Dandelion Depot to Amethyst Lodge
The morning dawns dry again, and we start on our way early, looking forward to our hotel room. 1 kilometer past the Depot, we see a sign for Secret Valley. Well. What is it? A 60 second walk drops is into a protected drainage where some schoolchildren have muraled the inside of a gazebo. It’s adorable!
It’s also well protected from the wind, but there’s no way to predict all these moments and places. So it is!
Around the block is a dairy, but it’s not open when we arrive at 7:00 and there are no hours listed anywhere. We make coffee and remnants of snacks for breakfast. From here it is mostly a bike path to Porirua.
The wind picks up again into its familiar gusting pattern, and we walk past a flax swamp and an old cemetery. When we reach Plimmerton, we stop at Kafe Orange for an amazing breakfast of eggs Florentine and grilled veggies.
The sun is shining brightly, and the wind is stronger than ever. We follow the bike path along bright turquoise harbors and through Aotea Lagoon, a park with several imaginative and fast-spinning playgrounds. We walk under the Adrenaline Forest, a ridiculously high ropes course that I can only assume is closed today due to wind, considering the tops of the pines that the elements are attached to are whipsawing back and forth. It’s quite impressive; I add it to the mental list of want-to-dos.
We are exposed to the full force of the galing wind as we cross the last major highway bridge. How are the other three doing up on the Escarpment? I wonder. Hopefully it’s not more windy today than last night. And then: Porirua! Our operations base for the next three days. The line of stores we pass before entering the mall all seem closed, lending a creepy, dispirited air, but as long as the grocery stores, a post office, a phone store, and a gear store are open, that’s all that matters. We have a navigational glitch trying to reach our motel, but end up darting across the 4 lane highway- a move we will repeat many many times over the next 72 hours. The Amethyst Motor Lodge is lovely, done in a palette of purples, the hallways accented in silver and black, the room accented with bronzes and warm-hued paintings. There is plenty of space and all the furniture is comfortable and the bathtub has bubble jets and the WiFi is free and unlimited and fast.
We take a magnificent shower and clean out our packs to air all the wet gear. We lounge on the bed and finish filling in lists. We dart back across the road to the mall to start on the list of preparations, and receive word the others will be here shortly. We meet them in the food court, and are catching up on the last day of our respective hikes, when Bro solemnly announces that he has changed his mind and won’t be continuing on to the South Island. No! This doesn’t surprise me, but I am still sad to hear it. “I’m not going to be happy with whichever decision I make,” he explains, “but at least this one sits better than the decision to go on.” He started the trail with the plan to only go as far as felt right, and he has been homesick for awhile, and pensive the last few days. But still! He’s a formidable hiker, and has contributed so much enjoyment to our hike, I’m selfishly sad to think of him leaving for good.
We all decide to go for a celebratory dinner at Curry Village, one of the few open places outside. It is an excellent decision. The food is the best Indian food so far, and we talk about all of the North Island behind us. “My favorite section was definitely the Tararuas,” Bro muses, “but my favorite day was the Tongiriro crossing. And my favorite moment was swimming across the Okura River.” The three of them plan to finish the last 43 k together in one big push tomorrow, a fitting end to this portion. And the next day Bro will be home, in a country far away. We will probably see Mario and Peach on our way through Wellington, and then almost certainly after the TA, but I don’t foresee our schedules linking up on trail again. The disbandment of a great hiking crew has come to pass. We try to coax Bro out to work in Jackson Hole this summer one last time, and all make genuine promises to visit each other in our home countries some day, but I’ve learned life. It may happen, and it may not. Only time will tell. The only guarantee is that these shared times will be some of the most cherished of the trip.
When we’ve said our goodbyes and the others have gone on, we pass a cinema on the way back to the motel. The new Star Wars is playing. “Want to?” asks Prana. “Sure,” I agree. We buys tickets and take in the next chapter. Is it good? Do I agree with the story? I don’t know, but I enjoy the luxury of watching it on a big screen. We dart back to our room and fall asleep.