The afternoon sun blazes above us. Kyle, Elvis, and I are stopped along the side of the road at a picnic table. We each scrounge together our own lunches out of our meager camp rations. Elvis and mine are predictably peanut-butter based. Elvis adds dates to his sandwich. I opt for dried apricots. Bananas are my favorite, but I will now stick just about any fruit into a peanut butter sandwich. I reserve the bananas for breakfast so I can use the other half of the banana in my cereal.
We are half way to Hastings. Elvis and Kyle finally decided on a farm at which to work. They are not terribly excited, but they wanted something to remain financially stable and for a sense of community over the holidays. I want to see Napier, a well-known city on the north island’s east coast for its Art Deco style. The city suffered a devastating earthquake in the early 1900s, and the reconstruction happened during the height of the French-based architecture period. Hastings is only a short drive away so I am accompanying them first.
It may be our last meal together. I am only planning on sticking around Napier for a couple days before heading to Wellington. They plan on staying at the farm for a week before heading to another one for the holidays. I say as much, but Kyle and Elvis brush off the significance of the moment.
We sit at the picnic table for a time, getting into discussions about philosophy, politics, religion, what have you. Long enough that I need to put on sunscreen under the oppressive rays. Elvis is high on a philosopher named Terrence McKenna. McKenna’s ideas are about how society developed from primitive times because people were eating low doses of hallucinogenic mushrooms. It seems an interesting concept, but an unimportant one. If it is true I do not think it matters. Elvis disagrees, but many things he talks about indicate to me that he is searching for meaning somewhere, and this is the latest thing to speak to him. He claims he cannot explain McKenna well enough, that I need to read his books. I might eventually.
We finally cannot sit around any longer and make our way back to the cars. Another while driving and we are in Hastings, pulling up to the farm where they will be working. I get out of the car to say goodbye, fully away that this may be the last time I see them. I hope not, but I cannot say where I will be in a couple days let alone weeks when they are done at the farm. Where they want to go after this they do not know either.
I shake their hands, “Adios, see you later,” I say. I say this almost always when saying goodbye. It is strange being on my own. Excluding the one day I went off to Maunganui by myself, I have spent very little time not with Elvis or Kyle since I arrived in New Zealand one month ago. I am disappointed to see them go, but I also came here seeking a bit of solitude. I realize though, it was not necessarily solitude I needed, but an escape from the mentality of the States. Elvis and Kyle were in the same place as me. I do not mean the literal physical place. On our journeys. Searching for freedom and adventure. I knew only one other person back home driven to leave the way I did. I needed the solidarity and kinship. Still, I am looking forward to having only my thoughts and self again for a time.
Napier is an oddity of a city. The art deco style permeates the majority of architecture, giving the city a stylish feel. Different from Auckland, it is small enough to have character. I immediately prefer it to any other populated area I have been to in New Zealand. Walking the downtown area, the modern shops add a subtle and interesting contrast to the old buildings they reside in. I would instead expect them to host outdated clothes and styles from another age. A beautiful beach is strangely devoid of people. I would learn later that a combination of sharks and strong tides makes it unswimmable. The whole city is pleasantly disorienting.
Criterion, the hostel I choose, embraces the art deco style on the inside too. Decorations resemble a speak-easy era party room. I love it here. I need a shower though. The last few campsites lacked rivers deep enough to swim in.
Not five minutes after I get out my phone rings. It is Kyle. I expect he left something of his in my car, it has only been a little over an hour since I left them in Hastings.
“Which hostel did you end up at?” Kyle asks. I tell him. “Cool, we’ll be there in thirty minutes. This place was a shit hole, we’re coming up to Napier.” I laugh and laugh and laugh. At least their indecisiveness is consistent.
“Alright, see you soon.”