Things took a decided turn for the better my last few days in Australia. I had some beautiful practices at the local Ashtanga studio, shared some amazing meals with friends and marveled at the speed and efficiency of DHL and Visa. Once I was solvent again I began relax into the flow of Sydney.
After a really special farewell dinner with Tors overlooking the Sydney Opera house it was time to venture on to New Zealand, likely the last country before my return to America. Somewhere over the Tazman Sea I realized things were really starting to look up. A clerical error had botched my request for a vegetarian meal and the crew felt so badly that I might not eat that I was treated to first class, where the meal was tuna tartar and a selection of fine cheeses.
Upon landing in New Zealand I sauntered up to the rental car agent with great trepidation. My whole plan, what little of it there was, hinged on me getting a rental car. I filled out the paper work and waited for the agent to ask for my license… when she did I figured my goose was cooked, but in New Zealand they will accept a copy of your license if you are unable to produce the original and because I used to be smarter… I had stored a copy of it on my computer for just such an occasion. I have access to money and a car, there is no stopping me!
Now, as I write this entry I am sitting in my rented Campa (actual NZ spelling) van (traded for the original rental car and $5 more per day) which is parked in the most beautiful campground I have ever been to. I am meters away from the beach. Between the ocean and me is an estuary teaming with native birds and small fish, followed by sand dunes and a barrier of seashells, many as big as my hand.
All day it had been absolutely pouring down rain (or ‘pissing’ rain as they say here), but when I got here, the skies parted for the sun to set. The light when I took my first stroll on the beach could not have been more perfect. It was the kind of light you wish you could live your whole life in and that savvy clothiers should use for their dressing rooms.
After the clouds reclaimed the sky I headed into the very small nearby town to get some dinner. The only place open on Monday nights is an Asian/European/Fresh Fish combo joint. I had my choice between Cambodian curry, Indonesian Nasi Gorang, a choice of items served on French baguettes or any fresh seafood delight, golden dipped and deep fat fried, that I could imagine. It was like an edible outline of this last year’s journey.
I opted for a variety of fried delicacies, fish, crab, oysters and green-lipped muscles which I am intermittently snacking on as my greasy fingers type away. Estoy contento!
Today was my first day truly alone in a really long time. I know no one here and while I stopped many times in the few miles I covered today, I was decidedly non-engaging to those whom I encountered.
Between here and my origin, a mere 60 kilometers away, I visited a cheese shop, a tea house, a winery and a sheep farm where I bought the softest and most beautiful sheep-skin throw which will forever remind me of this gorgeous day.
Since I am in New Zealand in the winter, the off-season, I am blissfully alone on the roads, campgrounds and at what might otherwise be bustling tourist stops. This is the perfect place and time for me to spend a week in solitary meditation – my kind of meditation, the kind where I am surrounded by beauty and safely all alone. I am in solitary nirvana.
Prior to this blissful reality I enjoyed three days of guided touring through another part of New Zealand’s north island. At the teacher training I did in Bali this past March, I met a lovely woman named Nicky who graciously introduced me to her friend Owen. Owen lives in Auckland and is a fellow Ashtangi and he offered to show me around.
My first night in Auckland, Owen picked me up and took me to his weekly African Drumming class where I got to play for the first time in my life. It was fantastic! The drumming circle meets in the sanctuary of an old brick church, the acoustics and energy of the place are really beautiful, but I must admit I was a bit distracted by how cold it was. No worries, I thought, it is just an old church, that’s why there is no heating.
Afterwards we went out for a fantastic Indian dinner and again no heat so I relied on the curry and chai to keep me warm. During dinner I jokingly commented on the lack of heating and asked what New Zealand had against ductwork, Owen informed me that most places don’t have indoor heat. A fact further proven to me when I returned to my hotel to find that the staff had kindly put a space heater in my room. Having spent most of the last year in tropical clinates, my cold weather gear was limited to one pair of jeans, one wool shirt and a couple pairs of socks.
The next morning I bought a fleece jacket, then Owen and I headed east to the Coromandel Peninsula. We drove past gorgeous beaches with fishermen coming back from their day’s labor, through mountains given added depth by low-lying clouds and past field after field of cows and sheep. That first night we stayed with Owen’s sister Ruth, her husband Ben and their two lovely daughters. They were so kind and inviting that I really couldn’t help but fall instantly in love with them all.
The next day we headed south stopping at Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve, a series of teal blue bays bordered by blonde rocks intricately carved out by the ocean. Then we ventured on to Hot Water Bay.
If you surf this might be your idea of Nirvana – a beautiful right break coming into a mile-long white sand beach and if you get cold while surfing, no bother, just come ashore and dig a hole in the sand where hot natural spring water gurgles up and fills the hole for you to bathe in. Sadly our timing was a bit off and the high-tide prevented us from getting to experience the soaking part, but the view more than made up for it.
We spent the night at Prana, a private retreat center near Ohui that features rustic accommodations in old campers. We are talking 1950-60’s campers, complete with real faux-wood paneling and 50 years of mildew build up. It was so very ME! The next morning Owen and I each found a perch overlooking the ocean and had our own meditations enhanced by a steady stream of dolphins swimming past us. After that, we had an Ashtanga practice together on the retreat center’s stage before heading back to Auckland.
Once back in the city Owen saw me off and I hit the road solo. Having this camper is such a treat for me. In case you didn’t know, I traveled once before for more than a year in a truck camper and it was the happiest year of my life up to that point. That time though I was with my best friend/ex-husband and his spirit is with me very strongly now as I sit in this camper, half a world away.
This time alone in the ‘campa’, I am acutely aware of the changes that have happened for me in this last year. Eleven months into traveling the world through yoga and I am different. I am stronger, less self-conscious, more whole and I'm filled with unending gratitude.
I am well, I am wiser and I am joyful!
Lokah Samasthah Sukhino Bhavantu – May All Beings Everywhere Attain Happiness & Freedom
The past few days have been so photo worthy that I offer up these additional images.
My private beach at Waipu Cove
The Waipu Cove Estuary
Cathedral Bay's Cathedral
The Waipu Cove Estuary
Cathedral Bay's Cathedral