We walk out of the bush. The jungle canopy falls behind our heads, as if taking off a hood - a blue sky stretches out above us and over a grassy green vista rolling beneath: the Bay of Plenty. It's a panorama of rolling valleys tumbling down to a distant beach crescent and then the big blue sea.
Our first kit test is done. We feel fit and alive. I laugh at the noises of the birds, especially the one which sounds like a donkey and a mechanic having a fight.
We were only in there for a miniscule 7 days but we learnt a whole load about protein deficiency and discovered that we need better hunting tools. Most importantly we've finally immersed ourselves in the NZ bush, and completely loved it. We walk away in the knowledge that we had a huge amount to learn before going full time.
15 km later we walk onto a Backpackers clean carpet in full kit. There's synchronized head-turning from the clean crowd watching the telly, bit longer than usual, before their retinas are velcro'd back to the screen. We sweat at the desk, slog through the obligatory tour of the hostel and the stupid fucking forms. We throw packs on sprung bunk beds and fly to the shower. Rivules of precious grease swil down the white ceramic floor and disappear down the plug hole. Hot water from a tap is one of the most brilliant outcomes of science and we sing loud enough for the whole hostel to hear. James Brown himself would have got down.
It is lovely, really nice, but I can't help thinking “I don't need it”. The comfort of the showers and the beds that is - everybody needs James Brown.
Everybody also needs protein, so we get our dry clothes on and walk barefoot through the town. A kid in his car leans out and shouts “Bwoy!” at me, low and aggressive. It felt like he was after trouble. I don't normally get into fights, but he'd picked a bad time, I'm still tuned into survival mode and this is a threat. One more time and I'll spin round and go for him, get the first one in before he can pull any moves, use the car door if I have to. I immediately check myself in surprise – I guess seven days without meat and scraping by really sharpens your instincts. I find out later that “bwoy's” a standard guesture, he was probably only trying to shift some weed.
We walk away down the pavement. I find a $20 floating in the breeze and stash it as I would an unearthed worm for bait, quickly getting it into the pocket before it wriggles away.
Darkness begins to fall. The town is the same as any other, nature tempered by tarmac under our feet. The street lights flick on in a predictable manner just like any other. Street lights coax traffic along just like any other. People don't talk to each other. What's there to say? Same old city crap, different day.
Outside the supermarket Ozzie and I sit on the grass swigging bottles of coke, instinctively looking across at the bush – the huge range now on the horizon. Our new sky puts down a wonderful sunset over the Kaimai crest as if a final gesture of goodbye.
We go eat steak.
[As I write this post Ozzie is doubled over the toilet puking his guts out. Poor chap. But this is unrelated - I am weeks behind.]