After a few more weeks of being back in Auckland I decided to pack up again and head south. Back on the road, on my own once again. The day was dreary as I headed out. The rain poured down as my windshield wipers worked hard to push the water away at full speed. I went back through Rotorua and Taupo, then down around Lake Taupo, making a few stops along the way at The Honey Hive and a volcano museum. I was making my way towards the Teranaki Region but decided to spend the night at the start of the Forgotten World Highway, in hopes the weather would clear up for the rest of my journey.
I awoke bright and early the next day to set off on the second half of the drive. My final destination was a small town called Eltham, where I had been in contact with a local about working for my accommodation. The drive was only supposed to take two hours, but I decided to pick my way along, taking my time and enjoying the sights. Guy, who I was to be staying with, was working until five that evening so I was in no rush. I stopped near the start of the Forgotten World Highway at “Lauren’s Lavender Farm & Café”, for some breakfast. The sun was warm and the scent of lavender wafted through the air as I sat and nibbled my way through a piece of home made quiche. I chatted with the owner, who’s name I was surprised to discover, was not Lauren. I did not find out until afterwards, while reading about the farm online, that Lauren was a member of their family who passed away in 2001.
After having a wonderful conversation with the owner and enjoying a most delicious breakfast, I was back on the road. There weren’t many houses along the 150 kilometre highway. It was so peaceful. Just the gorgeous rolling mountains, my little red car, and me. I stopped for many photos along the way, and, at one point, I stopped for two hours to try and catch a kitten.
I was driving along a dirt section of the highway, absolutely nothing but nature for miles around. All of a sudden a little, black, fuzzy face and two big, green eyes peered out at me from the grass along the side of the road. Puzzled, I put the car in reverse to take another look at the little face. It was a kitten. It couldn’t have been more than a couple months old. I pulled over and climbed out. There was no way a little kitten like that should be living in the middle of no where. There were no other cats to be seen. I slowly approached the kitten, hoping it would let me pick it up. I thought maybe I could take it to the nearest town and search for someone willing to look after it. The kitten ran off into the bush before I could get too close. I looked to see where it had gone, the hill was near vertical and it ran down to a stream. There was a lot of the bush all along the muddy slope. The kitten had disappeared out of site. I peered down into the tangles of branches, hoping to spot the small creature. Suddenly, I heard a sound, a mewing came from the entanglement below. It was the most sad, scared, mew I had ever heard. I ran back to my car and pulled on my hiking shoes. I then grabbed my whistle, just in case I got stuck. I found a stream that ran under the road, down to the river, so I used the rock bed to scramble down to the bottom. The kitten cries persisted as I made my way down to the river. From there I made my way over to the hill, the branches weren’t quite as thick from this side. I slid between branches and crawled over fallen logs. I found sturdy roots to hold as I inched my way back up the hill, towards the source of the cries. A flick of a black tail, and a glint of those green eyes, the frightened kitten took off, disappearing again.
I waited in silence, standing totally still, hoping the little animal would come back out to investigate. It didn’t. After a couple minutes the cries started up again. I mimicked the calls, encouraging the kitten to continue mewing. I clambered forward again. Slowly, calmly, trying not to startle the animal for a third time. I eventually hit a wall. The branches became so thickly twisted together there was no chance I would be able to climb through them. I tried going around- no luck. I tried the other side- still, no luck. I went back to the river and tried to take it on from a slightly higher point. That didn’t work either. I eventually climbed back up to the road. from the top I scanned down the side of the slope, trying to seek out the best path towards my goal.
Up and down the stream bed I went. From the river to the road, and back again. Searching, climbing, mewing. My heart was starting to break. That poor kitten, all alone, no food, a fast running river the only source of water nearby. I had no idea how to convince the small feline that I was just there to help. I sat on the top of the hill for a while. Watching, waiting, hoping the black fur ball would come and approach me. When that didn’t work I had to think again. I went back to my car and pulled out a loaf of bread and my bottle of water. I don’t really know much about cats, I’ve only ever had dogs. I had to make up steps as I went, I had no idea what I was doing. I soaked some bread with water and tossed it into the tangle of branched below. Suddenly, those big green eyes reappeared. With much hesitation the cat made its way towards the bread. Looking at me, taking a step, stopping to look at me again, inching forwards a bit more, and so on. The kitten made it to the bread and started to nibble. I let this go on for a while before doing some inching of my own. I slid on my heels, one bit at a time, stopping whenever the kitten looked up. I was so close, but I guess the little creature thought so too, and it took off again.
I had now been there over an hour, trying to save that small creature. “I’M JUST TRYING TO HELP YOU!” I cried out. Partly out of frustration, partly out of desperation. If I didn’t help that cat, who would? Still so small, how could it take care and survive in the middle of nowhere? The nights were starting to get cool, would the little kitten freeze? I needed to do more. I grabbed more bread, and a towel from my car and made my way back towards the place where the kitten had last been. I laid down the towel on top of the branches, placed the bread on top of it. I propped some branches up against the blanket and held onto one edge. I was creating a sort of trap. I thought, maybe if the cat would walk onto the towel to eat, I could quickly through the towel over it and grab it. Yes, the poor little animal would be absolutely terrified, but I would unwrap the towel once we were in the car, I would put out more bread, give it some water. Make up for my terrifying actions.
I sat there for ages, the cat wouldn’t come near my towel trap. I was running out of ideas. I came so close so many times, but never got close enough. After losing sight of the kitten again, no sign for ages, I decided it was time to go. I had been on the hunt for over two hours by that point. My feet were soaked from the stream, I was covered in mud and scratches from all my scrambling, and my heart was broken. I cried as I headed back to my car, defeated. So badly I wanted to save that small creature, but I couldn’t manage. I had no idea what else I could do. I left some more bread on the slope, and made a trail up to the road. I then made a nice pile of bread along the roadside. All I can hope is that that little kitten would make its way to that pile, and someone else would drive by and spot it and maybe they would have more luck saving that poor little animal. But for me, it was time to walk away. People tell me I can’t save the world, I guess they were right. I can’t even save a cat. I hate giving up.
I continued my journey along the highway, trying not to feel too sad about leaving the cat behind. I let myself disappear in the beautiful scenery once again. I had to move forward. Driving through that amazing landscape was a good way to calm down a bit. It’s hard not to feel at peace there. I stopped for some more photos when I came to a tunnel through the hill. This wasn’t just any tunnel though. It was really just a whole cut through the giant lump of land. There were wooden beams evenly spread out throughout the tunnel, the rest was just pure rock face. It was no doubt the coolest tunnel I have ever been through.
I arrived at Guy’s house a bit after five. He had called me an hour earlier saying he would be late but told me where the spare key was and just to let myself in. I was on a hunt for the key when he arrived home. Luckily, I hadn’t been searching long when he arrived home. Guy introduced himself and asked me how the drive was, we chatted as he went to unlock the door. Turns out he couldn’t find the spare key either. Or his keys for that matter. He went around back and checked all the windows, finally finding one that was unlocked. He pulled himself through the small window and came back around to unlock the door for me. It was a rather entertaining first impression that was just the start to an awesome week in Eltham.