Thursday 12 December
Waitomo to Te Kuiti (16 km)
We started in Waitomo outside the general store, where we had stopped walking on 24 October. Today and for the week ahead, due to Hannah’s groin injury, we decided to cycle the road sections of Te Araroa. In this area, there are rather a lot of connections done on the road margin. These are not fun to walk, largely due to the wind turbulence created by heavy passing trucks.
There is a Waitomo to Te Kuiti path – the Pehitawa track – which passes through natural bush and sheep pastures, but almost parallel to it is Fullerton Road, mirroring the track’s steepness and views, so this was good as a cycling alternative.
After 3 km, Hannah said she had to stop, so Marius and Etienne picked her up and I was the Thing-bearer for the afternoon. The ride was very pretty, but I don’t enjoy travelling solo. I missed my prickly, shoulder-hunching, insulting, complaining and witty companion.
The best moment was spying two tiny goat kids hiding in the bushes. They were so small that initially I mistook them for cats. Kids are utterly sweet, but unfortunately feral adults do a great deal of damage in the national parks.
The road wriggled its way up the steep sections, as if trying to shrug me off, but since I have walked very long distances over rough terrain with a heavy pack, I find cycling a doddle.
Meanwhile, Marius, Hannah and Etienne drove to Te Kuiti Domain to set up camp. “Look,” said Marius, pointing to the village’s modest sign. “We are entering the ‘SHEARING CAPITAL of the WORLD!’ We are going to brave a night of the dazzling life of the den of ovine sin that is Te Kuiti.” The children were strangely unimpressed.
As I pedalled into Te Kuiti, I saw a superb bronze sculpture of a long-tailed bat chasing three moths. Something that pleases me immensely about New Zealand is the flourishing of art here. Our tiny population of less than five million has a large artistic community, and it churns out high quality sculptures, many with appealing whimsy.
The Domain campsite is not luxurious but it is comfortable enough. Marius said the gnomish old warden looked like a long-retired Oin or Gloin who had shaved off his beard and now maintained a week-length Don Johnson stubble. While in the camp kitchen, Oin complained to Marius that the “F__ing shower cistern overflowed and there’s f___ing water everywhere f__ing mumble f___ing grumble”.
After we had all showered, Etienne doing so without rejoicing in any soap, Marius amused us by repeating a Cheech and Chong radio skit from the 1970s:
[Screams. Measured footsteps]
Torturer: Zey are killing ze girl tonight, old man.
Old man: [blubbers]
Torturer: Did you her zat, old man? Zey are killing ze girl tonight. You can save her… Just sign ze papers, old man.
Old man: I cannot sign ze papers.
Torturer: You cannot sign ze papers, old man? Old man, look at me.
[Sounds of slapping, old man cries out]
Torturer: Now sign ze papers old man.
Old man: I cannot sign ze papers [blubbing]
Torturer: Sign – ze – pa – pers – old – man!
[Sound of scuffling]
Torturer: Now old man, you are making me lose my temper! Calm down, old man, just caaalm down.
[Sound of match struck]
Torturer: Vould you like a cigarette, old man? How about zis von!
[Sound of sizzling]
Old man: [screams]
Torturer: Now old man; sign ze papers!
Old man: What do the papers say? [blubbering]
Torturer: Zey are merely a statement saying zat you have not been mistreated while you have been here.
Old man: [moans in despair] I cannot sign ze papers.
Torturer: [shouting] Und vhy cannot you sign ze papers?!
Old man: Because you have broken both of my hands!
I mourn the demise of radio plays and radio comedy. In the age of visual overload, our children are growing up in a world where the cleverness of writing without a narrative voice, purely to be heard, has largely been lost.