Paraparaumu, New Zealand
Wellington’s hostels are full on Friday and Saturday night. Turns out there’s a festival on. I planned a couple of nights in Paraparaumu, but am now going to have 6, and head straight to the ferry on Monday to tour the South Island. I tolerated the 45 minute walk from the station, liked the sleepy nature of the place and loved the welcome the owner gave me at the hostel. She likes to chat about the exigencies of her guests; “dropkick” is a name she has given to several, because that’s all they’re good for I suppose, though it seems to apply to drifters. “Missed dropkick”, for a sense of wasted opportunity and the wrong choice, perhaps. I think I count as a fairly normal and trouble free one, so get the good treatment she prefers to give out.
Most people stay here for just one night, and this week with Wellington so busy, many of those hadn’t even intended on the one. I can see how this quiet town by the sea might seem dull to someone arriving in mid afternoon, and positively dead if you arrive after 8, but it’s a place to slow down and let the pace of life wash over you. Barnacles seaside inn is but a road and promenade away from a sandy beach, with headlands curving round in both directions, while the sea washes gently in to shore. Near the station is a shopping centre and cinema – Downtown cinemas, rather than the ‘Reading cinemas’ chain which sound like something has gone very wrong – while down nearer the beach are cafés, a few shops and some quiet bars. Hefty picnic tables look out over the sea and Kapiti island, while the sand on the beach is firm enough to attract walkers and the occasional runner at all hours. Tours to the island, for which you need a permit and to deal with the one (Maori) family who live there, onto a good thing, run from the beach, and I’ve seen kayakers, surfers and kite flyers setting up or coming in to the beach.
If that makes it sound like a hive of activity then think again. There are always people around, but if you wanted to catch them all in a net, you’d have to swing it through a large area.
The sunsets and night sky are spectacular. And I’ve unpacked for the first time in a while, which adds to my sense of hitting pause and waiting to see what each day throws me.
Reading: Jerome K Jerome, Three Men in a Boat-wonderful.
Dale Brown, Shadow Command, tosh, with bonus adolescent fantasy women for offence.