February 6, 1999
I am resting in an Internet Cafe in downtown
took me to the northern tip of the
The heavy wind during the night pushed away most of the clouds; the sun shone bright. We parked at the base of a fifty mile beach on the northwest tip called "90 mile beach," which when the tide abates leaves a sand surface so hard you can cycle on it. It still looked cloudy over it when we got there, so we opted to cycle inland and come back down on it. We pushed through 52 miles of rolling, fertile hills, on narrow roads, stopping at a backpacker lodge/inn/campsite. That night a squadron of mosquitos invaded our tent, and heavy rain seeped water through the floor, making for an effectively sleepless night.
But it was sunnier and hotter than ever the next morning. We headed out for the tip of "90 Mile," which meant getting off a main road, onto gravel roads, going through a bull farm (with no fences, nothing between us and the bulls), and on to an amazing piece of nature called Te Paki ("the creek"), a stream that flowed between a rich rain jungle on the left and a mountain of dry sand on the right. Pure exotic enchantment. We took off our shoes and walked our bikes in the shallow fresh water that flowed into the tip of "90 Mile" into the pacific. The tide was up, and the beach surface, all 50 miles of it, was indeed almost as hard as pavement. An incoming bike tourist warned us about the head wind, but we were undeterred.
Speeding full ahead (six miles an hour) against the forty-five-mile-an-hour wind on this fantastic beach, once a training ground for a long distance record holding runner from New Zealand, had to be the most exhilarating moment of my life. Even the realization an hour and a half later that I didn't have the manpower to complete the beach didn't spoil it. Which was good, since my rear tire went flat, and I discovered that the valves on my replacement tubes wouldn't fit through the rim of my wheel. Keith and me had no option but to push our now lumbering vehicles till the next exit, which turned out to be ten miles south. Periodically tourist busses and vans would zip by us, honks, smiles, and snapping photos, misunderstanding our own distress hand signals. Several hours and a few rest breaks later, we got to the nearest roadway off the beach, which was itself seven uphill gravelly miles to the nearest settlement. I flagged down a Maori fisherman in his SUV, and I thought he found me and my story annoying, but he kept his word and came back fifteen minutes later after dropping off his family, and took us straight to the nearest lodge. Lo is about fifty, is proud to be one of 26 siblings in his family, and is a leader in his community, overseeing water, education, and land development for his people. He offered to get his friends and family patch up my tire, but I just wanted to sleep.
Nonetheless, the sense of a new adventure for me is exhilarating. As I told Keith when we got to the lodge, what I was feeling that moment was akin to romantic infatuation, but for life, rather than a person.
I'll explain. Sigmund Freud once said what we pick and choose to remember from our earliest memories is as symbolically important as a dream. It's correlation on a macrocosmic level are the creation myths that begin most civilizations recorded histories. My own life myth and memory is seeing and hearing my mother chastise my soaking wet older brothers for playing outside in the rain. They seemed indifferent to what she was saying. I had no idea that they had even gone outside, and too late, since they were already changing into dry clothes, I ran out to get wet, but my mother pulled me in. For me, my getting-into-trouble brothers were my "Wild Man" of Robert Bly's mythology.
initially worried that I had arrived too late for the
February 8 1999
found myself in conversation with a young man reading a Louis L'amour novel. We
started off talking about literature, but proceeded to talk about love,
intimacy, values, and the ultimate meaning of life. It was a beautiful
experience. He came from the working class town of
morning, when I got to the train station, I was told that tickets to the
I should add that the twelve-hour trip on the train was a scenic blast, with every little town on the way resembling an old frontier town from some Hollywood western, complete with signs in old western lettering (the "BigTop" font in most word programs). This wasn't a tourist thing, either. Rather there simply has been so little development in these towns in the last century. We also passed some of the world's biggest (and still active) volcanos. At one point I joked to a fellow passenger that it would be funny if the steward's would let me do the interpretive duties over the train's intercom, with my American accent. Well, he took the idea to the train staff, and they told him to send me on up, and I got to read some of the scenic/descriptive stuff into the mike. They were impressed, too, not knowing that I have a background in public speaking and broadcasting.