For the past eleven nights, I have been sleeping in a car or a tent, fidgeting around with my pajamas getting stuck on the inside lining of my sleeping bag and trying to figure out if my feet were higher than my head. My routine, nearly every night, has been to empty my bladder immediately before falling asleep, only to wake hours later (during the coldest, darkest bit of the night, and usually the rainiest) with said bladder miraculously bursting forth anew. Thus begins my nightly barefoot tramp to the closest clump of rainy grass or tiny hill that would (somehow) hide my blinding white rear end from the (sure-t0-be) hundreds of onlookers while I pop a squat, bleary eyed and shivering, and paying every ounce of attention to my ankles making sure that the only wetness I would bring back to the tent would be that which was currently falling from the sky (not from between my legs) and then managing to stumble back to the tent or car hideously more awake from the cold having bitten my most hidden parts and afraid to wake Dennis who lay, blissfully in his gaseous and sprawling sleep, only to wake up to do the same (only easier and faster thanks to the wonder and magic of boys being able to pee standing up and half asleep) just as I managed to nod off a mere half hour later. Ah, camping.
But last night, oh, last night. ‘Twas a bed. A real bed! (Like Pinocchio–a real boy!) I had not one, but two pillows, and I didn’t need to cram a jacket or a shirt beneath the pillows to make sure my head was definitely above my feet. No, I knew without a shadow of a doubt my feet were well below, tucked comfortably into their downy home beneath a borrowed fluffy blanket that covered me as I closed my eyes like a babe with a full warm belly of mother’s milk. O, ’twas a dream come true.
Besides the sleeping, this is how I have been spending my time here: reading. sleeping. eating. lying on the beach (sun!). lying in the car (rain!). taking pictures. reading more. eating more. Dear lord, what a beautiful vacation this has been.
Today, we find ourselves in Opotiki (which I bet you can’t pronounce unless you’re from here or you’re British). It is a lazy little seaside city on the North coast, on the East side of the Bay of Plenty. Oh, what a lovely little area this is, and made even more lovely by the fact that they have beds here.
For the past week, we have been driving across New Zealand from New Plymouth over toward Napier on the East Coast. Napier is wine country and we certainly did some wining while there. Our tent spot for two days was just over a tiny hill to a black stone beach that was empty–E.M.P.T.Y–for two days straight. Glorious. We had wine from a place called Crab Farm Winery (that was 300 meters away from our campsite) and some excellent Brie cheese and salad. We stayed in Napier (actually, Bay View) for two days and it was there that my face, eyes, throat, and nose exploded in allergies. O, what misery. But a quick trip to the chemist took care of that and so now I know to avoid sleeping in fields (which is another reason we got to sleep in a bed last night.)
Did I mention the fields? We share them with cows. And sheep. And horses. And it’s true what they say about cows and sheep not mixing. They don’t. There are cow hills and sheep hills. And there are forty million sheep in New Zealand and so far I think I’ve seen about half. They’re everywhere here–and they “wander.” There are signs posted on the road, warning drivers about “wandering stock.” But back to the fields. After Napier, we drove north to Gisborne, on New Year’s Eve, and quickly got the hell out of there because it was so busy (but not before grabbing a bottle of cheap champagne and sixty bucks worth of food–feta cheese! crackers! salami! how very cosmopolitan!) and headed further north along the beach to (say this) Kaiaua beach. We stayed there for two days, camped/parked alongside the beach and up against a cow hill, mostly because we were sick of driving and it was raining the ENTIRE time. We were there fore maybe forty hours and probably thirty-eight of them were soaking ones.
From Kaiaua we continued North to East Cape, to the most remote place in New Zealand. We saw East Cape light house and slept in a field that sixty other bulls shared. The only thing between me and sixty bulls was a tiny wooden fence strung together with flimsy bits of wire. Sixty bulls. I figured I’d having a talking to with them about having them not come chasing out at night toward our tent in the field (we shared this huge field with only eight other people, right there on the beach) and as I approached these bulls, they ran away from me. (Wimps.)
So today I sit here, well rested and clean (finally, really really clean), way tan, and ready to go to a book fair. We’ll be staying here for two nights (one more night of perfection!) before hunkering back into the car for more driving. We’ll head West and North across the Coromandel, through Auckland, and then up to Cape Reinga. Hopefully the weather will continue to hold out. It is beautiful here today. Absolutely beautiful, if not just a little on the cool side.
And the kicker? Dennis is doing the laundry. He made me breakfast and now is doing laundry. If god gave me a piece of heaven, I’m sure it would be called Opotiki.