The deep orange fireball slowly poked out above the calm cerulean ocean lighting the coastal skyline. Soft ripples churned below, splashing against the timber piles of an abandoned wharf and as I stretched my arms, I watched the fiery blaze of sky turn to cloudless blue. A sibilant sound struck the air behind me in a chain reaction and I jarred my head around watching another Intermodal freight train crawl back into the yard.
I felt tired from restless sleep or lack thereof, but twas wandering the road that deprived me of this comfort. I did not fret. I just smirked with a jolly smile cracked upon my face. For the first time in weeks the hex of relentless tears drowning the landscape finally ceased with the burden of rain lifted. I did not know for how long, but instead embraced the shining happiness of warm sunshine, and swift breeze of ocean.
With the final pulls of my compression sack, the rustling of my garbage bag liner and that final zing of zipper closing my backpack, I peeked out beyond the tensile fencing. A small opening of fence curled back by a timber pile and naturally my curiosity spiked interest.
“Maybe I’ll just take a quick peek on the dock…” I thought.
I peeled back fence just enough to squeeze through it, walking the plank of timbers to the stairwell that gave way to the dock. Janky, wet, splintered wood planks lay across the laden piles holding the pier, each infected with barnacles, stained by algae. I tiptoed around the corner, watching yachts and boats skip through the ocean, while I wandered by a crimson discarded sleeping bag scrunched along the back of the wall to the abandoned wharf. Someone made it their home, at least at some point, squatting with a priceless view of countless splendid suns. Who could blame them?
The sun sweltered down with its blinding eye, and as I walked the dock, I found an entry point to the dilapidated wharf. A square hollow of window cut an opening to the dingy turquoise building loosely standing ashore. I hopped inside, stepping on empty plastic bottles, and shattered bits of glass. The aroma of strong mildew struck my nostrils as I perused the rooms, but nothing intrigued my eye, not like Tokomaru Bay with the woodwork of Maori carvings. Instead, I stood silent in a structurally unstable wharf, an empty shell, derelict, and occupied only by wandering souls or the homeless in Tauranga.
With short-lived attempts at urban exploration I left for the road unknown. The coastal roads meandered the ocean and my toes itched to explore. Modern architecture lined the city like any tourist pit, flaunting expensive clothing, high-end restaurants and cafes, luxury lifestyles for the rich and the bourgeoisie. The heart of Tauranga mimicked every city by the beach and I ignored its rhythm while my footsteps slowly began syncing with the zipping sound of the freeway.
And just like that, my mindless walking escaped the city chatter over a bridge of blue and a falling sky. I turned around watching the rolling asphalt roads of highway flutter into Tauranga, each vehicle embarking to its destination while I mulled over my own. I dreamed of the next city and its relics, not sure of where I would end up, but ready to go, to move forward, to walk further, to free myself of manmade beauty for the sculptures of Earth. I wandered.
My trek veered left through a pedestrian tunnel, newly constructed, with graffiti scribbled all over the ceilings and walls in marker. For once I freed myself of highway, tramping the back roads through Maungatapu. Like every town and city I marched through with my head held low, watching my footsteps, soaking in the street art between the white noise of vehicles and blend of faces until reaching the highway again.
I tramped along a grassy meadow between an endless row of Italian Cypress and the thick white line of shoulder scrawled out along Highway 29A. A vineyard fed the landscape with fruitful grapes and wine, for miles and miles beyond the trees, and clouds began to fill the sky, trickling in clusters of gray. I kept the plod constant inching closer towards the train tracks. My feet slipped and skittered upon ballast as I looked out at the glaze of verdant marsh pillowing the landscape before the crag of mountaintop. I paused listening to the whir of wind from rampant traffic blazing by the highway and tilted my head down at the glistening steel, clean, with sparkling silver.
I crept along the banks of railroad and my mind thought about catching out on another train to nowhere. As my feet wobbled and ballast dug into my decayed soles, I pittered back through a thicket of pampas and tall grass, following the shoulder of highway to the next on-ramp. Construction cones occupying the shoulders of congested lanes killed my hitchhiking efforts so I moseyed across the train tracks and fled to a row of shrubbery by the road to Opotiki.
Diesel beer cans, crushed and thrown in a pile, lay tossed near the tensile fencing separating me from a siding of railroad tracks among other miscellaneous rubbish. Just as I unraveled my bivy, leaving my gear awry, I realized I stumbled upon the hop out. My ears twickered, dancing to the whistling of steel and as my head shot up from the bushes I witnessed the slowing of a freight train. I counted the bolts, one-by-one, as she halted at the siding, ruffling my bivy and clothes into my pack as I punched it shut and hauled down the line looking for a suitable ride. Empty lumber, empty lumber, more empty lumber…with nothing to hide on in daylight as I jolted for the front containers on flat cars. But, as such the signal changed while the passing train wolfed on by, and her wheels gingerly slipped away from me as if the train never came.
I sat with hope, waiting, and weeping from my carelessness. Sips of scrumpy turned to gulps and soon I wallowed in drunkenness by the siding, reading and doodling on a piece of loose bubble wrapped cardboard. But, after three days of staking out in the weeds by the highway, the train never came. I found myself wandering the corridors of highway back to Tauranga hoping to hitch a ride to Hamilton or Rotorua, heading in whatever direction the first ride took me.