12/12 What Does An Ostrich Say?

Taumarunui Canoe Hire to Whakapapa River

24.5 k

I need to remember to take campsite photos with the tent still pitched!

We are up in the sun room at 7:25, ready for our safety briefing. Karen has baked fresh bread and slathered it with butter for a breakfast treat, and makes everyone barista coffee to order, perhaps with the ulterior motive to ensure we will be able to pay attention, ha! It’s delicious, either way. Ron talks us through the basics of canoeing, steering, not hitting rocks, avoiding wrapping and pinning, some rapids of note on the river, how to identify the different camps, and the proper way to make sure our boat is still available to us in the mornings. He’s a clear and concise instructor, and many of his lessons contain anecdotes of other people not following his instructions. This should be a lot of fun!

This morning we also informed that another hiker is joining our group. Now, my interactions with this hiker so far have been been…interesting; I do not believe she is intentionally ill-disposed, but she is strongly opinionated and the way she presents her opinions is the exact way that pushes my buttons; I don’t want to actively exclude anyone, but this is not someone I feel a desire to travel with. I’m stymied for a moment. There is a saying: The Trail Provides. It fulfills almost all needs, sometimes fulfills desires, and supplies opportunities for lessons and practicing that which we need to. Is this a lesson in which I practice speaking up and say this is not what I prefer? Or is this a lesson in which I bite my tongue and practice patience, to learn that my first impression of someone is incorrect? I have no way of figuring it out right now, so by default I say nothing and simply hope that the opportunity was not to practice speaking up. Time will tell.

I spend some time uploading pictures while the internet is so excellent, and downloading Christmas music. I make a few phone calls, and redeem the lack of a shower with an old fashioned hair wash- Prana pours warm water out of a bucket over my head for me. We also count out the days and realize we will arrive in the town of Whanganui on Christmas Eve, which is a Sunday. So, unless we are willing to wait 3 days, we will not be collecting our bounce box. Hmm. We try to find a work around so the incredibly generous Ben, owner of the Whanganui Holiday Park, can retrieve it on our behalf, but are unable to legally make that work. We will just have to solve it in person at the next post office, which will be Palmerston North.

Finally, like it or not, it’s time to leave in order to make camp tonight, and the day is only getting hotter. We say goodbye to Karen and Ron and the calves.

Its a road walk all the way, mostly a quiet, albeit sweltering, blacktop. I listen to some audio stories and music as I walk, and the day disappears almost uneventfully. Almost.

The one event that does stand out involves an unexpected creature. As I bop along, belting out this or that song I haven’t heard in awhile, I round a corner and there’s a barbwire fence with an ostrich behind it. Hm. The last time I saw an ostrich was on a bizarre road trip with my friend Dana P (P for Paxil) and we stopped at a rock shop off Route 66 decorated with life size model dinosaurs devouring naked mannequins. The yard was full of ostrich pens, and several of the ostriches did a peculiar, compulsively repetitive display of unknown impetus. I am picturing the posturing when suddenly the ostrich in front of me charges the fence, skids to a stop, squats on its haunches, starts alternating sweeps of its wings in a dramatically exaggerated way, and writhing its head back and forth across the tops of its wings. Holy shit. This was the exact same dance! Is it threatening? Showing off? I have no idea. I take a step closer to see what it will do, and it stops, jumps up, and charges at the fence, bouncing off the wires. I guess it was a battle dance, an ostrich haka. I am suddenly acutely aware of how giant it is, and make tracks down the road.

There had been talk of camping at the carpark on the Whakapapa River tonight, and talk of pushing on further into the 42 Traverse Track. I’m ready to hike farther, but secretly don’t really want to. When we enter the shady forest that leads to the start of the 42 Traverse, there’s a peaceful calmness. The sun is filtered, the birdsong concentrated. A few kilometers brings us to the carpark where everyone else is waiting. It’s a huge grassy space, too inviting to pass up, and the Whakapapa is stunning! There are mesmerizing rapids and whitewater of boatable size, and the wonderful white noise blankets the meadow. A great camp spot. Another group arrives in cars after we have our tents up, and gradually becomes noisier after pitching their tents as well. Could be a long night. After dinner I put in earplugs and fall asleep surprisingly early.

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