Hinemaiaia, Aotearoa New Zealand

February 21, 2021

Right here.

I'm writing you from the banks of the Hinemaiaia river. It flows down from the Kaimanawa mountains, down into lake Taupō, and it's where finally, my trip began.

The past weeks have been a whirlwind. Packing and prepping and fixing and filming and posting and trying like mad to get this show on the road. Many things were done; little sleep was had.

My first few days on the road felt a lot the same - my whole day was filled with new. Driving in the van. Figuring out where to stay. Learning which gears on this old guy stick, and how to get to them. (Sometimes with a tractor-trailer logging truck bearing down.) Little stuff like how do the dishes with minimal water (surprisingly time consuming) and what dump stations are (surprisingly non-gross and super useful). Every single moment of the day was unfamiliar, and I was figuring it all out on the fly.

I pulled into this campground on a tip from an app. The turnoff was unmarked, off the side of a busy highway, and up a couple kilometers of single-track, deeply rutted and washed out road. Halfway up the road, cell service dropped out.

I was now in my little van, with solar, water, and food, pulling totally off the grid.

I took the third fork to the left, pulled in to the campsite - little patches of dirt buried in the woods - and spotted it. Water. A river. The Hinemaiaia river, to be exact.

Shocking as it was to realize, this is the first river I've seen in all my time in New Zealand. And the sound, the flow, the simplicity and honesty of water on stone hit a part of me that I'd forgotten I even had.

The plan was to spend a night here, then get up, and keep driving South. But as morning came, I knew I was cancelling those plans.

I've spent the past three days in the exact same spot. I swim every day. Write. And fall asleep to the sound of a river, cascading over stone.

When I was a little kid, I spent my weekends in the mountains. Aspen and pine and rocky rivers, cold, flowing down.

And for just one day longer, I'm going to stay.

Have a water-connected week, -Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was, well, the Hinemaiaia River. And since I haven't had cell service, I haven't seen anything on the internet. (It's been lovely.) But the best thing I can share I found in a book. It's Billy Collins' delightful meta-poem, Workshop.

❀️.s. Want more travel stories than just the weekly letter, as I travel around New Zealand? Come on in to our patreon, and enjoy. :)

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