December 27, 2012
We heard the storm winds and rains during the night, but protected by the thick hedgerow, slept like logs. It’s cool and grey and the weather reminds us of Germany. The road to Nelson, terrain similar to the Coromandel, steep hairpin curves and constantly changing views of harbors and coves in Marlborough Sound, is invigorating and challenging. We ride with the Swiss couple we met at the ferry and camped next to last night, stopping in a protected cove for coffee. In Havelock ‘The world Capital of Green Mussels’ where we stop for lunch, we part company.
The last part of the journey moves away from the sound into a heavily industrialized area, where whole mountains have been scraped clean of trees, leaving a bare, ravished landscape behind. Despite a sign showing a bicyclist protected by a see-through globe and admonishing drivers to keep a respectful distance,
– Don’t burst their bubble, it says, as the road flattens and becomes straighter, the cars pick up speed and pass without leaving us much space. Between Christmas and New Years – the busiest time of the year – the road is packed with families traveling in camper vans, or pulling boats behind them on trailers.
The only spot left in tonight’s secluded campground next to a beautiful, aqua-green river, smells horribly of sewage. The source of the foul-smelling fumes is the septic tank – which due to heavy rains, is leaking – and where we have, unwittingly, set up our tent. I complain, and although the owner isn’t thrilled at being asked to find a solution to our problem, we are given a small, gently sloping plot of grass near the kitchen and river.
A young woman, we met in the bike shop in Rotorua, introduces us to her husband and two small boys. While she washes dishes in the kitchen building, the boys play happily on the pathway in front of the river. A spontaneous game of dirt throwing begins, and their mother – undisturbed by the state of their clothing, quietly undresses them without a harsh word – lovingly saying they look like they have ‘make up on’. A new game of slapping their now bare bodies like drums begins, as they streak around the dirt path like greased lightening.
– What on earth are you doing? I hear a sharp, voice chiding, and look up to see an irate mother standing over a redheaded boy, who is hurriedly tugging off his clothes, and joins the party despite her admonitions. The next boy, who passes needs no invitation to join the fun, and strips down in the blink of an eye. Soon four little boys hoot and dance around the clearing, like children from our tribal past.