Monday/Tuesday July 22nd & 23rd
Every day, we create anew by flowing with what is present~John-Roger
I left Marahau and Rene and went back to pick up Marketa in Motueka. We were supposed to go to Nelson for a night, then Picton to catch the ferry up to Wellington on the North Island on Wednesday. She got in the car and said, “Brooke, what would you think of going to Kaikoura instead of Nelson? We could go whale watching.” Kaikoura is one of the best whale watching places in New Zealand and it was the one place I still wanted to see but didn’t think I had time for. I thought about it for two seconds and said, “OK, why not?” We had to figure out the timing of everything. Nelson was only 40 minutes away while Kaikoura was three hours away and we would arrive after dark, something I had avoided so far. We decided to go for it and about thirty minutes into our drive, we saw a male hitchhiker. I looked at Marketa, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “He looks like he could be Czech,” so we stopped and picked him up. He was Czech, I don’t know how she knew. His name was Martin and he was tall, very thin, with long wavy brown hair held back by a hairband, and a great smile. He had been in New Zealand for three years, first working in Christchurch after the big earthquake there, doing construction but then traveling all over the South Island finding work where he could. He needed a ride to Christchurch because he was leaving to go back to the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Kaikoura was on the way to Christchurch. Once he got settled in the back seat, Marketa almost immediately asked him, “So, what is your story?” Martin laughed and was a little taken aback. He said, “Wow, no one has asked me so directly before to tell my story.” They both spoke nearly perfect English and I told them they could speak in their own language if they wanted to, but they spoke English for my sake. He told us about finding work here, but having to go home a few times when his work visa’s ran out. His visa had run out again and he said he couldn’t find a Kiwi to “make a convenience marriage to him,” (a green card marriage I think) and that he found Kiwi women to be difficult to pin down. Marketa asked him all about this, wanting to clarify what he meant and they quickly switched to Czech.
Once they got all that sorted out, we talked of Martin’s travels and of our travels and compared notes. Marketa was here on Holiday but Martin dreamed of living here permanently and had traveled all over the South Island, really stretching his money and learning how to do the most for the least. He had also spent time in the North and was enlightening her about that island as well. We discussed many things, among them the difference between saying you can’t do something and you choose not to. Choice is so much more empowering than can’t.
As we neared our destination, Marketa was calling a man she had met in Kaikoura the first time she passed through there. His name was Murray and she had met him on the beach while he was gathering seaweed to use as mulch for his vegetable garden. She had stayed with him one night and she was hoping he might put us all up tonight. I was not really comfortable with this and said I’d stay at a hostel. She told me to at least come and meet him. She never got him on the phone so we showed up at his house at about 6:30pm, after dark, taking him completely by surprise, in the middle of preparing his dinner. He was delighted to see Marketa, not as much to see the two strangers she had in tow. We asked him if we could take him out to dinner, any place of his choosing and he quickly agreed. Before we left, he asked us where we were staying and Martin and I said we would probably stay at a nearby Backpackers. He insisted he had room, that his son was out of town and we could bunk out on the second floor.
I loved Murray the minute I met him. He was somewhere in his early seventies, young looking for his age, wispy blond hair turned white, a happy face with blue eyes and a quick smile. He adjusted to our arrival quickly, and seemed very glad for the company, saying he doesn’t usually have such excitement unless all of his sons are home. He was not very tall but was in excellent shape, and obviously kept an active lifestyle. He asked us all kinds of questions and was genuinely interested in our responses. But his focus was mainly for Marketa. He had a map on the dining room table and had been figuring out where the Czech Republic was. He told me he worried about her hitchhiking and was glad that I had been the one to pick her up.
His house was perched on the side of a gently sloping hill, three stories, the second and third floors accessed by an outside staircase. He lived on the top floor, with one open room that was small kitchen, a little dining area and a living room probably about 300 sq ft in all, with the north facing wall solid floor to ceiling windows, the entire wall, no framing, just sealant between each huge pane. Off of the living room, there was a hallway with two bedrooms on either end and a full bath and half bath/laundry room in between. This part of the house could be closed off from the main area. Not many houses in New Zealand have central heat and none have AC, so it is efficient to be able to close off the rooms and only heat the one you’re using with a small space heater. The second floor unit was an exact replica of Murray’s unit and this is where one of his son’s lived and where we were staying for the night. Each floor was completely self-contained, only accessible from the stairs on the outside.
We had a Thai dinner in town, only two minutes down the hill from Murray’s house, then headed back to the house. Murray had to go to Christchurch on Wednesday to pick up one of his son’s from the airport and he offered to take Martin with him. In turn, Martin offered to help him with some painting around the house and they both seemed very happy with the barter. Marketa was thinking of going with them and flying to Wellington from Christchurch instead of taking the ferry with me. It was actually cheaper to fly. She and I had arranged to take a whale watching tour the next morning but the timing was tight for me, I had to be in Picton, 3 ½ hours away by 4pm to return my car the next day. Everything was up in the air when I went to bed that night, and I told Marketa we would decide in the morning.
The next morning, I woke up and went up to Murray’s for some tea. The wall of windows that the night before had only showed a few twinkling lights down below, had become the most stunning view I have ever seen from any house anywhere. Stretching to the left as far as my eye could see were craggy, snow capped mountains which continued on all the way to the Tasman Ocean on my right. The small town of Kaikoura was in a valley below us, between us and the mountains. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the view, it was another “take your breath away” moment. Murray was a builder and had designed and built this house. He had a large deck to the right of the living room and on the deck was a bathtub with a hot water hose and a cold water hose going into it.
I asked him if he used it; “Please tell me you get naked and take baths on this deck.”
“Of course I do, I’ve only done it at night and I sit in it and look at the stars.”
I wished I could stay longer.
He showed me the rest of his domain. He said he had about an acre and had taken advantage of every inch of his acre on the hill. He had a small orchard with a variety of fruit trees, a vegetable garden, a garage which contained about eight motorcycles and a tiny little boat, several cars in various states of repair, and the smallest trimaran I’d ever seen. He also had a shelter for a bigger boat he was building, and a trailer that he had built for his work. It was a big boxy trailer, about 5x10, with walls on one side that were currently propped open. It was actually a portable workshop with a workbench, tools covering every inch of the walls, a chop saw and other power tools accessible but able to be firmly tied down when the trailer was moved. It was ingenious. Murray was ingenious. He was so self-sufficient and independent and could seemingly build anything he needed. He told me stories of crazy adventures he’d had with his sons on the boats and bikes.
We also had in common growing up in a big family. He was one of ten, I am number seven of eight children. He said, "Coming from a big family knocks the corners off doesn't it?" You learn not to be too sensitive to feedback and to take things as they come when you're fending for yourself in a large group. I wished that my Dad could have met him, they would have been fast friends instantly. Certainly my stepson Scott would adopt him immediately. Without question, they were kindred spirits.
Marketa had decided to stay with Murray for another week and fly out to Wellington on the 31st. Murray was delighted. We both decided to bag the whale watching tour and just walk along the beach for free. That way I could leave earlier and arrive at Picton on time. We had a lovely walk and I saw more seals, even closer up than at Abel Tasman so I got my wildlife fix after all. I was very sad to leave Marketa, this time with almost certainly no possibility of running into her again in NZ and she was sad to see me go. She emailed me that night and said “It feels strange to be here with just boys, I miss my girl talk.” We had gotten used to each other so quickly and I know I’ve made a true friend in her. It felt strange to be in the car alone again.
When I arrived in Picton, a quaint little town at the bottom of the V of the northern coast of the South Island (Whew!), I checked into the YHA there. As I walked by the living room, I noticed a girl sitting on the couch knitting. I did a double take and said, “Marie?!?” It was the Parisian girl I had picked up shortly after I picked up Marketa, what seemed like weeks ago but had been only been eight days before. It was so wonderful to see a familiar face and we chatted for an hour, catching each other up on what we had been doing since we last saw each other at Franz Josef. She was taking the same ferry as me so we made arrangements to walk down to the dock together in the morning and sit together for the crossing.
It amazes me how quickly I become attached to people on this trip. I have always been that way, it’s just more noticeable when it’s only me. It was nice to spend time with Marie and once I got to the North Island, I would be with people that I sort of knew….friends of friends. Friends I hadn’t met yet is the way I see it. As long as I stay with the flow, stay present, I'm taken care of and everything I need has come to me.