I scream and cheer and holler with excitement, making cowgirl noises out the window as Wellington harbour drifts into view. This is going to bring good things!
I find a cafe and get straight to work booking my visa and flights for Australia and tying up various loose ends that have been neglected since leaving Auckland three weeks ago. It’s 10pm before I finish and I realise I have no where to stay, so I drive around all night to get my bearings in this new city and end up falling asleep at a gas station.
I wake at 5am on Friday, worried I’ll get caught sleeping in my car but I read online that the authorities are pretty relaxed about the matter and the gas station becomes my base for the next five days. I locate some free showers at the sports grounds in the Botanical Gardens and I feel truly homeless, but it’s satisfying to witness myself growing increasingly resourceful.
I drop some film off to be developed and spend the day contacting friends and model agencies to plan a shoot or two whilst I’m here, and I’m not surprised how quickly I slip back into work mode. As great as it is to be on the road, I can’t deny the longing for productivity and progress.
Night falls and I wander Cuba St where I grab some street food at the market, explore an old bookshop crammed full of wonderful novels, and perch in a cafe window where I drink tea and talk to strangers. I’ve noticed that I frequently get into conversations with older people and rarely anyone even close to my age.
I spend Saturday shopping in some delicious vintage stores and meet Ch’lita in the afternoon to shoot. We stop by her teen-dream bedroom to grab some clothes and take a few shots at Oriental Bay and the famous cable car lookout. She’s just as cool as I remember from our first shoot in Auckland, which feels funny to say as she’s just 16.
We grab ramen for dinner and I capture a photo of her in the restaurant with half a face of sunset, which becomes my favorite photo I’ve ever taken. We decide she can style the shoot with Ella tomorrow which turns out to be fun and challenging. It’s great to be in control and shooting again.
I leave on Tuesday morning, taking my car on the ferry across the Cook Strait where I spend the journey on the top deck waving goodbye to Wellington and thanking the city for having me. Driving from Picton to Nelson, the landscape already echoes the voices of everyone telling me how beautiful the South Island is, with rolling hills blanketed in towering pine trees which exhale breaths of white clouds from the all the rain.
I meet New York photographer Ben Zank at a bar in Nelson, where I discover him perched barefoot in front of his MacBook and it’s comforting to see someone else with their laptop for a companion. We discuss our travels and what we’re all about, and plan to walk part of the Abel Tasman track on Thursday.
Wednesday is full of rain so we spend the day in a cafe trying to work on our own various endeavours, but end up lost in conversation after conversation. Eventually we start driving towards the trail ready to start early tomorrow. The rain is unforgiving and we keep getting lost, and it's funny having to pull over and dash into each other’s cars to figure out the way. Despite being in separate vehicles, it’s strangely comforting to have some company on the road.
We sneak into a campsite as the wardens have disappeared due to the bad weather, where I prepare dinner and lunch for tomorrow and having someone else to cook for is refreshing. The rain is still pouring but we go out and shoot some portraits of him nude and vulnerable on the rocks and I’m surprised at how often this trust with nudity is reoccurring lately.
Drenched to the bone, we retreat to the campsite to dry off and I climb into his car for the evening. We share thoughts and feelings in a warm and comfortable bubble as the rain and wind batter the outside, and we’re both repeatedly surprised at how similar our interests are; it feels odd that we only crossed paths yesterday.
Bright blue morning skies appear ignorant to their stormy tantrum last night; if it weren’t for the puddles of fallen tears and branches strewn over the floor, you’d be none the wiser. We set off early around the Abel Tasman coastal track and are already lost in conversation. I haven’t been this open and excited about talking to someone for a long time, it’s wild how much of myself I can share with this boy I met only two days ago.
Stopping half-way at an untouched bay, I etch tribal faces into the sand whilst he skips stones across the water, and accidentally drops his glasses which are instantly claimed by the tide. For a moment it feels like we could be the lost children in Lord of the Flies.
6 hours and 12 kilometres pass by almost unnoticed and as we reach the pick-up point for the return boat I jump about on the sand, elated to have completed a walk with some company for once. We climb aboard, watching the beach grow smaller behind us until the boat bursts into full speed and we both lean over the side to feel the ocean rip past our fingertips. We rise and fall with the waves and stare out into the big blue, making guesses at how many whales might be below us and laughing at the thought of dolphins wearing Ben’s glasses that he lost earlier.
On Friday morning it’s time to part ways. We leave each other as quickly as we met, both resuming our journeys on our own separate paths which just so happened to cross. Ben continues north and I am southbound down the long and isolated highway on the west coast.