I woke up with a busted lip in a bed full of puke and a reminder that I’m not Hemingway.
The Department of Conservation campsite at Manakau, about 80 kilometers north of Wellington, is the best I’ve seen so far. It’s a basic campsite with a large pavilion with benches on the perimeter and a fire pit in the center. I arrived alone and immediately set out to gather firewood.
By the time I came back with a heaping bundle on my shoulders, Jeff and Marianne from France arrived. They spent the past year in the South Island and took the ferry north that morning. I’m planning on taking the boat south in a few days so I was glad to have an opportunity to pick their brains.
They were, however, quite reserved and boring. That’s when Benji and Bin arrived to save the night.
Benji is a tall man from Singapore who sits up straight and clears his throat as he talks in his slow, deep voice. Bin is a smaller guy from China with a big smile. They both speak very fluent English. I asked them how they learned.
World of Warcraft,” Benji says. “Where’s the beacon? Ok, I know what that means. Attack the centaur. Got it. Capture the objective. All right.”
They were endlessly funny and loved to laugh. They brought a few leftover beers and I was drinking whiskey.
I haven’t been properly drunk since I arrived in New Zealand so I stopped off at Super Liquor for a bottle of Jameson. I decided to ignore the fact that my body does not handle liquor well and I have no tolerance. I also have a history of aggressive behavior and losing control of my body when I drink the poison. But I wanted to experiment and see what would happen.
We sat around the fire as Benji told me advice on backpacking in South East Asia while Bin and Marianne talked on the other side of the pavilion.
South East Asia is the backpackers’ dream,” he said.
He told me about Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and he said to buy a second-hand motor bike. They can go for as low as $300 and it will come with a registration number, which may or may not be legit. Just make sure the horn works. No one uses turn signals, they just lay on the horn to let you know they are coming up behind you.
I was a few glasses of whiskey deep and I poured some for my new friends. I looked down at the liter bottle and saw it was nearly empty.
The next thing I know, I’m on the mattress in my van and I manage to open up the back door just in time to spew pure bile. There are chunks of puke scattered about the car and my feet are wet. I think someone might have punched me in the mouth because there’s dried blood under my nose and my lip is swollen. I can’t find my glasses.
It was a great night until I blacked out. When I woke up at 11, everyone was gone. It will remain a mystery what happened that night.
I spent the afternoon wandering around looking for my glasses. Oh, nice, all 20 liters of water was poured out. And my box of pots, pans and cutlery was left out in the rain and is covered in mud. What the fuck happened.
I sat on the wall of the pavilion, still quite drunk, and ate a can of chocolate flavored creamed rice. I held the can in my hand with one bite left and just looked around and thought about what I’m doing with my life. Then I looked at my hands, which didn’t feel like they were part of my body, and broke the silence.
At least I have all my fingers.”
It’s better to have one of these nights at a campsite in the middle of nowhere with people I’ll never see again than in a dangerous city where I would have woken up in a jail cell. It’s a good wakeup call to remind me of my vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
Traveling alone can be dangerous but it also has made me very resilient. I have to be. I only have myself to depend on. So don’t do stupid shit. Stay smart and just smoke weed next time, dummy.