We have arranged to see my aunty in Te Aroha for coffee and to stay with Couch Surfing hosts in Waingaro so head back west across the Waikato. It feels good to be back in the Waikato basin with its rolling hills, green pastures and dairy cattle. This is the area we have liked best so far in New Zealand. While the mountains and coast are stunning, the rolling pastures feel homely. But then, despite being travelers, we do have an attachment to a homely sense of calm.
We visit my aunt in Te Aroha. I haven’t seen her in many years so it’s lovely to catch up. She has baked us a delicious apple tart and we sit chatting over the tart for about two hours. I learn more about her life than I ever knew before. It’s a blessing to spend this time with her.
The sun is sinking low into the western sky as we leave Te Aroha for Waingaro. There’s quite a bit of traffic on the road for a rural area. Clearly lots of people work in towns and live on farms because the cars disappear down isolated driveways as we get farther from each town.
Our Couch Surfing hosts aren’t yet home when we arrive. It’s cold and dark but we find their home easily in the middle of nowhere. The local pub is quiet but serves quite good steaks at a reasonable price and the kitchen is still open.
We meet our hosts at their home and are still awake at almost 2am talking. We cover everything from criminal justice and social work (we all have experience in these fields) to international politics (a subject usually off limits to Australians) and our mutual favourite of travel. There’s something special about strangers opening their homes, lives and stories with us; especially when the sparks of friendship develop.