myself. Then I enter the arboretum.
The winding path curves through dark glades beneath the trees. Shorter trees grow closely and arch over the path to form tunnels. Huge conifers with umbrellas of branches protect circles of dry ground. Exotic chickens roam. I find the duck brood in a little shed, mostly dry. Not long after I arrive, the rain slackens and abates. We all file out, and after 9 more k of farmland and roads, finally close in on where the trail heads down to the river. A church stands at the divergence, and we debate- camp here? Go on? The camping below may be inadequate or full, and the back lawn of the church offers the first easy straight forward solution of the day. Next choice: to ask permission or forgiveness? There is a phone number posted on the church door, and while permission may be the right thing to do, I do not have enough fizzle left in me to deal with either a ‘no’ or an irrefusable invitation to something ‘even better’ that takes us off the trail. I just want to crawl into my tent, my home, and think quietly. We decide to ask for forgiveness- after all, that’s what a church’s business is, right?
We pitch and kick off our shoes just as the rain starts again.