February 14, 2015
Happy Valentine’s Day! I text the Ex. He responds with gay. Typical.
At the hostel café I see Bert, and creep up behind him. I stand there until he notices me. “It’s Valentine’s Day!” I blurt. “I’m sorry but I didn’t get you anything,” he jokes.
At my old serving job in Bellingham, Washington, I used to work Valentine’s Day so I could make the ultimate love song playlist. I put some Roy Orbison on there, Patsy Cline, Nights in White Satin, the Dirty Dancing and Flashdance soundtracks, Ambrosia…The kitchen staff hated it. However, strangely, the big bearded leather jacket wearing heavy metal dude at the bar next door begged me to play soft rock love songs every night on the juke box. “It’s ok,” I say to the hipsters and point to Charlie, “HEEE likes it.”
Bert and I leave the hostel together and set out to Bluff, the end of the Te Araroa. It’s mostly a road walk along highway 1. We could be anywhere, we could be in Indiana for all I know. Say there goes a smelter! How about these big rigs! That splattered hedgehog looks appetizing! Aesthetically it sucks. But there’s a silver lining- drivers honk, wave, and give us thumbs up.
I try to talk to Bert over the traffic noise but it’s a lot of “Wha?” and “Oh yeah?” So I sink back into my own pace and throw on my headphones. My baby cried all night long, my baby cried all night long, he saw me dancin with a boy named Joe a huggin and a kissin with the lights down low… “Ahhhhh!” I feel someone grab my shoulder from behind, and it scares the living shit out of me. It’s Monique!
“I was taking a snack break behind some bushes and I saw you walk by!” she exclaims. I am really happy to see her. Monique is one of the most badass women I’ve ever met. She’s a classic Kiwi tramper: tough, kind, funny, light hearted, and determined. We hit it off immediately. A few days ago we walked 28 miles through farmland, bush, and mud together. But she did it in leather boots and carrying a 60 pound pack. When I try on her pack my knees almost buckle. “I would cry if I carried your pack,” I moan. “I would cry if I had your pack!” she laughs.
Monique is an excellent hiker despite the weight she carries. It doesn’t matter how you do it, what matters is that you have the will power. Here is your Oscar moment of the Day:
An American ultra- lighter and a classic Kiwi tramper made friends by one thing: a love for walking in the wilderness.
Don’t worry readers, this journey isn’t going to end at a smelter, garbage dump, or abandoned dog kennel. The last 7k takes us along the coast!
I don’t feel happy or sad. The end of this hike just means I get to start planning the next one.
A hearty thank you to all my readers for following along and supporting my self-expression. Your outlooks are beautiful and immensely helpful. Also, thank you John and Louise for letting us crash at your place and drink your homebrew. Thanks to Gary the sheep farmer at Hikuraki Station. Hector Hines, Bert, and Monique: you’re all amazing individuals and incredible hikers, I’m so glad we met. Thanks Carrot Quinn for listening (again).