After driving north to spend the night on the coast in Te Kauwhata for a night of relaxing and fun along the Coromandel Peninsula. After what would be our last pancake breakfast together, we drove to the southwestern end of the peninsula to Thames. A small town with a library where my my German friend could solidify his plans for Vietnam. I was so tempted to tag along with him but, alas, I did not. Probably a choice I would eventually regret but that is okay.
Regrets teach you lessons for next time.
After a short drive to Auckland, and a quick lunch break at a viewpoint just outside the airport, we sat eating and enjoying each others company before my friends flight left for Vietnam. Sitting watching and listening to the roar of the planes overhead was very bitter sweet. Adventure was calling my friends name and he absolutely had to go.
It is difficult to accurately describe the experience of meeting a stranger while travelling, bonding with them in a certain way that makes you feel immediately safe around them...enabling you to trust them and travel around a country with them for months, sharing space, however big or small, sharing food, stories, incredible moments....moments of awe, happiness, sadness, struggle...moments of strength, weakness and vulnerability. Until you have had this experience you will never be able to understand the bond that is created between two humans who did not even know each other existed until they met on a foreign land and decided to adventure together. It is a truly special experience that I hope everyone in their own way gets to experience at one point in their life. I feel truly fortunate and blessed to have been in the same hostel room in my first two weeks in country with my dear German friend. To have spent enough time with each other in Paihia to realize that we wouldn't mind travelling with each other. And to have made the decision to meet back up after parting ways, to hike the Tongariro Crossing and continue on adventuring together. Which was the start of our trip in our wee, very touristy, rickety station wagon. Meeting new friends along the way from all over the world. Trying to avoid hitting hedgehogs and possums...and keeping the kea birds from eating our car and stealing our cooking supplies. Teaching each other our native languages along the way. Blasting German tunes as we drove along the winding roads. Happy to drive 80 km/hr down the New Zealand highways, sometimes slower, especially on the roads with vertical drops offs, no shoulders and only little wooden guard rails to catch your fall....no rush, no care in the world, taking in every sight and place that we possibly could. Pure bliss is what it was...in one of the most diverse and beautiful countries I have been to yet. I would not trade any moment of this adventure for anything.