Kawerau Stinks and Terawera is Beautiful

We slowly get up the hill and stop in Rotorua at another mechanic shop. I can now tell where the auto shop district is in any town and drive by instinct to a garage. The man there tells me it’s the vacuum booster seal in the master that has gone bad, something that having the part reconditioned wouldn’t have corrected. What can I do? Sell the cursed thing is his grinning answer. Sell it back to those ministers is our resolution and back to Kawerau we drive. We’ve tried ringing them with no answer and it there is nobody who answers our calling at the door. Sitting out on the street and reading an older lady passes by, wondering if she knows us. Probably not, we’re just visiting. This does not stop an extended conversation which is fine; we’re merely waiting around the place. She came over in the 40’s from the UK and has been a widow for 20 years. She’s very wrinkled and full of stories which meander to her mind’s whim. As she bids us a good day someone pulls in to the driveway, giving the old Bedford a double-take. Erica goes up to greet him and by the time I get there she’s crying. It’s one of their sons checking on the place since the paper plant called him in from the farm for some maintenance work on one of the machines. Kawerau has the mixed stench of a paper plant and a sulphur pit. The locals insist you get used to it but we would rather not. I guess when he asked Erica how she was going the reply couldn’t be understood over the sobs, although he could probably gather she wasn’t going well. He tells us the folks will be back the next day, hands us some grapefruits from the garden and we decide to spend the night in the park where camping is welcomed. In the park throwing the disc and Erica smacks the ground tripping on her pants while running for the disc and starts to cry again and her bruised knee begins to swell. I put an arm around her and we limp, cry and sigh our way across the street to the corner bar. The name of the place is “The Corner Bar” and is attached to a hotel. The name of that place is “The Kawerau Hotel” clever. It’s a dark place with the T.V. too loud, about five older folks hovering about a horseshoe-shaped bar and half dozen pokies (slot machines) in the back. Every once in awhile someone will drift out from back there and count out a little change for the next drink. The proprietress and owner, Chaz, takes a liking to us and we sit there chatting through a coupe drinks. When I go to pay she won’t let us, insisting that meeting such nice folks is payment enough. This causes Erica to cry a little and Chaz fills up our glasses and starts to pry out the real story. It’s so intriguing to the regulars that even the T.V. is turned down. We’re the show now. A few more shouts (rounds of drinks) later and Scottish Dave hands Erica his mobile phone. His wife Marie is on the line and tells Erica she will be meeting us in the morning in front of the bar to take us up to the local falls. From there we will head on around Lake Tarawera and she will take the car around to the other side and meet us at the end of the day. There is no getting out of it so we decide to turn in before more drinks are offered and get some sleep before the all-day excursion. The falls come blazing out of the middle of the cliff-face. Marie takes our picture and turns back. She describes the route, making a point of telling us where the toilets are along the way. We continue on and she turns back. It’s a beautiful track, heading up the face where we can see the river slink underground. There are big trout in there, too. It heads off to the lake and on around to Humpries Bay, one of the noted toilet stops and what we believe is the end of the track. We’ve reached it at about the time Marie thought it would take us to finish and we both believed this is where she said the car park was where she would be waiting. We wander around and around and it becomes obvious there is no road, no car park, no Marie. Erica wants to head back to the other toilets we passed and where there are some signs of civilization. I want to go on to what the signs points to as a lodge about 3 hours further on. All the tracks have time estimates, there are no distance markers. It’s frustrating to think the people who put the track together know exactly how fast I walk, in any weather conditions. I win out and we walk on. It’s pretty, but is clouded by the thought that Marie is somewhere freaking out about us not arriving and that we’ll have to try and find a way back to town from out here in the middle of nothing. Nothing, that is, except beautiful natural vegetation, birds and gorgeous shorelines of the lakes we pass. At the end there is a little lodge, but not the sort of thing we’ll be spending the night at. There is also a large parking lot. At the end, to our huge relief, is Marie. We’re 3 hours later than we thought we would be. She’s reading a book. Nonplussed she asks if we would like some OJ from oranges squeezed out of her yard. It’s a gleeful trip back to the bar and a couple more drinks on Chaz as we talk about the excellent hike. I excuse myself to call up Paul on a payphone. Sharon answers and states that he’s out in town looking for me, as they passed the Bedford on their way home. I hang up and turn around to find him strolling along. He wants to take it to his mechanic so I hop in. It’s much further than I thought out to the place. Along the way Paul can feel the shifting problems and tells me about an old English car he had before that required taking the foot off the accelerator before the servo would engage to switch gears. He is so used to it that he thinks he’s been doing it with this van and never noticed that it doesn’t like to shift through the higher gears. To me, it sounds like a load of crap. When we get out there I think I better call the bar and let Erica know what’s going on. She’s been getting a hard time about me leaving with an attractive young Maori woman. Yeah, right. Those two words put together and sarcastically spouted out signify sarcasm. This time it means no worries, they all know there is no such thing as an attractive young Maori woman.