At home in Motueka
As I drove away from St. Arnaud, I thought of my new friend Marketa, up on the cold mountain with her 50 lb backpack, and hoped she had found the hut she was supposed to stay in, that she was safe and warm. Clouds covered the top of “our” hill. It was very cold and frost covered the fields and farmland I drove by on my way up to Motueka. I was thinking of the conversation I’d had with David, the owner of the hostel I had just left. I was the only guest and had the five bed dorm to myself. Actually, I had the whole building to myself and it was quite strange to wander from kitchen to dining room to TV room with no one to talk to. David had asked me what brought me to New Zealand, and at first I told him what I tell everyone, that I’m on school holiday and it had always been my dream to come here. But I had met his wife, they run the place as a team, and they had pictures of themselves hiking the surrounding mountains and we talked of the lifestyle they had created for themselves. I told him about Michael then, and that this was a journey of recovery for me.
He said, “It must be strange not to have your mate after all that time when you’ve become so used to having them as your sounding board. You tell them everything and when you’re going a bit crooked or off course, they set you straight and get you back on course again.” I had thought this so many times, but no one else had ever said it this way to me. Maybe not everyone has that kind of relationship or maybe they don’t see being put back on course as a good thing. I miss not only telling one person all my hopes and fears and dreams, but having that person really, truly care about hearing them and want to make the dreams come true and the fears disappear. Michael wanted all of that from me, and pulled it from me when I wasn’t even sure what I wanted. He helped me put things in perspective. He encouraged me to think bigger, to stretch myself. Now, I hear only my own voice and I have to learn to put myself on course. I’m not sure I always do so well, I tend to say yes to everything I want to do, like Tom Hanks in Big.
I arrived in Motueka and found a hostel called the White Elephant, a big white house off the main road. This town reminds me of Virginia Beach in the winter- slower, friendlier, easier. I felt at home here, comfortable, loving having the water in view. I went back into town to the i-site, what they call the information centers here, to get some information on hiking the Abel Tasman National Park. The Park is on the northern coast and there is 38 km track (hiking trails are called tracks) that winds right along the headlands, through the rain forest, and down to the many coves and beaches. The park is only accessible at the north and south ends of the track, or by boat. There are no roads, but there are water taxi’s that drop you off on designated beaches, depending on how long you wanted to hike. It takes four to five days to hike from end to end, with huts or camping sites along the way. I had two options for my tramp, Bark Bay, a seven hour hike back to Marahau, the southern park entrance, or Anchorage Bay, a 3 ½ hour hike back. I really wanted to see as much of the Park as possible so I chose Bark Bay. I think with all the little side trips down to the beach, I probably walked about 25 km. I also booked a half day kayak tour of the Park for the day after the hike.
I went off to find an early dinner and found the Sprig & Fern right across the street from the i-site. It was a brew pub, and they had about 15 taps of different beers. A vivacious, pretty woman with long black hair and a ready smile asked me what I’d like. I hadn’t noticed all the taps, so I said “I’ll have a Speight’s.” She handled it with class and said, “We brew our own beer here but if you like Speight’s, why don’t you try our Pale Ale. Here, give it a taste.” And thus began our friendship. Her name was Sue and she happened to be one of the owners, along with her husband David. She was covering for the regular bartender who was on holiday. Sue was so open and easy to talk to, and began peppering me with questions about my adventures and the people I had met along the way. We talked about our families, life, everything. I told her about Michael and we cried, the first time I had cried here when telling someone about it. I think when someone really cares, as Sue did, and understands the depth of such a loss, the empathy touches that well of grief inside me and a little spills over as tears. She said, “I know what you feel is bigger than this, but when I’m upset I say “Breathe blue skies in, blow gray skies out.” Definitely another angel along this path.
We laughed and chatted for almost two hours as I sat at the bar and ate my early dinner and she worked. I've decided Pub food is what I like best. It’s simple but delicious, sometimes a bit cheaper but there’s always plenty of it. I had a Scottish filet, which is just a filet, Sue says that’s just what Kiwi’s call it. It came with a little mixed green salad, they don’t use iceberg lettuce here that I’ve seen, and the best “crunchy” potatoes I’ve ever had. They were just potatoes cut into chunks but I guess they were fried, they were too good not to be bad for you. There was only the one stool that I pulled up, everyone else came and ordered and sat down at tables and Sue would bring their food out to them. She wanted me to try some of the other beers but although I was only staying a mile away, I didn’t want to drink and drive so I told her I’d get settled in at the hostel then walk back to try some other flavors. Which is exactly what I did.
After I teeter tottered back to my room, I fell immediately to sleep, to be awoken about 9:30 by a gentle knock at my door. I thought it was one of the hostel kids joking around so I ignored the first knock. The second got me out of bed and I opened the door to find Marketa standing there, grinning from ear to ear!! I was so happy I just jumped on her and gave her a big hug. I had emailed her when I arrived in Motueka and told her where I was staying, just making conversation, and she came and found me after her big hike. Her story of the mountain was so cool I must share. She made it up to the top of the mountain an hour later (not 10 minutes as I’d imagined) and walked along the ridge to the Bushline Hut. She met a small group there that were staying in a nearby hut which belonged to a ski club. They were only doing one night out, so they brought really nice food to eat and invited Marketa for dinner. She told me in detail every aspect of the meal, excited because her own cooking repertoire is very Spartan and this group of two men and one woman really went all out and were kind enough to share. She ate and visited with them for two hours then walked back to her own hut in the moonlight. About ten minutes later, another small group showed up, two men and a woman, and the four of them began talking. This group was going farther up the high mountains to the Angelus hut, which is where Marketa really wanted to go but did not have the appropriate gear like ice axe and crampons, and it was not safe to go alone, even with equipment. Nova, one of the group members, said they had extra equipment so Marketa decided to go with them the next day. She did the hike she dreamed of doing, with very nice people and had the time of her life. Nova lived in Motueka so after the hike, he brought her straight to me! She spent the night in Nova’s flat to save money but then the next day we met and took off for another adventure.
So, my angels, the moral of the story is put yourself out there, go for your dream and if it’s meant to be, someone will show up to your hut and take you exactly where you want to go.