I arrive mid-afternoon, and wandered around the I-Site’s visitor information before a guy quietly points me to the hostel information section. I make my way to the Tasman Bay hostel (free chocolate pudding and ice cream!) and grab a free bike for a quick ride around town. Shocking spoiler: I got lost several times. Really, I picked up the bike because I was actually tired of walking and after eying the town map, I decided it was too far to walk to my two goals for the day:
1) The Center of New Zealand.
2) The Sprig & Fern brewery. It’d also been a while since I’d ridden (about 5 months) and I realized I missed biking. I probably went too fast and pulled a tourist move by pretending to be a car and got in the middle of a lane. The bizarre looks I was given by drivers all around informed me that bikes do not necessarily do this in New Zealand. I pulled out the map again, and saw that I wasn’t on a road that allowed for on-street riding. Oops. A few right and wrong turns later, I was back at a park I had passed fifteen minutes ago. I pulled out my map for the 10th time and decide to go straight since I wasn’t sure which other direction to go in.
Sweetness on a pogo stick! I find the path I’m looking for half an hour after I started. That’s just the way it goes for someone with a remarkable ability to get lost but that still ends up exactly where they need to be. I get close to the Center of New Zealand, figure it’s a walking path up the hill, so I ride back to the hostel with a huge smile on my face. I take a look at the map again, and realize that The Center of New Zealand is about a 30 minute walk from the hostel (I took the long way by bike). So off I go trying to get to the top before the sun sets. I barely make it. I wondered why it was called “The Center of New Zealand” when it wasn’t anywhere close to the geographic center of the country. It was simply the survey point for the county (not nearly as exciting). I take a look at the map again, and realize that I’m about a 30 min walk from the Sprig and Fern (about 10 minutes from the trail head). Brilliant. I stop in for 6-beer tasting (note: that doesn’t mean pints!). New Zealanders apparently don’t like dark beers, as I found a notable dearth of them in my observations of North Island bars. This brewery is remarkable because it offers more than 1 type of dark beer. In fact, it offers 4 dark beers: Fern Dark, Doppelbock, Porter, and Scotch Ale. I round out the sampler with a Best Bitter and Pale Ale (click for a full list of beer here).
I spot a stack of magazines and pull out a copy of New Zealand Geographic. The Pale Ale is good, but the Best Bitter is undrinkable. The Doppelbock is most delightful. The Fern Draught is mediocre and stop drinking it after a few sips. I find myself engrossed by an article about El Nino’s (the weather phenomenon) effect on the Northland (the northern section of the North Island). I never considered that a place as green as New Zealand could have a drought so bad that the cows were starving. I keep reading and absent-mindedly reach for the Scotch Ale and miss it just enough to tip the glass and spill the beer all over my table. An employee walks by and asks me what happened and whether or not someone bumped the table. I’m really embarrassed about being distracted by an article in the New Zealand Geographic. I want to lie and say I’m tipsy. I meekly tell the truth and look away to try and hide the embarrassment. He wipes my table and I get right back into the thick of the article without a second thought. I refuse to leave without finishing my article. I make it back to the hostel, enjoy some free hot chocolate pudding with ice cream, befriend a young German girl named Caroline and find out that we’re going to be in the same places for the next few days. I end up telling her and an Italian, Franceso, about my bush walk and getting lost. His mannerisms are very stern, and I tell myself that it makes sense that Italy should have such serious people because of that important religious figure in Rome. He seems to be the kind of person that doesn’t know how to smile.
He clearly thinks I’m insane. My first few sentences to him earlier that evening probably didn’t help my cause, either. “Hey we stayed at the same hostel yesterday. Are you Portuguese?” “Have you met the Portuguese?” He states incredulously, clearly insulted by the fact that I thought he was Portuguese. “I’m Italian.” He goes on. “Oh. I thought you knew capoeira.” How did I come to this fantastical conclusion? I saw Brazilian-made flip-flops and a bathrobe that resembled a gi in the last room that we shared. That adds up to someone who does capoeira in my head. It’s probably a result of watching too many martial arts films. While entertaining, it’s at times like these that I should keep my over-active imagination to myself. I realize that I boosted his ego a bit when he later asks me, “Why did you think I did capoeira? Is it because of my…” and he flexes his bicep. I laugh and make another embarrassing confession about the bathrobe connection. Some days, you just have to own who you are.