Day 73: We hitched out with a Maori family in the morning, the mom telling us about her daughter’s wedding and how she supports Donald Trump. She brought us back to Invercargill, where we indulged yet again at the lovely Bombay Palace before hitching north towards Dunedin, an Air BnB set up for us for the next 2 nights while we waited to fly back to Auckland. We got a few short rides, including one in a 70’s muscle car, and ended up at an intersection where we did some music theory stuff, and laughed a whole bunch while waiting for a lift. When we were picked up, it was in a van full of shitfasced bros on a bachelor party. Totally wild hitch. I sat shotgun and Xena sat in the back with the boys, and we drank road beers, were quizzed on rugby history, were told many vulgar jokes, and listened to classic rock blasting out of the stereo. We stopped at 2 bars along the way, first briefly to drink a quick beer, our designated driver talking to a cop outside while we drank, then another where a random dude rode the shitfaced groom like a horse. There were rules he must follow as part of the bachelor party, like drink a pint at every pub on their trip, get someone to ride him, and walk across every bridge, which he did soon after the second bar. They talked about the famous rugby player whose name is also Jonah, cat called some girls that couldn’t have been older than 16, and we stopped at one dudes house outside Dunedin so they could all change into nicer clothes for their last bar stop of the night, the dudes wife, kid, and young baby at home, surprised by all of us in their house. They were all characters, embarrassing and both vocally homophobic and totally bromosecual towards each other. Sometime past 11, the designated driver dropped the other dudes off at the bar, took us to our Air BnB, then presumably went back out to meet his buddies and keep everyone from getting in fights, being arrested, or getting lost. The lady whose house we stayed at was very very chill and had a beautiful small home. She set us up in the upstairs bedroom and we went right to sleep.
Day 74: We woke up late to a full breakfast spread, classical music playing in the background, shelves and shelves of books, really nice pottery, and a fantastic little garden in the backyard. She drove us to the top of a mountain for the view, gave us a quick tour of town, then let us roam the city, starting with the Botanic Gardens. We walked around the whole thing, seeing all the plants from around the world, the tall trees from South Africa and the US, and we saw the most incredible birds in the aviary, including the elusive Kaka, Kea, and Kakapo, NZ’s endemic parrots. We walked through the greenhouse with the hanging plants and the cacti, walked through the rose garden, then meandered downtown, getting some snacks from the New World, getting some coffee, then back to the house and eventually to bed.
Day 75: The airport seemed very lax about domestic flights and there were was a funny welcome video on the plane instead of the flight attendant’s safety talk, then trivia on the video screens all the way to Auckland. When we landed, our next Air BnB host picked us up and brought us to her large and beautiful home in the suburbs. She was from Tonga, as was her husband, who was very wrinkly and red eye- he worked nights and got up at like 9pm to work until 5AM every day. We sat and talked briefly, then we went out for Indian food at a place called Indian Flame. There was a birthday party going on, which was fun to be a passive observer of, but I made the mistake of eating something with lentils, to which I am mildly allergic and I felt horrible. We walked back and it got worse and worse until I made it to our private bathroom and puked it all out. We washed our gear off in the driveway, and drank cava with the dad, then slept hard in our extremely comfy bed.
Day 76-79: We took the bus into Auckland, and I dropped her off at the airport, feeling great change was about to come my way. We would be seeing each other again very soon, this time in New Orleans, Louisiana, and right in time for Mardi Gras. I wasn’t sure what our future held back in the states, but I was sure that I was madly in love with this woman and that I was eager to give this new adventure a go. I spent my last three days in New Zealand at the Silver Fern Hostel, reconnecting with a Swedish dude I met on day 1, jamming and busking with a phenomenal bluegrass guitar player from Germany, eating good simple food each day, watching two Irish dudes get into a fight over Donald Trump and easing the tension of the scene with some light jazz, and getting ranted at by a young German evangelist that looked like hipster jesus. Left the hostel with a cowboy goodbye- quietly- and was back on US soil 18 hours later.