I had one day and one walk. Amber weather warnings were popping up over all potential destinations. I left Island View Holiday Park before 9am. I was in Ōhope with boots on, marching up hill at 10am. The Ngā Tapuwae o Toi walkway caught my attention for two reasons. Firstly, it’s 16km. A good distance, taking most of the daylight hours. Secondly, it’s a loop. A rare thing indeed. I climb the first hill, feeling good. Enjoying myself. I pass a few people on the way up. One woman informs me the trail is busy today. I have no idea if she’s joking. Through the shrubs and trunks I can make out the forest across the valley. Behind me I can see out to sea, fingers of land float out as far as the East Cape ranges. These views don’t last long. I reach the summit, marked only by the change in direction. Down. The forest spat me out on to the corner of some farmland. I crossed two stiles over barbed wire fence. I walked over wire topped wooden boardwalks. The wetlands spread across the path.
I leave the bush to follow a road to the bottom of a hill. I’m now walking into Whakatane itself. I was starting to feel like I’d been on my feet for three hours. On Commercial Road, my nose is tickled by the smell of frying food. Meat and onions. I pass the KFC, the McDonald’s, the Burger King. I’m not sure any of these places have ever smelt so good. I can’t be tempted. I’ve got a packed lunch, a peanut butter and jam sandwich, a cereal bar, a couple of satsumas, and an apple. I see the staircase leading up to the next section, it looks like a big, steady climb. I’m in no rush. I eat half of my picnic before I start on the steps. Painted on each step is part of a scene. If you could see all the steps in one view, they paint a picture from the bottom of the ocean to the night sky. This was a pleasant distraction from going up. From the top I followed the hill separating Whakatane from Ōhope. Along the way I passed through the sites of several Pās. These former defensive structures were no longer visible to the untrained eye. Were it not for the occasional informative sign, I’d have no idea. The forest has already reclaimed much of the land.
I reach the headland. The view mostly obscured. I turn back on myself, following the other side. It feels like the home stretch. I feel good. I find myself almost running down some of the stepped sections of the trail. I haven’t done that in a long time. My knees wouldn’t let me. This is a good thing, I think to myself. I quickly reach Otarawairere Bay. At the far end I can see two others coming this way. They look like they’re carrying big bags. One of them is in fact carrying a chainsaw across the beach. This is a new one for me. I cross the rocks onto the sand. Only it isn’t sand. The beach is made up of large shards of broken shells. I’m glad not to be barefoot on this one. I climb once more before making a final descent onto Ōhope Beach. I think I may regret leaving the beach walk until the end, until I reach the sand. It’s packed flat, hard. Easy walking. I get back to the van, tired from a full day of it, knowing I’ve still got to take basic care of myself. Drive to the campsite, cook dinner, wash up. Only then can I rest. I grab the last spot at Maraetotara Reserve.
The amber weather warnings were now in full effect. Wind and rain for the next 24 hours. I had planned on following my own footsteps. Driving over the hill into Whakatane to top up supplies. By the time I got moving I decided there wasn’t any point in moving. In the dashes to and from the toilet I was getting soaked. Moving between shops wasn’t going to be any better. It could wait until tomorrow. I’m getting better at doing nothing. Realising that reading, writing, listening to a podcast isn’t the same as doing nothing helps. Actually doing nothing but watch the rain pool and run down the rear window is still better than being at work. Listening to the different sounds the rain makes on the ceiling. The drips, the taps, the absolutely hammering it. I notice a single droplet form and fall on to the mattress by the back door. I don’t know if it’s the volume of water on the roof, or maybe the door isn’t closed properly. I’ll have to keep an eye on it.
Rain still falls in the morning. I have to leave today no matter what. My two nights in a 30 day period are done. I won’t be coming back here for a long time. I drag myself up, over the hill into Whakatane. I begin with an incredibly good impression of someone who knows what they’re doing. I bought a tape measure. I measured the back end of one of my cupboards. I had some ideas about how to get better (any) use of the space. I remember my parents having something which I am sure was called a beanstalk when we used to go camping. I don’t think it was anything more elaborate than a set of stacking wire baskets but it had a cool name. Something like this would be perfect. Only, the ones I’d found were too wide. I wracked my brain, what else might work? A bookcase? Nope. A shoe rack? Nope. A three tiered bathroom trolley? Too good to be true. A perfect fit. So I thought. The problem being I’d measured the cupboard space from one point thinking the cupboard was square. It isn’t. I tried building the trolley first, then sliding it in. I got about halfway before all the tiers popped out. I wedged the back legs in first, hooked on the top tier and jammed the front legs in. So far so good. I hooked the middle tier on the front legs without a problem. Squeezing everything to try and clip it on the back didn’t seem to work. There was only one thing to do. Jumper off, because the sleeves don’t roll up. I got half way in the cupboard. Any leverage I could get would have to do. I reached in and slammed my fist in to the far left corner. Everything jumped and I heard the satisfying click of the brackets connecting. I removed myself from the cupboard. The front legs had stayed connected. There was no way the bottom shelf was going in but that’s ok because I can use the floor. The frame was so tightly packed in I was confident it wouldn’t move. Everything I put on it might, but at least I had somewhere to put it that wasn’t the bed or the floor.
Feeling very pleased with myself I drove to Mata Brewing. I needed more beer. What better way to resupply than at the local craft brewery? I stopped long enough to enjoy a tiny little beer, picked up a mixed six case and drove back into Whakatane to bask in the warm glow of my success (or was it just the beer)? My first full calendar month on the road comes to an end. I’ve come in under budget, even with my shelving upgrade, the oil change, the fairy lights. I decide to head out into town for dinner. A real treat. I wouldn’t have to cook or wash up. I have decided I’m going to be a burger man, for dinners anyway. Obviously I’m a brunch man but cafes don’t open in the evening. There’s a small place on the high street called The Wagon that specialises in burgers. I’m early, probably the first one in. I order a burger, and a full-sized beer, and some shoe string fries. It feels good. The woman serving me tells me it won’t take long. She doesn’t lie. Within ten minutes a good sized burger, a bowl of chips and a pint of american pale ale sits before me. Something that sounds terribly like Rob Thomas plays in the Wagon as I finish my beer. Eating alone goes one of two ways. It’s fine, or it’s depressing as hell. Rob Thomas has never lifted my spirits. Fortunately something I recognise by Tame Impala comes on next and I’m able to leave in a good mood.
The amber weather warnings return. Droplets pool on the windscreen. Light rain falls first, landing on the roof in a whisper. The droplets form streams. The rain louder now. I watch a puddle in a parking bay as rings spread across the surface. A lone drop runs down the back window leaving a trail in the dust left behind from the gravel roads. The rain heavier now. Streaks stretch across the glass. There’s a moments pause. The rain stops. Not for long. The tip-tapping starts up again. I decide to move into the nearest holiday park. If I’m going to be stuck for another day indoors, I might as well have power, Wi-Fi, and hot water. I settle in and look for ideas on what to do in the rain. One website suggests first I prepare for rain. Too late, it’s already raining. The second suggestion is that I put on my wet weather gear. I think they’ve missed the point. I was looking for ideas like learn to play the harmonica. Not that I have any intention of doing that either. An explosion of thunder disrupts my futile search. Lightning flashes over the sea. The rain falls as hard as hail. The lights flicker in the communal kitchen. Another crash of thunder and the lights go out. The power is gone. Brilliant. I retreat to the van. Later in the day a cheer goes up from the old boys in the barbecue shelter. The lights are back on and I’m relieved. I have decisions to make about my future, do I head straight up towards the Coromandel, or tack inland towards Rotorua? Things don’t look much better in any direction. A couple of clear days towards the end of the week which I commit to being outside for. For the rest of the time I guess I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing, reading, writing, watching the weather, waiting for it to get dark.