Hellway 45 | A Backpackers Tale | Chapter 3

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

It was one of those nights where you wake up every half an hour, your body and your mind simply can not adjust to the surroundings you have placed yourself in. A burning orange starts to fill up the caravan, I had never been gladder to see the sunrise and no rain, like an excited kid I dress up, put on my shoes and hop outside. Mike's still sleeping, on his side of the mattress. That morning mist rising around silence was the peace I needed for this trip so far, I light a cigarette and take in the morning ambiance of birds, mist rising from the grass, and the cool crisp of the fresh morning air. Breathe in, breathe out, I remind myself as this so far has been the highlight of the trip.

It's weird when your luxuries are taken away; limited phone, no TV, nor instant access to coffee without first having to walk for it, it makes you wonder if they are luxuries at all? I develop a new system of breakfast first then shower, the shower is my luxury now, as well as the music stored on my phone, that’s all I need. There’s something about camping showers, no matter how hard you try, you will never feel clean. It's always the brushing of the teeth, that’s when I feel at my freshest. We have to leave by 10 am, I’m ready by 8 and Mike's not far behind. No plan for the day but I have to surf, I’m happy to skip the town and head straight to the ocean.

At this point I’m still questioning myself, questioning the trip so far, I’m holding my thoughts and reminding myself that so far there is no rain. CamperMate is the godfather in traveling around New Zealand, it shows useful points of interests on maps and where to camp for what prices, I owe you everything at this stage. Mike suggests Bridal Veil Falls, the surf can wait and if I like it or not, I have to compromise as Mike doesn’t surf! It’s a short drive but we arrive at the forest with no other vehicles parked, the early bird gets the worm and all that shit.

We are still unsure what we will find here, a lake, a stream, or a poor attempt at a waterfall. Nature's nice, we thrive in it as human beings and I can’t remember the last time I took such an early walk in the woods. I can hear the water crashing, it sounds far away but like a kid at Christmas I get excited by the noise, we walk faster. Then we arrive, I never thought I would have my mind blown before 10am when I woke this morning. The waterfall is insane, monstrous in its power, and more proof than ever that mother nature is a force not to fuck with. Everything that has happened so far is wiped from my memory as I realize all of that shit was worth it for this moment and this moment alone, I had never seen anything like this in my 26 years of being on this planet.

We explore the waterfall, taking photos knowing we'll brag back home about how awesome it's all been so far. Back to the van and now to explore the beaches, as per usual I’m driving. We stop off at the first beach in a line of surf stops, Ngarunui Beach. There are some waves, not the most impressive but a decent size but with a messy onshore wind, fuck it I’m still going. The beach is fairly empty, guessing the wind has pulled away the crowds. It had been a while since I had last surfed, and it shows, flapping around like a fish out of water, however, I catch a few. I paddle out back and look back towards the shore and I’m immediately taken in by my surroundings, nothing but forest and ocean for as far as the eye can see, again all the bullshit from before just continues to disappear.

I head in and get changed, time to explore the other surf spots before calling it a day. We check out a few including Whale Bay. This time I know my limits and decide not to surf but however just observe, for now. I think the idea of traveling has got the better of me and I feel like playing guitar in my van, I couldn’t be any more cliché at this point. It has taken a few years but I have seen the error in my ways, what a pretentious move right there, poor Mike, poor Whale Bay. We continue to explore before we decide that we should spend another day in Raglan and continue south, CamperMate equipped we find a site just above Whale Bay and decide to camp there.

This was unreal, a campsite located within the forests, each campervan with their own plot of land for that extra peace and quiet. Mike wants some WIFI, I don’t as of right now, I’m content not checking social media. It's weird how when there are no distractions you look forward to things you don’t usually, like cooking dinner. Was it a way to just kill some time or had I tapped into some primal instinct? I was literally looking forward to cooking my box standard rice and beans. I’m told of a viewing point down the road at a walkable distance, sunset is closing in so I best get there fast.

The viewpoint overlooked Whale bay and captured the sun setting behind its glimmering horizon, this picturesque scene was not only the stuff of postcards but a perfect end to the day. We are not the only ones here and as beautiful as it was, I’m worried I’m tapping into that cliché side of traveling again. Once the sunset is done what is there to do? I start to walk back and decide now’s the time to phone home. I tell my parents the truth, how this trip started and what shit we have faced so far, they laugh. Back to the camper and its time for another night sharing the bed, imaginary line checked, I place head to pillow and I’m out like a light.

Another beautiful morning breaks, again I stumble out of the van, light a cigarette, and take in the surroundings. What’s next on the day ahead? Where do we go from here? We decide to continue south down the coast hunting for various waves and continue the journey down to the South Island. The start of the day is much slower, we leave the campsite and stick to a certain road which by now has lost its tarmac and is just stone and dirt. “Is this the right way?” I ask, driving yet again. “Not sure.” Although his response is the same as I would have given, I can’t help but feel frustrated towards the response. In my head the roles are simple, if I’m the driver, you’re the navigator, end of.

The scenery is just miles upon miles of just greenery, true Hobbit territory, finished with the sunshine it should be perfect. Currently, our makeshift camper has traveled for miles on a rocky road, I slow the speed but I’m thrown up from my seat every few bumps continuing down the road. I turn a corner and I’m greeted by a flock of New Zealand’s true residents; sheep. Hundreds cover the road, not sure if they had a destination or just making some poor excuse of a runaway? “Do we just keep driving? Shall we stop? Where the fuck is the owner?” I shout in a short burst of rage; I’m turning into my dad. “Just keep going slowly, I’m sure they will move.” There’s the navigation and guidance I needed.

We continue the drive slowly, sheep move, panic, and barely escape the slow death of our camper. I’m stressed, I feel it in my head and by the amount of sweat dripping down my back. To the left are fields of green, to the right the path has now edged towards a cliff, and ahead are just piles of sheep with no one in sight to control such a herd. Towards the end of the herd, I see something I haven’t seen for miles, tarmac! Eager my foot leans move heavy on the accelerator; fuck the damage this could cause (this will haunt me later) I just want out of the situation. Bump for bump, sheep to sheep I reach the tarmac and the sheep are starting to form like dots of wool and dust in my rear mirror.

We continue down the path, I know I need to just pull over and take a quick break before driving further south. Mike has one rule and one rule only, no smoking in the van, it’s a fair rule. We pull over to the side, we get out and lean against the side of the van. I’m staring at the ocean again, looking for waves, I need a slight distraction and some reassurance I’m still doing the right thing. He’s not always on his phone but when it is needed Mike stares at his screen, I wonder what he’s looking at? The moment comes and goes like a flash of lightning and I attend my gaze back towards the ocean. “I think we have gone the wrong way!”