There are days; there are always days. You know, the ones where you wake up and swear you do everything right but everything seems to be slipping quickly into wrong. Now, this is not my hall pass for you to throw a pity party, take it out on others, or apathetically throw your hands up in the air and bemoan, “Why me?” Nope. I’m about to share a recent trial I faced, with the hope that you will see the light (although it may seem faint at times) is always there, if you look hard enough.
So, I was blessed to visit a charming little town called Hahei in the Coromandel Peninsula and stay with a truly splendid woman. This is my “once upon a time” lead into the story but the reality is no fairy tale. On my scheduled day of departure, I went out early to the bus stop (location verified via Google Maps street view) and waited for the next leg of my journey to begin.
I saw a procession of seniors heading to the library, the charming townsfolk out doing their daily tasks and a few camper vans cruise by to the beach. Around 12:02 p.m. (bus reserved for noon), I felt a bit of anticipation but not anxious. At around 12:05 p.m. I saw a tour coach (that’s what they call buses) go by with a different name on it. It stopped at the gas station right next door. Something told me to walk over but, being a woman solo in a foreign country, I hesitated. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I saw the coach drive back by heading out of town that I noticed a very small insignia for the company I had hired. “Ugh, wait! Come back!” I shouted as I started off the curb after the bus, waving my arms in astonishment.
Let’s pause and have some fun with this image. A tall, fluffy-haired American running down a small rural street after a tiny bus and attracting attention. It’s really funny, if you think about it. At the time, I was hard pressed to see the humor. I drifted into a minor panic, as that was the only bus out of town that day and I was set to be elsewhere by that night + I didn’t want to lose $60 in booking, while incurring new expenses for housing and transit. I’ll spare you the poor customer service, the fact that the driver refused to turn around and the draining Internet searches that ensued for 30 minutes. Deep breath, I told myself.
Remember my splendid host? Well, with grace, compassion and calm, she came home over lunch and selflessly hopped on calls to help me reroute my plans. She was a ray of hope in a stressful situation, even offering up her home for another night. A special sense of gratitude filled me. As an extra kind gesture, she and her pal drove me the 8.2 km to the ferry landing, so I could get to a bigger town with a tourist site to sort it all out. Thank you so much, Kym (you rock).
Across the ferry I went, having informed my next host that I wasn’t going to make it that day and booked a bus for $80 more the following morning (with a different company). Once in Whitianga, I thought I would grab lunch at a cafe, reset my thoughts and figure out where to secure a room for the night. The tourist site was very pleasant, equipping me with a map and the knowledge that b&bs in the area would be $120+/night. Ouch. I decided to walk around and see what else I could find.
Here is a funny turn. I saw a sign for a hotel just down from tomorrow’s bus stop. Perfect, I thought. Walking in, it was a bar . . . wait for it, with gaming room attached . . wait again, with a rich history showcased on the wall. It used to be the blacksmith’s shop. Intriguing tales here.
The barkeep was a super helpful young man who had been on for three days and was doing his utmost to call and determine how to book a room. “But,” I thought, “where were the rooms?” I was given keys for 8 and 9. I was then lead through the kitchen, around the back and to a staircase leading up to the rooms—above the bar! Ok, every spaghetti western came to mind. I was stressed but chuckled (this is a good thing to do when you don’t know what else to do). The rooms were simple, included bunkbeds (yep, you read that right) and shared bathroom facilities. And, lo and behold, there was someone living in 10 next door. As a writer, I thought this story was too interesting not to see through. “I can do this,” I coached myself.
Ok, $60 for the room and key in hand. Now, time to brace the misty day and find a cafe. I was famished. Like many people, I don’t function as efficiently or hopefully without nourishment. However, it was not to be. I found a plethora of these signs mocking my tummy’s mission:
Best of all (hint of sarcasm), today was the first day of winter break. Yeah, I came to town just in time! Groan, the ache of my belly was eating away at my patience. “Hold on to hope. Think positive. All will be ok.” I thought to myself. And, so I tried my luck with a cafe owner who was pulling in tables. He was incredibly sweet and was still able to get me a large hot chocolate (extra strong = extra chocolate). Oh, amen. If you ever make it to Whitianga. Tip the gentleman at Tides Cafe extra for me.
Fortified enough to keep the peace within, I decided to spend the few hours before the three remaining restaurants in town opened for dinner around 5 p.m. So, with perfect timing, the sun came out for an afternoon jaunt and I spent time getting to know the harbor and a very friendly seagull that I lovingly dubbed, Pretty Bird.
I think he was after my cocoa cup but the company was appreciated, as was the sound of kids playing at the playground next to this lovely old tree.
After pacing the front door like a jungle cat for 20 minutes, this restaurant welcomed me in for seafood. It was referred to me by two locals who said it had the best seafood around. Between the Coromandel Oysters and fish of the day over twice-baked potatoes with paprika aioli, I was regaining life.
As the rain settled in for a drenching evening, I walked back to my tavern loft, pausing to chat with some locals about netball, travel and my passion for hopeful inspiration.
The neighboring room was entertaining a party of some sort for a while, so I settled into the bottom bunk and counted off the blessings of the day. It’s a far better exercise to catalog the good than to simmer over the bad. I was thankful for helpful townspeople, my new pal Pretty Bird, that hot cocoa, food in my belly, a slightly worse-for-the-wear heater, great staff at the hotel, the sunlight in the afternoon, a place to rest my head, a ferry ride (I love being on the water, even if for a moment), the bus tomorrow, the perseverance I earned, Internet to update my mom (she, in her words, “worries”), the sound of rain and all of you.