My plan for friday was to go to the Te Papa museum, but when I got on the bike I couldn't bear the thought of only riding for five minutes so instead I made my way along the coast for half the day.
In the evening I met up with two canadian girls I'd met in the Abel Tasman. They lived in an apartment in Wellington and they let me stay there for the weekend, which was awesome. Very nice people they were, and Joanna and I share a passion for poetry. Hers is very good.
Saturday they went to a music festival by the harbour, and I went to the Te Papa museum. The museum is quite big, but it's a big mishmash of exhibitions and it seems like it doesn't really know what it wants to be. One thing I'd really been looking forward to though, and that was their Colossal Squid specimen. Squid fascinate me, especially the giant and colossal species, and this is the only specimen of the latter on display in the world. Unfortunately, they were doing some work on it and I couldn't get up close to it.
The squid is in the tank in the middle
I stayed in Wellington for one more day, and monday I set off for New Plymouth on the long straight boring roads of the north island. I had no less than three breakdowns on the way. The first happened some distance south of Bulls. I was surprised at how calm I was. I removed the luggaged, opened the seat and took off the tank. I went through all the connections and checked for a spark. No spark, so either the sparkplug needed replacing, or it was a loose connection. I gave up, gathered my things, put the bike back together, and lifted my oil and petrol stained thumb to the road.
As it turned out, the driver who pulled over had a big trailer and we got the motorbike on there before heading north. In Bull, the mechanics thought they'd found the fault; a rusty connector. I think it generates some respect that I'm doing this trip on such an old machine. They didn't want any money for their help.
The friendly mechanics from Bull
Just 8 kilometers later it went dead again. I took the bike apart again, frustrated. I fiddled around with the electronics for a while as by now I knew it wasn't the sparkplug, but couldn't find the fault. When I put it all back together however, the problem had disappeared. This was not an uncommon occurence, and happened a third time before I arrived in New Plymouth.
As I turned off on highway 3, the sun had already set and it was getting dark. In hilly terrain, the bike did an average of 65-70km/h and I still had some distance to go. I had the lonely, beautiful Mt Egmont on my left, and it looked its best in those last rays of the sun, but I did not enjoy the prospect of riding in the dark. Kiwi's are, unfortunately, infamous for their drunk drivers, and I had no lights in the speedometer. The only thing I could see was the faulty rev counter. My only estimate for how fast I was going was from listening to the sound of the engine. When I passed a town with streetlights I'd check to confirm my guess. It worked out ok, and most times I was spot on.
The stately Mt Egmont
That night in the backpackers was very cold, and I found out in the morning that it was because my roomie slept in his sleeping bag and had his window wide open. The bastard. I was awoken by carpenters with nailguns in the hallway. Bad start to a day, and my mood was sullen. I couldn't have known it was gonna get worse. I went south the way I'd come, and turned east on the 43 in Stratford. The road was beautiful and winding, and I was practically alone. I've never seen grass so green as the grass on those beautiful dramatic hills.
Before long though, the bike stopped dead again. I sent a silent prayer to the god of machines, and a loud curse to the bike. This time, no matter what I did, the bike refused to start. I could have gone looking for a mechanic, but I knew the nearest one would be far away, and I was getting frustrated with these breakdowns. I eventually decided that it was taking up too much of my time. I parked it in the lawn of the nearest farm and went looking for the owners. They weren't home. I wrote them a note explaining why there was a wreck in their front yard, and then set off hitchhiking. My deal with Gary was that, since we both knew that chances were it'd break somewhere along the way, all I had to do if it happened was to leave it somewhere safe and he'd arrange for it to be picked up.
I hoped to get all the way to Turangi, but traffic was very slim and I only got as far as Taumanurui by evening. Just as I was loosing hope and considering sleeping under one of the gas pumps, the owner of the station invited me in for some food and water. I gladly accepted, and asked him whether he knew of any backpackers places. He said he'd seen a sign just up the road, and he offered to drive me there.
What I found wasn't really a backpackers, but a guy who had a bed in a dirty room in his yard. His last guest had been seven days ago, and he hadn't gotten around to cleaning the room yet. He still charged me 20$ though. I was in a rotten mood.
This was the kitchen. The plates were covered in cobwebs.
I'm sick and tired about hitchhiking and not being able to decide for myself when I go where. Especially because the things I want to see are a bit outside of town, and I hate having to rely on the odd chance that someone will drive me.
Wednesday morning I called the owner of the farm where I left my bike. He was ok with keeping it, and he said he'd get someone to put it somewhere safer. I also got a hold of Gary and told him where to pick it up. Then I set out for Turangi and checked in to the Extreme Backpackers. The allure was a climbing wall, as I hadn't been climbing for upwards of three months. Climbing with ropes is entirely different than bouldering (which is all I'd done so far), and I had great fun learning the ropes (haha, get it? Climbing with... ropes?) The vertigo literally saps your strength!
The Canadians and I had agreed to meet up that evening so we could do the Tongaririo Crossing the next day. They ended up postponing the trip because of the weather forecast and I decided to wait for them, so I spent the whole next day blogging. Good for you guys, but I got more and more frustrated from sitting still all day, and I hated the thought of being dependent on other people. Especially as I hadn't heard from them all day. So in the evening (with no decisive word from them still), I decided to stop that dependency and book the bus for the next day, with or without them. It felt good making the decision and taking matters into my own hands, but before I could get to the reception the canadians showed up. Everything worked out in the end and I had learned an important lesson.
In Wellington, my thoughts strayed back to that girl I screwed things up with before I left. All the time I've been travelling I've hoped that she might be single when I get back. The thought has been hidden way back in my mind, but it was always there, ready to peep out. 'Maybe' I thought 'even if she isn't single, she could still fall for me.' I've played out my 'homecoming' in a hundred different ways in my head, trying to figure out how best to woo her. But always, the thought was accompanied with the knowledge that she might equally well have no interest in me at all. Would it even work with the age difference? Do I even know enough of her to know she's the one I want? Am I wasting my time?
In Wellington however, I felt a change in my feelings towards coming home. Do I even want to come home for her? To come home and feel depressed, overcome, unseen and vanquished? Do I want to spring right back into that old role I so happily left? No. Nay! NEVER! I would rather come home a new man, and see the world and the people I know with new eyes. Meet new people. Meet a beautiful woman, fall for her completely, and then find the courage and passion to ask her to be mine. My passion is my greatest strength, and if I can't bring that out when I meet that girl I left (and I can't because my heart sinks whenever I see her), there's no way I have a chance with her anyway. Might as well focus on something that has a future.
One thing that struck me as odd is how often the sirens go off in New Zealand. In Denmark, they only go off in case of attack or disaster (neither has happened since WWII I think), so I was a bit worried when I first heard them. I asked a kiwi woman about it, though, and she told me that the purpose was to summon the volunteer fire-brigade. "Don't worry, if there's a volcanic eruption they won't stop blaring". Coming from Denmark, that remark put me off slightly. The danish underground doesn't have what you'd call a flaring temper.