New Zealand: The End of the Road

I wake up at 4:30 because that’s become normal again. I lie in a real bed in a real house for a while. Eventually I get up go downstairs and make a cup of tea. I slip into my sandals and bring a few things in from the van and start writing the advert. For sale. The journey’s end has begun. I came back to the Kerr residence. One of the many homes I’ve been welcome to return to, any time. Iain takes me on the bagel run. We’re at the market at 8am. Back home again within half an hour. I bring a few more things in from the van. Iain’s neighbours Matt, Sarah and their children come over for bagels and to watch the All Blacks destroy Wales in what might have been described as a game of rugby. I foolishly accepted the invitation to join in when I really should have started on the cleaning. Since the advert went live I’ve already had several interested messages, wanting to see it today. I’m not even nearly ready. Tuesday I say, Tuesday. A day and a half to get everything done.

I empty the van. Trying to figure out where to start. I employ Iain’s help in removing the curtains. Then I get started on scrubbing down the ceiling and the metal interior. It doesn’t take long before it’s cleaner than when I started. If I bought it in a worse state than this, someone else will surely buy it now. After a spin in the machine the curtains come up better than I’d imagined. Those that have sat in the sun have lost their lining. White is now black. Iain sets me up with the pressure washer. The worst of the dirt comes off the van, out of the gutters. We don’t mention the roof, we hope nobody looks too closely at the roof. Emma is the first person coming to see. I had said bookings from Tuesday but I thought why not one on Monday evening. Put a bit of pressure on. Iain fixes a couple of loose screws. We rehang the curtains and the van comes up looking good. Emma and her partner arrive, have a look around take her for a spin. “Would you accept $6800 today.” She offered “I would.” We shake hands. They’ll pay me tomorrow. I’ll give them the keys on Wednesday. And then it’s over. A weight that’s sat on my mind since the 18th of March 2020 has lifted.

The money arrives in my account that night. I decide to try and get the van sorted for Tuesday. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Then I can start to put my attention in to what comes next. I’d assumed selling the van would take more time, there might be some difficulties involved. In the end, it all went much faster, much smoother than I had anticipated. “That was a lot of worry for nothing,” Iain tells me. When isn’t it, I wonder? I make up the bed for the last time, folding the blanket across the end. I lay the pillows side by side. I wash up my box of cooking utensils in the hot water from the inside the house kitchen sink. Much of what came out of the van goes back in. I message Emma, “If you want to come and collect it this evening you can.” She does. It’s an anxious wait for her arrival. What if they change their mind? What if they don’t turn up. Iain points out the obvious. “You’ve already got their money.” They arrive, they haven’t changed their minds. They’re excited to drive off in the brand new to them van. Saying goodbye is weird. Someone else sitting in the driver’s seat. Someone else driving the van down the road. My mode of transport, my home. Then it’s gone. Never coming back. Not mine anymore.

As a celebration, and as a gesture of appreciation I suggest we go out for dinner. Iain adds a stop at a pretentious cocktail bar before and a visit to Kaffee Eis after. Not only is it wonderful to have somewhere to stay, having friends to go out with is pretty nice too. I have two weeks in Wellington. Time I thought I would be using showing people around the van, letting them take it for a test-drive. Now the time is mine. I can relax. I start off joining Iain and Charlotte as they take their Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Mopty and Nara for their daily walk. We meet many more dogs. I meet many other dog owners. I notice that when Iain introduces me, they’re always looking for the other dog. My dog, but I’m just passing through. I settle in to my own routine. Walking, reading, resting, drinking enormous volumes of tea. From the front door of the Kerr residence I’m able to walk straight to, then around the perimeter fence of the Zealandia Ecosanctuary. The kaka screech like raptors, sometimes whistling. One I watch on a branch boks like a chicken. In the edge of the bush I hear a familiar laughter. I don’t see the blushed cheeks of the tieke but I know they’re there. Wax eyes float across the trail. This becomes a daily walk, fully loaded with my pack. Every opportunity to train is taken. Iain and Mopty join me for one lap of the Zealandia perimeter fence. I’ve got a backdoor key to make sure to lock the back door and take the other key out. We’re not even half way around when Iain gets a phone call from Charlotte. I had made the mistake of thinking she wasn’t here so she must be out. Most mornings she isn’t inside the house but hasn’t left home. I’d locked her in the back garden. I’m relieved when Iain directs her to the spare key in his workshop. Mopty chases after a pair of quail who defeat him by taking to the skies.

There are other walks available. From the Brooklyn Wind Turbine I can continue out away from the city towards the coast. The old 4 wheel drive tracks make walking easy. I don’t have to keep an eye on my feet. I’m passed by runners, by cyclists. By the time I reach the coast I’ve seen more people than I can remember having seen on any of the back country trails. This is a weekend, on the immediate outskirts of the city. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and it is hot. I sweat profusely on the way back up towards Hawkins Hill. My legs feel good, getting stronger every day getting used to the distance. The extra 10 kilograms becoming comfortable, normal. On another bright, clear day Iain brings both Mopty and Nara for a walk along the Skyline Ridge from Karori to Kaukau. We get blasted by the wind on the exposed ridge line. Wellington is, after all, the terminus of the North Island’s mountain spine. The view never quite opens up. Dense cloud swirls above our heads. On the return we stop in a hollow, sheltered from the wind. The dogs lie down, finally taking a break from trying to chase every rabbit. Iain and I watch the clouds. Do nothing more. It is nice to be out. Everything feels good.

The time spent in Wellington is my last opportunity to replace any hiking gear, make any and all necessary purchases. A new pack cover, a pair of gloves, new merino underwear, a bucket hat. The most important purchase I make turns out to be one I hadn’t prepared for. Iain recommends a set of string to hold my glasses on to my face. As I’ve started to sweat I’ve spent an Adam Betts amount of time pushing them up my nose. Strings attached, they stay in place. With my new hat keeping the sun off my nose, my ears, my neck. I feel increasingly comfortable. As the days go by, I keep increasing the time spent on my feet. Making sure I’m doing at least one lap of the perimeter fence. This is it, the end of the road. The last stop before everything changes and I start again.

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