Everyone asked me what I would miss most. I always said nothing. It would be different without my friends and family, but I would come back to them eventually. Being apart is not so bad. Would I miss video games, T.V., internet, books, work (ha)? No, I did not think I would.
But I was wrong. I do miss something. Cold drinks and cold food. Drinking warm water after a hike is sustaining, but not satisfying. After camping for weeks, breakfasts of bananas, bread, and cereal, lunches of handfuls of almonds and dried fruit, simple dinners of soup and noodles or vegetable-bean concoctions, the ice cream cone in my hand might as well be a gourmet meal from a five-star restaurant. I would have paid one hundred dollars for it.
“Gods below, this might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” I say.
“Okonomiyaki. And yeah, I did, but it was true then. And this is true now.” Elvis and Kyle laugh. A pleasant susurrus surrounds us, the half-heard words of a thousand conversations frames our own. The night market in Rotorua is crowded with people. Dozens of stands line the main street of the city. Most are food stands, some are artisans peddling handcrafted goods, and a few other oddities fill in the gaps. Thai, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, European, burger stands, dessert stands all come out on Thursdays for the festivities. Smells of a range of foods waft through the air, enticing the market goers, thankfully. Rotorua is in the heart of a geothermal area, so normally the city stinks of sulfur. The sounds of the city are welcoming, though hectic after so long in nature and quiet.
“Anyway, I’m doing that rock wall tomorrow. I’ll spend all day there,” Elvis says. “I haven’t been to a climbing gym in ages and you get the whole day.”
“Ok, I’m going over to the redwood forest, then probably up to mount Maunganui tomorrow. I’ll meet you two back down here tomorrow.” Kyle and Elvis nod. We wander around the market for a while, enjoying the night.
Walking through the redwoods I am reminded of scenes out of a film. Perhaps because the spacing of the trees is indicative of the manufactured nature of movie sets. I half expect a wizard riding on a horse with a big pointy hat to come galloping down the path at any moment, rambling about some evil peril that threatens the land. But that is simply ridiculous, why would a horse be wearing a hat? More likely the wizard to be wearing the hat. My imagination continues to run wild for a time as it so often does. The walk is disappointingly uneventful, though there is wonderful scenery.
“Quack, quack,” one duck says.
“Quack quack quack,” another one says.
“I know you want some of my dinner, but there isn’t enough to share with all of you.” The surrounding ducks stare at me unfazed by my protests.
“I’m not some Disney character, I can’t actually understand you.”
I sigh. I tear up the piece of bread I have and toss it around, hoping they will all get some. The ducks at the Mclaren falls campsite must get fed often judging by their behavior. No fear of people, they waddle right up to the cars and vans and people. A pleasant, quiet campsite on a small lake. There is even a free shower here, and for two consecutive nights, I have the luxury of a shower instead of bathing in a river or making due with less. A peaceful walk of the lake in the morning helps me greet the day. I could imagine a living in such a place. But Mount Maunganui awaits, and I need to be back down to Rotorua tonight.