I stood right outside Tologa Bay by the only shoulder in the shade, flexing my thumb as minimal traffic whizzed by along highway 35 around the eastern coast. A black sports car screeched to a stop and a tall, burly, Maori man stepped out of the vehicle offering me a ride to the next small town. Lance stood there with his curly black hair and brown complexion, popping and reaching into his tiny trunk with his bulging forearms, one covered in a sleeve of Maori tattoos. The artwork fascinated me as I scrutinized the patterns carved into his arm of his respective iwi, the only tribe to buy its land back from the government.
“Drop your pack in there mate…wanna beer?”
He spoke with a thick British accent and handed me a cold Heineken covered in perspiration, handing the other to his pops in the passenger seat.
I drank a beer as I sat in the backseat, listening to Lance beatbox and rap as he handled the wheel, while his grandfather, Frances, tilted his wrist and head back, pounding beer after beer. Frances slouched with his frail frame and thick head of gray hair immersing himself in the pleasures of alcohol and once he savoured the last drops of his Heineken he motioned to Lance to pullover. Lance veered off onto the shoulder briefly and popped the trunk to grab two more brews, giving one to me and the other to his pops.
After just a few sips, I felt the buzz kick me back in my seat, dehydration, lack of food and low tolerance all contributed their parts, as the landscape blazed by while we meandered highway 35 to Tokomaru Bay. Dimples of green Earth spread out across the hilltops in craggy chasms of jagged terrain as we cruised up and down, zipping around bends towards the bay. Sheep, spread among the rugged landscape, chomped on patchy blades of grass and as I looked out beyond to the bay, they blazed past in blurs of white fuzz.
They dropped me by the main road near the only store in town. I stepped out of the vehicle and my buzz shortly faded after splashing some water on my face. Tokomaru Bay felt desolate and abandoned. The streets stood silently, vacant of cars and industry decayed by the main road.
The ivory facade to New Zealand’s First Bank occupied the corner and its engraved letters faded away with time, barely visible to the naked eye. Musty window panes of old glass decayed on both walls with the front entrance of glass doors barricaded facing the curb. This bank once held many memories, back when whaling thrived in this once prosperous town. Now it stood there slowly deteriorating to cob webs and dust, a relic of the past when the wharf still operated back in the 1950s.
Across the street, an old tavern withered away to a splintered wooden frame, with teel paint flaking off each board, cracked windows stretched out along the recessed wall behind timber columns. An aged black-and-white map of Tokomaru Bay hung to the wall behind a warped teel frame and I wondered what lay behind those locked doors of abandoned Tokomaru Bay.
The only whirs came from the wind of crashing waves into the sandbar below, separating the murky bay from the ocean of blues.
As I ventured to the side of the building to check for an entry point I noticed a broken window pane free of glass among the splintered red paint. I threw my leg up inside, one after the other, stepping inside the tavern and this is what I saw…