Lifestyle, Personal, spirituality, Stories, travel

A Test of Faith

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Khalil Gibran

I had rediscovered who I was and I had found my bliss but I knew my situation at Piha was only temporary and like the law of gravity, what goes up must come down.

Was I strong enough to not let the challenges of the outside world bring me down?

Life is like a river continuously moving and flowing and I would soon learn that I could either surrender and flow with it or swim against the current and eventually get pulled under.

I awoke one morning to find parked next to me, my daughter and her boyfriend who were asleep in his car. I immediately thought the worst and my mind went into all sorts of scenarios until they woke up.

My daughter explained that they had another fall-out with her boyfriend’s sister and they were coming to camp with me!

Great. I thought I had set her up in a room to give her some sort of stability through all the change but the universe was showing me otherwise.

This had now become a tricky situation that needed to be resolved quickly. I didn’t want my daughter staying in an environment that had obviously become unhealthy however my hands were tied and I didn’t know where I was going to house them. I could feel my stress levels rising and I decided to drive back to the city to move her belongings out of the house and pick up my tent which was in storage.

The three of us and the dog, all piled into my trusty van, which was now packed from floor to ceiling with stuff, and we drove back to Piha with Bob Marley’s ‘Don’t worry, ‘bout a thing, cause every little thing gonna be alright” blasting on the stereo. I pulled up into the car park at Piha campground thinking they could pitch the tent there but the lady at reception told me the campground was under renovation and to go back in a couple of days. Great!

Luckily I had a small pup tent for them to sleep in to tie them over until the campground was open and I directed them to a private clearing hidden away at the end of North Piha car park where they erected the tiny pup tent inconspicuously behind some trees. However, the tent wasn’t waterproof so we all crossed our fingers hoping that mother nature would be kind and not rain.

Cooking for three was a lot harder on my small two burner gas stove but we made do. I was more worried about the park ranger finding them and moving them along!

So far I had been getting away with freedom camping and parking at different spots every couple of days to stay unnoticed but they were in a tent!

The days went by fast and we were blessed to not get any rain as the pup tent had no awning but on the morning that we had arranged to go back to the campground there were black clouds overhead so we packed up fast, loaded up the van of all our stuff and returned to Piha campground.

I had a funny feeling that somehow they wouldn’t be sleeping at Piha that evening and sure enough the lady at the desk turned us away because they were still not ready for campers.

My patience was now wearing thin and feeling slightly annoyed by life itself we left Piha and drove to a Department of Conservation campsite nearby at Kare Kare where we erected the waterproof tent just in time before the rain.

The campsite was set amongst native bush and a five-minute walk to another wild black sand surf beach. It had a lovely fresh water stream running through the far end, which attracted mosquitos and sandflies, long drop toilets and a sheltered sink area. It was basic and only $6 a night but at least I didn’t have to hide them or worry about them being moved along and they had the whole place to themselves.

After setting up I could finally relax. I took a deep breath and tried to enjoy the peaceful surroundings until I was disturbed by a group of noisy school kids who had enthusiastically arrived with their back packs and tents. Just my luck I thought. Of all the days a school camp were to arrive they decide to arrive on the same day as us! I hoped, for my daughter and her boyfriends sake, that they wouldn’t be staying many nights.

We had dinner together and I decided to drive back to Piha to sleep as my van was full of mosquitos. I opened all my windows before hurtling off up the steep and narrow road trying to let the fresh air drive them out but they seemed to congregate into the nooks and crannies of my van. I was determined to have a good nights sleep, I needed it, so I drove the remaining insects out with a tea towel and climbed into bed exhausted and covered in mosquito bites.

I ended up staying at Piha but driving back to Kare Kare every other day to check up on them and two days a week I drove my daughter an hour and a half in traffic to her music course in South Auckland. This was always a challenging time for me as I would wait in the van for her to finish with a barking dog who did not like strangers.

On one particular morning, I pulled up to their campsite and smelt a really bad smell. Kyra had spent the night with them and had run over to greet me but I realised the stench was coming from her. She usually liked to jump up and lick me but to my horror I realised she was covered in shit and she stunk! I called out to my daughter’s boyfriend to take her in the river and wash her. Meanwhile, my daughter tells me they were afraid of the spiders in the toilet and had emptied their bowels in the long grass across from the campsite which Kyra had obviously found and rolled in! She was covered head to toe in human shit and my stomach was turning. I left them some dish liquid as it was all I had and drove back to Piha for a peppermint tea.

I returned the next day to a clean dog smelling of my daughters deodorant and an empty bottle of dish liquid.

It was nice to explore a new area and spend time in the outdoors with my daughter. We walked to the Kare Kare waterfall and swam in the lagoon on the few days that it was sunny but for the majority of the week it rained.

Camping was a life shaping experience for my daughter who is half Maori. She told me she felt like she was living in a time before New Zealand was colonized by Europeans!

They spent 10 days secluded out at Kare Kare, washing and bathing in the river like natives and on their last night, my daughter’s cousin turned up with a bunch of his teenage friends. Apparently they wanted to have a little going away party and I thought nothing of it. What could possibly go wrong with a group of young people camping together in the bush?

Her cousin parked his Toyota Corolla on the grass and they made a small bonfire and pitched their tents.

I drove back to Piha to sleep and when I returned in the morning they were already packing up to leave.

Apparently the camp ranger had come by early and didn’t like what he had seen and he had told them to pack up and go or he would issue them with a trespass notice. Little did I realise, my daughter’s cousin and his friends didn’t pay to stay the night nor did they heed the sign no fires or parking on the grass and I realised this meant that it might compromise me freedom camping at Piha.

Once again, we packed up everything into the van and drove back to Piha campground but we were turned away as it was a long weekend and the campground was full!

The lady at the desk also said that the camp ranger had visited and told her about the scenario with the kids at Kare Kare and that I was getting a name for myself for camping around Piha. By this point I was fed up with being turned away and I now felt bad vibes from the park ranger. I knew I had lost my ability to freedom camp so I hesitantly drove back into the city hoping that Remuera Motor Lodge would have room for a tent.

Thank god they did and I paid a week in advance but now I had nowhere to stay. One week of not worrying about where I was going to house them was a good thought but I was now back in the dreaded city. Where was I going to sleep with Kyra? I needed to stay close to my daughter as I was still having to drive her to her music course.

So I drove back to Hillsborough, thinking that familiar territory would bring me some comfort and I spent my first night at Waikowhai Park near my old house on the hill. Little did I realise a storm was brewing.

I parked under some trees at the far end of the car park nearest the water which overlooked the Manukau Harbour and out towards Pukututu Island.

Kyra was unsettled and I felt unsettled too. It was an unusually dark evening and outside had an eerie calm about it. I couldn’t hear any birds and we were completely alone.

I hadn’t watched TV for a while and I had no idea of the weather forecast so I was unprepared for what was to come.

I had slept alone in my van through all types of wild winter weather and considered myself pretty hardy, so I cast my fears aside and laid down in bed with Kyra.

I couldn’t see any stars, it was pitch black outside and I felt even more restless knowing that I was locked inside the park. There were no street lamps and we were about a 15 minute walk down hill from the main road. There were no houses around and no signs of life anywhere. Just me, Kyra and the darkness outside.

Just as my mind started to drift back into fear, thinking of all types of disasters and worst case scenarios, the eerie calm broke and a huge gust of wind hit the van. Freaked out and wanting to drive away, my suppressed tears flowed with the heavy rain that now started paltering down on me.

The force of the rain was so strong it sounded like an angry mother nature were throwing rocks at me and it sent a wave of fear through my body. I was stuck in a storm and I had no way of escaping it. I cuddled into Kyra and deep rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning lit up the black night sky.

I felt so vulnerable and insignificant.

I couldn’t check the weather report as my cellphone was nearly dead and I was out of data but I decided to save my battery in case of an emergency.

I began to think about all the people safely tucked up in their beds with their loved ones and in their warm houses and here I was – all alone in my van. Why did I choose to do this and give up everything? What was it all for? My faith was disappearing before my eyes and feeling rather sorry for myself I tried to go to sleep but the gusts of wind, rain, thunder and lightning only seemed to be getting worse.

What if the sea rises and I drown in a flood or a tidal wave hits me and I get washed out to sea or a flash of lightning hits the van or a tree comes down on top of me killing me instantly? I was now in panic mode and I wanted to escape but I was trapped. Had I told anyone I was even here?

I climbed over the stove, jumped into the driver’s seat and used my remaining minutes and battery to call mum. She sleepily answered and spent the next few minutes reassuring me that it was just a storm and that I was going to be fine. Feeling bad that I had woken her up in the middle of the night I said goodbye and climbed back into bed.

The storm didn’t let up and for most of the night I lied awake scared and concerned about my daughter who was in a tent. I must have fallen asleep eventually as I awoke to tree branches and debris scattered around the empty car park.

I realised I had far more internal strength than I thought. If I can get through being locked down at a beach on my own in a storm, I can get through anything!

Putting my newly found strength aside, It was the day before my Reiki workshop and I was long overdue for a shower. I felt so sticky and dirty as I hadn’t had a wash in a week and I desperately needed to find somewhere before the morning. I didn’t want the course attendees smelling me!

I remembered the gym close to my old supermarket which was nearby, so I drove there and pulled up into the car park, thinking they must have showers. I decided to park away from the main entrance in case Kyra started barking because I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself.

How was I going to pull this off without looking like a homeless beggar?

I emptied out my over the shoulder bag that I used for dirty washing and placed my toiletries and a towel inside. I put on my Nike’s took a deep breath and confidently walked through the double sliding doors. Fortunately there was no one attending the desk so I walked right past and managed to find the woman’s changing rooms. Luck must have been on my side that day as the changing rooms were empty and there were a whole row of showers!

Since staying at my sister’s house I hadn’t had a hot shower in weeks and never in my life had I enjoyed a shower as much as I did that day. I lathered up in soap, washed and conditioned my hair, shaved my legs and cleaned the dirt and sand off my feet. I felt like I was scrubbing away for an eternity. After half an hour or so I inconspicuously walked out the front door with dripping wet hair and a smile on my face.

I drove straight to my regular sleeping place at Waikowhai Park and awoke in the morning feeling clean and refreshed and ready for my Reiki workshop.

The course finished late and I realised there was no point driving back to Waikowhai park as the gates would have been locked so I drove around aimlessly trying to find a place to park and sleep.

It was Halloween and busy out and I didn’t feel like being around people. I missed Piha and after an intense day I just wanted to go to sleep. I had a late dinner and with a splitting headache I found a place to park in the city near Mission Bay. I was nearly asleep until torches started shining through my windows and I peeked through the curtains to find two security guards yelling at me to move on.

Half asleep and half undressed I angrily moved the van a few metres to a car park just outside the gates. All the parks were on a slight lean but I couldn’t be bothered driving around trying to find somewhere else so I resigned to sleeping half upside down and I fell asleep listening to party goers in the nearby houses.

I woke up tired, stressed and fed up with city sleeping. I let Kyra out for a pee and she ran after a make-up laden early morning jogger. After trying to contain her and being yelled at by a terrified lady who threatened me with dog control, my phone rang.

It was my mum’s friend offering for me to stay.

Ignoring what had happened previously and out of sheer desperation and need, I drove West back towards the Waitakere Ranges to a place where I would spend the last leg of my journey in Auckland.

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