October 03, 2014

New Zealand, Winter : Auckland - Waitomo - Waiheke

It's strange here. Where are the cicadas and the mosquitoes and the smell of spicy food cooked right there on the street ? Where are the golden air at dusk and the honeyed sap dripping from the bark of trees ? It's strange here. It's night here.

It's night when I exit the terminal of Auckland airport. A custom officer stares at my dusty clothes and tangled hair with a nice smile. Outside is the crisp air. Cold. I had almost forgotten how that felt. My bag is heavy but soon a man I do not know helps me carry it to his car, and we drive on a strange road to a strange home his home. It's cosy and warm and reassuring, as is his voice. We drink a few glasses of wine and I share fragments of my travels with him. Then I go to sleep and when I wake up, it's already late morning. I don a leather jacket way too big for me and and we race through the countryside on his enormous motorbike. The wind makes my arms shiver and so I wrap them around his waist. We drive to the highest hill and the landscape unfolds before my eyes. A new city to meet. Back at the house, I rest with a cup of tea in front of the fire and I think that it's all going to be okay.

My friend's house is a bit outside of Auckland so I take the ferry morning and evening to explore the city. It is something new to me. I enjoy wandering in the streets so much. You often forget how empty big cities can get, when you visit them while everybody else is working, living their daily lives. I often have to be reminded of what day we are, what hour – what season even. It's summer in my head, but it's winter here. It makes me laugh. I pass a small reading nook on the docks, colonial remnants that look like haunted mansions, a poem written on a silk veil wrapped around a water tower like a cocoon. A french market at the edge of the city. Flame trees in bloom on the hill. Yes, it's strange here. I like it here.

A few days later I am off to Waitomo country and getting lost in the caves. The boat floats slowly underground and a thousand glow worms illuminate the vault. I come back to Auckland late at night and walk home with tired legs.

The next ferry takes me to Waiheke Island. For a week I am living with a new family, helping my friend Liz organize her garden and taking care of her son, Kahurangi. We have long girly talks and giggle all day long. I love that I can meet so many of my sisters overseas and share our lives.

We visit Liz's friends at the boat houses. These houses have been built about thirty years ago, on rafts floating around the bay. But today the tenants have to fight for their right to remain here. I love those houses so much, they are warm and welcoming, and their owners have the brightest smiles.

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