The Journey To Find My Shorts

It was when I got to Kiwi Burn that I realized my only pair of shorts had disappeared. Now I found myself by Lake Taupo wearing jeans, the journey to find my shorts would begin there and involve many kilometers, my first fish and other good times.

I was fairly certain of where they were; a guy who owned an automotive shop had picked me up hitchhiking and let me stay the night at his beautiful house south of Auckland, I'd done laundry there and they probably never made it back into my bag. He'd given me his card as well, so my idea was to start hitchhiking back up there, a couple hundred miles north, and give him a call as soon as I could access a phone.

It was getting late, but I headed north of town and stuck my thumb out anyways. After a decent wait, for hitching in New Zealand anyways, a man came walking by and told me I probably wouldn't have great luck this time of day with it nearing dark and all. He told me there was free camping by the river when I asked for a good place to go.

I made my way to the river, his directions lead me astray from whatever camp site he'd been thinking of, but I found a spot tucked away above the river to sleep the night anyhow.

In the morning I walked down to the river and filled up my water, it was clear deep blue water, beautiful. I washed up best I could too, after all I had just been camping five nights prior to this night in the madness of Kiwi Burn.

I headed for the road, a scenic overlook caught my eye, I went there and met an Australian hitchhiker who'd been touring around for a while, we swapped gear advice and travel stories for a bit and then I got on my way.

I walked a good deal down the road, thumbing cars and hoping to get to a better spot, as in a spot with more room for cars to pull over if they wanted. the sun beat down and I kept going, walking a good while and pausing at a couple halfway decent spots before continuing.

I was walking again, forward with my thumb lazily at my side, and a car came rushing past and pulled into the shoulder just a ways up. I recognized it immediately. Out of the passenger seat popped The Great Scot, shooting both arms in the air, then out popped Jake running at me - it was my Sweet As Bro camp from Kiwi Burn, heading home for Auckland.

Reunited, we joyously cruised north, happy to keep the good times rolling. We made just a couple stops, one to run through a corn field and another in Hamilton to walk around the botanical gardens for a good while. I used Eve's phone to get in touch with the Phil, the guy I suspected had my shorts at his house. He said he was on vacation for a couple weeks and gave me his daughter's number saying she'd be off work at 6 and may be able to find them at the house.

We got to Auckland and made our way to a nice Thai restaurant, the five of us had a good big meal that really hit the spot. Afterwards, Jake showed us a place nearby that had bumper car laser tag, something to see to believe.

I made a call to Phil's daughter, she looked around the house for my shorts, finally saying she had them in her hands. Perfect, I told her I'd be there later in the day if I could make it.

We dropped the Great Scot off near his hostel in town, then unloaded Jake and Eve with all their stuff, then I cruised on with Charlie. We stopped by his mom's house before heading south to pick up his kid, his mom and brother came along for the ride. He dropped me off in a town called Papakura where I could start hitchhiking from towards the house that held my shorts.

I got a ride from a couple from one of the islands off of New Zealand, they told me it was a great place where no one needed money for anything, just about, food was plentiful and housing was given to everyone at a certain age. They'd decided to live in New Zealand anyhow, they were working on a farm coincidentally just a kilometer or so away from the house I was heading for.

I headed up the long driveway past the olive trees, Phil's daughter and her husband were home. She searched around re-finding the shorts, at last finding them, at which point I realized that while quite similar, these were not my shorts. She called her dad and after some back and forthing it was determined that he'd brought my shorts with him on vacation, mistaking them for his.

As it turned out, he was on vacation in Waihi Beach. This is exactly where I'd ended up the night after seeing him last, a couple had taken me in while hitchhiking same as he did, I'd stayed with them a few nights staying out of the rain. If not for that rain I would have gone all the way up the Coromandel Peninsula then, so I decided I'd have no problem going back to the area to see the whole thing and swing back down to Waihi Beach to collect my shorts and see the other couple again, Richy and Kim.

In the meantime, it was getting on dark and so I was offered the bed again where I was. I'd just spent the last six nights camping at Kiwi Burn and one near Lake Taupo, so a bed, shower and load of laundry were perfect, I promised not to leave any clothes behind on the drying line this time.

In the morning Phil's daughter gave me a ride to a nearby town where she worked, from there I began walking and caught a ride to the main motorway. I then got a ride from a French couple in an RV, they were teachers in China, on holiday in New Zealand a couple weeks and heading to the Coromandel Peninsula as well.

They dropped me off in Thames, I stocked up on some more food there and had a snack along the water before hitching again. A local couple picked me up and invited me to their home for coffee. They were really friendly, the woman especially and was keen on telling me all about trees and the ocean in New Zealand. She'd traveled about the world and was happy to see me doing some of the same. Their neighbors came and joined us, telling me how the well traveled woman had taught them all about gardening and they were well on their way to having a nice setup of their own. She called the ocean their "fish cupboard", saying there was always something to eat. They gave me a roll of aluminum foil saying I could use it to wrap a fish in if I caught one and cook it on the fire, it would come in handy later.

They gave me a ride to the edge of town afterwards where I soon caught my next ride, a guy going to work in Coromandel town towards the north of the peninsula. We only made it so far though, the rain from the last week had caused many landslides, there was one still blocking the road and the workers cleaning it up weren't sure how long it would be to fix. He turned around heading back for Auckland, no work that day, I hopped out and walked along the beach, popping back up on the road on the other side of the landslide.

After a bit, a car picked me up, someone who'd driven to discover the slide from that side only to be turned around as well. He took me to the next town, I walked a while along the coastal road until another guy picked me up, just going a little ways to his home where he was dealing with landslide issues of his own on his property. I walked some more from where he dropped me off, eventually one of the work trucks picked me up. It was an interesting guy heading up to Coromandel Town and east from there, it was a great drive with high sweeping views of the ocean.

An ex cop picked me up after that, now into Pottery, he dropped me off when he turned into his home that was fairly remote. I walked some more until a van of UK tourists picked me up and drove me further still, finally turning off in their own direction at a junction where I went the other way on the now dirt road leading to places I could already tell many didn't go to. No cars passed, I kept walking, finally coming on to a small town, and by that I mean several houses and not much more.

The road winded back up into the trees a bit from the ocean, once up there I heard a car coming from a distance, I rushed around the blind corner I was in to put some distance between it and myself so the coming car could see me rather than hit me. They saw me and stopped for me, a guy named Paul with his car loaded down with fishing and camping gear, a small dingy on the roof, on his way to a campsite where his dad and some friends liked to fish from throughout the year.

He handed me a beer and started talking about the fishing he'd done and how much he loved the spot we were going to. As we got closer he pointed out specific rock points and patches of ocean and which fish he'd caught in those spots. I told him about my cheap rod and aspirations of catching a fish, by the time we reached the campsite it was decided that I'd camp there with them and catch some fish in the morning.

He set up his big tent, called an oztent which he'd recently got, it set up in just seconds, which was apparently it's big selling point and the design had won some awards, I thought it was pretty slick. Later that night his friends, who were also in charge of the campsite area, cooked us a meal of butter fish and veggies. We ate up and shared stories before calling it a night.

We were up around first light in the morning, Paul gathered his fishing gear and we unloaded the boat into the water. He took one look at my fishing rod and shook his head, even more so when he was the cheap hook and sinker it came with. He grabbed a better heavy hook for me and tied it on the line, then we were off.

We motored out a ways, he showed me the direction to cast in and said we'd be drifting a bit and would motor back down the coast every so often to avoid the coral reef further north. A few casts in and I was on, a fish was fighting me, my rod bent down, I let out some line so it wouldn't snap, it was pretty thin cheap line. I reeled it in from there, a bit at a time, pulling the rod up and winding down, tiring the fish out. Finally it came into view, a good size silvery red snapper. Paul grabbed the net and scooped it in, pulling it off the hook and cutting it behind the eye putting it to rest, "icky" is the term for that.

I was excited, smiling at this fish, much bigger than I thought I'd be able to catch, but apparently not huge in the scheme of big time fishing. It looked like a giant meal to me, perfect.

We kept casting, I soon caught another, battling in the same fashion until I felt the fish tucker out again and reeled him in. Once he came into view I realized why he'd tuckered out so quickly, it was just his head. A shark had got to him before I could reel him all the way in, we saw him swimming around, maybe five or six feet long.

Paul had a couple nibbles, then finally pulled in a snapper himself. We were out on the boat several hours, I had a couple more big battles, one of which tangled all my line in a big mess when trying to let some out. Both of these battles finally ended with the fish breaking off and snapping the cheap line before I could get them in.

In the end I had my big snapper, good enough for me. Paul caught four himself, but mine was the big catch. "the cheapest rod on the boat caught the biggest...", Paul said shaking his head.

He gutted and filleted the fish once we were back, a guy walking by was keen on taking the heads and guts that Paul would otherwise have thrown to the birds. This guy turned out to be the harbour master, I got packed and he gave me a ride up to the very top of the peninsula, another 10km or so, then all the way back down to Coromandel town where he was excited to get home and feast on his fish bits.

I stood along the side of the road, hoping to get to Waihi Beach by night and share my first fish with Richy and Kim. Across the street a saw a guy show his kid a big sack, the kid looked in and got excited, it was his catch up the day, a big kingfish and some shell fish. The guy shouted to me that he was running into town and would give me a ride if I was still there when he came back.

I was still there, and he gave me a lift out of town a good ways. A Swedish couple gave me a ride next, dropping me off where there was a German hitchhiker walking in the opposite direction looking tired under the weight of his pack, seemed he'd been walking for a bit. I soon got picked up by a guy originally from south London, now living in the next big town, Whitianga, he gave me a lift that far, half-trying to convince me to stay in town at one of the backpackers hostels since it was getting later and Waihi Beach was still a little ways.

I was keen to continue on, my snapper was filleted and on ice in my pack and would only last so long, the thought of eating my first fish propelled me forward. I waited a good while for a ride though, when it finally came I recognized them. It was the same French couple from China in the RV that had picked me up the day before. They gave me a lift a little ways further before they turned off for their next stop.

I walked a good ways, finally getting picked up by a drunk driving a jeep. He said he was heading for Whangamata, the last big town before Waihi. He was heading there to see his lady, who apparently wouldn't be too happy to find out he was driving, he was on some sort of mission though and we were whipping around turns while listening to classic rock on the cassette player. He handed me a beer, my mind was soon at ease; even though he was clearly drunk and driving pretty fast, it was clear he knew the roads really well, probably for his whole life.

We stopped briefly while he took a leak and looked for his cigarettes, he kept going on about them, swearing he'd just bought them. We kept driving, he kept forgetting and remembering about the cigarettes and once or twice we stopped to look for them again. He also made mention of his lady taking care of me if I wanted to come with him there. The idea of a place to stay the night seemed ok, as did the shit show I assumed may take place when he got there. This could be entertaining I thought, as it seemed his lady wasn't too keen on seeing him for whatever reason that wasn't mentioned, but had something to do with him driving the car which I'm sure would be amplified by the amount of beers he'd kicked back. It also seemed he wanted me to come along because he figured it would dull down the shit show he also knew was coming, being that I'd be some sort of guest or company.

All the same, I decided I'd give a last ditch effort to get to Waihi Beach, was just some 40km away, give or take. It got dark quick though and traffic died to nothing, I wasn't getting out of town that night. The new mission became getting this fish cooked, it likely would not last through the night.

My first thought was to go to a restaurant and see if I could convince them to cook it for me, there was a fire ban in the area and it didn't seem the place I could hide away anywhere. I thought maybe if I offered to share the fish with a chef this could work. Maybe it would have, but I soon learned that everything in town was closed or closing up, all but a bar without a kitchen.

I found the only thing open in town, a liquor store, I told the two people there my story and asked what options they thought I may have for getting the thing cooked.

"Just cook it on the beach, get a little fire going, that's what I do", the young guy said.

The girl chimed in, "Isn't there a fire ban?", I nodded at that.

"Bah, no one's gonna say anything. I've done it plenty of times. Just head down that street and take a right and go somewhere along the beach, you'll be fine".

I took his advice and headed down the beach along the bay with all the boats resting in the starlight of the night, a couple still puttering around and loading onto cars far down the beach. It took some doing, but I at last got enough dry sticks and kindling and all to light up and sustain a tiny little fire in a small hole I dug in the sand. I grabbed my pieces of fish and wrapped them each in foil, throwing them on the fire one by one. I took a bit of the first, it was cooked perfectly and tasted like success. I was overjoyed, loving everything, filling my empty belly, rocking my taste buds and fulfilling my fish catching and eating goal.

I slept on the beach and got going early in the morning before being spotted, although I'm not sure anyone would have minded much. With the fish mission complete, it was back to the matter at hand, getting my shorts.

I walked down the main drag of town and caught a ride from a couple girls going to Hamilton to see someone at the hospital. I went past Waihi and to Paeroa where I could use the internet and catch up on a few things, then hitched a ride back to Waihi. The guy who picked me up was from India and told me great things that got me thinking I'd have to go there soon.

From Waihi I caught a beach at the turn off from a guy from Michigan who said he could take me to the house I was heading to, Richy and Kim's. He talked me casually at first, but had intensity in his eyes. He told me how he was living as a dairy farmer, his rent was paid and he got a butchered cow every so often along with some other perks. He'd flown over from the US with his girlfriend on a private plane without a passport, he said passports weren't needed and just something governments try to trick people into believing they need. He had some kids, all of which were birthed privately and never given birth certificates, "citizens of the world", he said they'd always be free this way, never have to sign themselves away to the system.

He talked a great deal about this sort of thing, also focusing on about loopholes in law dealing with documents writing one's name in ALL CAPS, saying that represented an entity other than yourself and once you agreed to this you were more or less fucked. It was something I'd heard before in a law class and from some other people, but wasn't sure how much pull it would have.

We drove around finding the house, still sitting in their driveway a while as I let him go on, he was on a roll and intense with it, even admitting he was telling me as much as he could since our time was so short together. His talk was of governments and the leaders of the world controlling the masses with fear, creating problems to impose their solutions, citing the y2k bug as a way for certain individuals to gain access to computer systems and globalize information to a greater extent. He said one of the next big things was global warming, which would scare people enough to result in more global organizations that would eventually end in a one world government, this he didn't like.

Finally he told me about his days of young making slews of money in Hawaii and sleeping with heaps of girls, when he found out one of his regular girls in California was with someone else, he overtook him and threw him into a hunger strike in seclusion. After more than a week of this, he had a wild vision of a being, a God perhaps, which he described as bright white and "pure love" that came to him. He said a thing or two about Jesus while also making a point to also say that church and religion was all a big scam. With this, we parted ways.

We'd been sitting in the driveway a good 10 minutes, but no one seemed to notice. I walked up the steps, the door was open, there was a man I didn't recognize watching TV. "You looking for Richy?", he asked. He then told me he was at work and Kim had gone out for a while, so I said I'd come back around 5 or so.

I relaxed in park for a while, then headed to the address when Phil, the guy who had my shorts, was supposed to be vacationing at. No one was home. I headed back to Richy and Kim's and by then Kim was home talking to the man from earlier, who I then learned was Richy's dad, him and his wife were visiting.

I relaxed with them for a while, Richy was home soon too and we looked out on the ocean and talked a while. He pointed out the birds excitedly, these patches of big white ones diving into the water. A sign that fish were there, big fish chasing little fish that would try to leap out of the water to escape, only to get snagged by the birds.

He rushed his long line onto the beach, the motorized torpedo attached to a long fishing line with baited hooks every so often, setting it out and letting it sit a while.

I got on the phone and got in touch with Phil, he had my shorts and I said I'd come on down later that night.

The line came back with just a crab and a little fish or two, but big enough to keep. We had a great big meal that night of fish, salad, chicken and whatnot, then rugby came on and I watched some with Richy's dad. It was the sevens, a pretty big deal down in Wellington where it was going on.

Richy dropped me off at Phil's place, someone let me in, he was in the shower. There they were, my elusive shorts, sitting on the table. I grabbed them and was offered a glass of wine while I waited to see Phil. He came out eventually and showed me the big king fish he'd caught earlier. I chatted with him and the family, then left them to their late dinner which they were patiently awaiting, the men had been out fishing late and holding things up.

I walked down the beach in the high tide getting nice and wet, all were asleep when I got back and I joined the slumber shortly, sleeping in my shorts, reunited and it felt so good.