A man on a riding lawnmower is making slow, lazy circles cutting the grass around several dark green cabins. It looks like it is about to rain. None of the three of us wants to stay in the tent tonight. Oh, camping is fun but the tent is small and it can make for a long night sometimes.
Behind the campground office, a guy is swinging a golf club. He greets me at the door. We’re looking for a place to spend the night. I can see the Masters playing on the TV behind him. Do you have any cabins available? Yes, someone has cancelled—we can have one. That will be $40 for two plus $15 for one additional person. He slowly writes my name in a small, palm-sized notebook and I hand him the money. That will be cabin number one he says, one of the four cabins in the patch of grass we saw when we entered. The man on the riding lawnmower is still mowing in lazy circles, the remaining long grass holding out in the center against his ever-encroaching onslaughts. Our cabin is next to the kitchen and bathrooms. I don’t see any other cars and no one seems to be in any of the other cabins. It is off-season. There are a perhaps three or four other motorhomes at the campsite. They look to be there on a semi-permanent basis.
The cabin is painted a dark green like Army barracks. There is an old couch on the porch. Inside are several beds with mattresses. We have our sleeping bags and pillows. A single bare bulb illuminates the interior.
An elderly man is sitting in the kitchen area with a cat. He tells us that he is happy with the cat because the cat caught a mouse today. Apparently the man has lived here for the last ten years. His brothers have died in recent years but he figures he himself still has some fifteen years left to live.
With no one around, it is peaceful here. Matthew reads his book, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in the kitchen area. I sit on the couch on the porch. Rebecca is bustling around doing something, whatever women do when they get a new nest, even if it is temporary.
Then we all split up. Rebecca is going to stay at the cabin and read. I’m going to walk on nearby Ruapuke Beach. Matthew is going to roam. He is seventeen years old now and he likes to roam. Day or night, he likes to be out an about. I used to like to roam like he does now. I still do but usually not at night. Later while I’m walking on the deserted beach, I will see him far above me on some grassy promontory. He waves. Then he disappears again. He’ll show up hours later back at the campsite. Someday he will roam away and not show up again; I am ready for that.
This is a less popular area of New Zealand. I walk alone for several hours on the beach. Lots of small Portuguese Man of War have washed up.
Eventually I reach some cliffs. The ocean surges against the rock and I can go no farther. The sun is about to set but is hidden behind a bank of clouds. Then it appears for just a few seconds and glimmers on the horizon like a gold coin before it dips off the edge of the earth. I snap a photo. It’s dark by the time I get back to the cabin.
The campground is still empty. Making dinner we are the only ones in the kitchen. The roiling clouds I had seen at the beach have now coalesced and move toward us. Rain begins to splatter down on the cabin roof. It rains hard almost all night. We sleep warm and comfortable.
In the morning, the rain continues. We drink coffee in the warm kitchen looking out at the misty New Zealand scenery.