Thursday 8 August
Govan Smith Rd, Matakana, to Dome Forest (12.5 km)
We started this day feeling particularly prepared. We were both wearing new pants! Trail tramping pants. Special ones designed by geniuses, crafted in China and bought at the Bivouac emporium. Surely, wearing such apparel, we cannot misread a map or put a foot wrong? The only problem is that Hannah’s new trousers rejoice in the label “Voodoo pants”. I hope my child finds God one day and I don’t want anything to interrupt her.
We were delighted to find a farm fence decorated with old wellington boots. Are these all retired from the feet of the same fella? Or do all old wellies come to this wellie graveyard to die? (Oh for goodness’ sake! I have just had to go back and correct the auto-correct. In its wisdom it had changed “wellies” to “willies”. A rural fence decorated according to auto-correct vocabulary would certainly be something out of the ordinary.)
Twenty minutes past the wellies, we encountered a parked truck. Three men with willies and a gun climbed out and released three hunting dogs from a cage in the back. The third dog rushed to greet us, but cringed away as we tried to stroke it. The men were probably after wild pigs. We’ve not seen a wild pig yet, but since they can reach more than twice my body weight, we’re not mustard keen to be introduced to an annoyed one. Dog three doesn’t strike me as too eager either.
The highlight of the day was one of our intellectual conversations.
Hannah: I know sea cucumbers with more glamour than you.
Me: No you don’t.
Hannah: I do. And a sea cucumber uses the same opening for its mouth and its anus.
Me: So…you’re saying I talk shit?
Me: If I’m a sea cucumber, then I won’t be able to operate my Eftpos card at the restaurant. Cucumbers simply don’t have the digital skills. You’ll soon decide that I am a lovely, lovely Mommy.
Hannah: No I won’t. I’ll just hold the cucumber and stab away with it at the keys on the transaction machine.
We covered steep terrain through forestry and thick native bush. Our expectation was to hear plenty of bird calls, but in fact we heard only three in the six hours we walked. We wondered if this silence was due to the time of year or some other factor.
A rewarding variety of lichens, ferns and mosses abound in the native bush. What wonderful textures and shades of green! I kept stopping to stroke them and tell them how beautiful they are. The words of a song from Paint your wagon (and satirised by some bright spark) ga-chinged up in my mind like the total on an old cash register: “I talk to da trees, das why dey put me away”.
The weather was sublime and the trail well marked. We even found two large signs with “You are here” arrows. By the time we reached the last and most popular section of the trail, close to the SH1, we knew today was not going to involve a directional disaster. “If we got lost on the trail section with proper stairs and a walkway, how would we live it down?” asked Hannah. But all was well. The new trail trousers had triumphed.
Sitting comfortably in the restaurant at the end of the trail, waiting for our order to arrive, Hannah texted her friends at high speed without watching her thumbs. Her phone does not have qwerty keys; it has a number pad where you have to click three times on the same spot to get “C”. Impressed, I asked her if she could really write texts without looking. “Of course!” she replied. “Go on then! Send me a coherent text while you stare out the window,” I challenged her. My phone twitched. I consulted its screen. The message was “My mother is a sea cucbumr”.