[Maori Rock Carvings]
As the bus was making its way into Taupo, I sent Carrie a text to let her to know to start making her way towards the stop. As it slowed down I stretched my arms out to get the chubby man on my shoulder to wake up and move for just the sixteenth time of our journey. Is that drool on my sleeve? I hurried off the bus and only had to wait for about ten minutes before I saw two familiar faces waving and jogging towards me.
“Kyle!” Carrie leapt excitedly before we gave each other a hug. We had been friends for the last couple of years in New Orleans. We didn’t spend a great deal of time around one another before coming to New Zealand, but it was really nice to have her as a travel buddy.
Just as I was greeting Meredith, Carrie’s roommate, I realized that there was a third girl with them.
“Hi! I’m Bridget! I’ve heard a lot about you,” she said with a bubbly smile.
I had completely forgotten that Meredith’s sister had come to New Zealand. She didn’t really strike me as the kind of person who would enjoy camping with all of her make-up and perfectly curled hair to go with her lovely handbag.
“Nice to meet you too!” I said with a little less sincerity than I would have liked to convey. I’m really not the best bull-shitter. “Shall we head towards the campsite?” .
Everyone smiled and we began walking.
“The tent I brought is meant for three, but I don’t think there will be a problem squeezing us all in. Let’s just say we’re all going to get to know each other real well this weekend.” I joked.
“It’ll be all right. Ah! I can’t believe we’re going sky-diving tomorrow!” reminded Carrie. It had been hours since I had thought about the real reason for this trip. I was just happy to spend a weekend away from Auckland.
We dragged our feet through the center of town, exhausted from our bus rides. Bridget was leading the way with the map in her hands. It became kind of clear to me that she was the kind of person who liked being in control. I took a look at the map as she pointed to the campsite that we were heading towards. None of us had a clue.
“You guys lost?” A man’s voice shouted. I turned to my left to face a mansion with two middle-aged women and an older man drinking on the front porch. “Where are you guys trying to go? I see bags, a map, and a guy who looks like he’s being no help at all.”
“We’re trying to find the campgrounds,” Bridget told him.
“Campgrounds? Why, it’s going to rain tonight. Just crash here!” He offered while walking towards us.
“Thanks, but I think we’ll take our chances,” I jumped in. An elderly man offering girls off the street to sleep at his house didn’t exactly give me a warm feeling.
“Nonsense! You don’t want to camp tonight. Just stay here! We’re having a party tonight!” He insisted.
“No really, it’s fine. Thank you though!” I smiled and started to slowly walk in the other direction.
“Where are ya’ll from?” He was being persistent. And from his mannerisms I could tell that the champagne he was sipping was far from his first glass of the afternoon.
“We’re Americans!” Bridget quickly responded.
“Three pretty American girls like you have no business sleeping out there tonight. Far too many creeps at those sites. Come! Come inside. Dinner’s almost ready. We have more than enough to share. Champagne for the girls and beer for the gentleman!”
The girls giggled and looked at one another with uncertainty. I really wasn’t impressed with this guy. But the fact that there were other women on the porch gave me a little of reassurance that he wasn’t going to kill us or completely creep on the girls. He opened his gate and we walked towards the house.
“My name’s Trevor! And this is my wife Rochelle and our friends Carlie and Dick.” They all smiled as if it was routine for him to bring travelers back to his home.
“Kyle. Nice to meet you.”
“What are you drinking, Kyle?” Trevor asked.
“Whatever you’re drinking is fine.” I said before he handed me a bottle of Blue Moon.
“Now, let me give you a tour of the house. Follow me!”
The house was a beautiful three stories. We followed Trevor around as he showed us his impressive palace. He went on to explain how much they enjoyed having travelers stay with them and that we would be no burden at all. But why? Why did this old man want us to stay at his home so desperately. He talked of a German girl who had been staying with them for the last month. Her name was Toni and she was the “sweetest guest he had ever had.”
As he was showing us the extra bedroom that could be ours for the weekend, we caught the German girl by surprise. She turned the corner towards the bathroom and was wearing just a towel. She was stunning.
“Oh! Hello.” She greeted us in embarrassment with her beautifully thick accent. I took a quick up and down glance to make sure she didn’t have any marks or scratches. I guess Trevor hadn’t chained her up in the basement. Man, she was gorgeous.
He showed us the backyard, which was right on the lake. Next, his pool and hot tub that he insisted we would be more than welcome to use.
“Well, what do you say? Will you stay for our party tonight? There will be plenty of champagne for everybody,” he offered with a smile.
I looked at the girls who were looking back at me to speak up. They all seemed pretty sold on the arrangement. “Well Trevor, this is extremely generous. I think we’re going to have to have a team meeting real quick and we’ll meet you upstairs.”
“Take your time! Come have another drink with us on the porch when your all done.” As Trevor walked upstairs I let out a laugh and shook my head.
“I mean, this seems a lot better than camping. And if it’s weird we can just camp tomorrow night,” Bridget suggested.
“It’s up to you guys. If I was traveling with three guys something tells me he wouldn’t have said anything to us. But, if you guys want to crash here for the night and avoid the rain I guess I’m fine with it.”
“So we’re sleeping here tonight?” Meredith asked.
“I guess I’m in.” I sighed.
We went upstairs and enjoyed a fabulous roast with mashed potatoes, green beans, and a Caesar salad. With all the money we would be spending on skydiving we weren’t looking to spend too much money on food this weekend. Trevor handed me my first drink at about 5 PM and continued to refill our glasses until the early morning.
We spent the evening getting to know Trevor, his wife, and their friends. I learned that Trevor owned his own construction business but had been semi-retired for the last five years. He talked about his wonderful children who were all married and had left Taupo years ago and mentioned that I reminded him of his oldest son. I got the impression that he was a kind, wealthy man with more time on his hands than he knew what to do with.
I woke up on his living room floor to the smell of bacon. I was fully clothed and still had my Nike’s on. “Jesus Christ! Where the hell am I?” were my initial thoughts of confusion.
“Good morning, Mr. Kyle!” Said the strange, little old man from the kitchen.
I rolled over and started to sit up. My stomach felt abused. “Morning,” was all I could muster. I noticed he was only wearing his underpants. Before I could really dwell on that I heard a toilet flush from the bathroom and out walked a familiar face.
“Well hey there stranger,” said a friendly Carrie. She popped next to me on the couch.
“Good Lord, what the hell happened last night?” I whispered so Trevor wouldn’t get offended. She started laughing.
“How do you like your eggs my good man?” he hollered from the kitchen.
“Trevor, you don’t have to do that, really! We were going to go into town and grab something somewhere.”
“There’s no time for that! We have a whole day planned together before I take you all skydiving. Or don’t you remember?”
“Ah, yes! Of course!” I wondered if he knew how foggy my memory really was. From what I could recall he was easily twice as pissed as me just a few hours prior.
I stood up to see a whole breakfast waiting for the four of us: orange juice, bacon, toast, and sausages. The other girls made their way up the stairs and looked about as exhausted and confused as me.
“Three eggs. Scrambled. For you Mr. Kyle.” Trevor nearly shouted with a satisfied smile before throwing them down on my plate. “Eat up quick. We’ve got a lot to do today.”
“Trevor, would you mind going over the game plan with me one more time?”
“For the last time, call me Pops! I’m taking you up to the best view in Taupo. After that, we’ll be going to Huka Falls, then the dam, and then maybe we could get on the piss again before I take you skydiving. You know, to kill the nerves a little bit, eh?”
“Sounds like a plan,” I looked at the girls and shook my head. What the hell did I sign up for last night?
“And then, of course, we’ll get something to eat and if there’s time I’ll take you out on my boat later!” He was getting more and more enthusiastic. “Thank you so much for coming to my party last night! I had a brilliant time with you all! Meredith, you really are quite the dancer.”
“Is that right?” She raised a confused eyebrow.
After breakfast we piled into his Beamer after he gave it a “much needed wash.” Pops drives like a drunken maniac. Now this was the first time I got a real tour of Taupo and haven’t been back since, so I can’t give the most accurate descriptions of where he took us. But after speeding out of his driveway we weaved up a windy road for what felt like a nauseous eternity. I guess I wasn’t exactly sober at this point so assuming that he wasn’t either was more than a fair assumption. If the speed limit was 50 kph, Pops was doing close to 100.
“You’re awfully quiet back there, Kyle. We need you to wake up!” He repeatedly joked. I mean, he was driving like an absolute nut job before he finally took a wide turn to the right and headed up a steep dirt road. Sitting in the back, I looked over at Carrie who looked like she was thinking the same thoughts as me. Where the fuck is this psycho taking us? Pops was charming Bridget in the front seat while giving the occasional playful rub on her knee. She was eating up the attention, playing right along. We had passed three or four farm houses before the road started to narrow. I gave Meredith and Carrie a nudge so I could give them a reassuring look that I wasn’t completely convinced that we were driving to our death.
The car slowed to a stop when the road flattened. Next to my window was a woman’s empty purse lying next to a scarf. “Jesus, Trevor! You are planning to kill us!” I yelled with sarcasm.
“Not just yet, my boy! Now get out of my car and look at this damn view.”
The four of us quickly stepped out of Pops’s Beamer to look at one of the prettiest landscapes I had seen since I stepped off my flight from Los Angeles. Okay, maybe I can trust this guy. Pops let us take some photos before hurrying us back into the car for out next stop.
We made our way back to Pops’s house after realizing Meredith didn’t have her credit card. Skydiving was one of the furthest things from mind. Next on Pops’s agenda: Huka Falls. Sure, I was impressed I was with the water’s force and its clarity but what really struck me was the comment Pops made as he and I were looking over the bridge. “You know, a lot of people have come here to commit suicide.”
“Yeah?” “Only one person has ever survived that fall.”
“Comforting, Trevor. That’s comforting.”
“Pops! But its something else! Isn’t it my boy? He said before putting his arm around my shoulder.
Trevor was eccentric, loud, and probably a little bit senile but I he was really starting to grow on me. I thought I’d take my guard down and see where this day was going to end up going. We didn’t stay at the falls long because Pops wanted to make sure we got to the dam in time. But before that he wanted us to get a quick peak at Taupo’s geothermal park. We pulled up on a hill that overlooked a lot of the activity. There was a path that led to the a pretty stellar view accompanied by a sign that said “FOR HORSES ONLY”.
“Than today we’ll be horses!” Hollered Pops before whipping his Beamer onto the narrow path. I couldn’t tell if this seventy-year-old grandpa always functioned on such this youthful spirit or if being around a bunch of young adults was fueling his energy.
We made it to the dam just in time to see the water rush out of the other side. I was starting to wake up a bit more when I realized that we were going skydiving in less than hour. “I know! I can’t believe we’re actually doing this today!” Carrie grabbed my arm in excitement.
I could go into a whole rant about amazing skydiving was and go on and on about how it was worth every penny, but it really wasn’t the most eventful moment of my day. Pops picked up some beer on the way and spent the whole drive opening them on his belt. But things really didn’t really start to pick up until after we had gotten back on the ground. He had waiting for us by his car for the whole hour or so that it took us to wait our turn, get suited up, watch the “training video”, go up the plane, do the sky-dive, watch the ridiculous movie that girls paid $200 extra dollars for and then pay for our experience. Walking back to the car I was on the kind of high that could get you to do anything. “Who’s hungry?” An eager Pops asked as we approached the car.
“I could eat,” Bridget said while putting an arm on his. Boy, she loved his attention.
“I know just the place!”
We hopped back into the car and drove back towards the center of town. Pops took us to his favorite wine bar. After the introduction he gave us to the bartenders I could tell that he popped in here at least once a week. “Best place to get pissed in town,” he told me. We sat at the bar and drank several of Pops’s favorite wines. He told us about his last birthday party in which he rented the upstairs room out. “They had to carry me down the stairs by 5 PM we were so pissed.” It was a quiet, nice place to take a date or pick up an expensive bottle. The idea of Pops making such a drunken scene at a place like this made me smile. This guy has it made. The bartenders kept our glasses full while we waited for Dick to meet us.
I ordered myself a pulled pork sandwich and when Dick arrived he and Pops just told us more drinking stories. They had known each other for about ten years now. Their wives, Carlie and Rochelle, were just as close as they were. The previous night Pops had mentioned taking us out on his boat if the weather was right. We hadn’t seen a cloud since the morning.
“What do ya’ll think about going for a boat ride?” the old man asked us. Before I could even answer the whole gang was polishing off the rest of their drinks. As we walked to the car, Pops sprinted into the store across the street and walked out with an expensive bottle of gin. “The fun just doesn’t stop with these guys,” I thought. Pops swerved his way down towards the lake, one hand on the wheel on the wheel and the other hand cracking beers open on his belt buckle.
“Maybe you should just let me open those for you,” Bridget spoke up in concern. For some reason this got Pops to start referring to himself in the third person.
“Does this driving scare you Bridget? Let me tell you something about this man. He has never been arrested for driving under the influence. He has never been pulled over. He has never gotten a….Oh Jesus!” The old man slammed on his brakes just in enough time not to hit the car in front of us. There was some type of roadwork being done near the lake. My bottle of wine racked my upper lip and spilt down my shirt. “As I was saying, he has never gotten a ticket...”
“Yeah, no worries, Pops! Feeling real safe back here,” I was really starting to buzz.
“Ah! Enough from you, hippie boy!”
“I’ll take that as a term of endearment.”
“Ah! Haha!” Trevor’s cackle always sounded exactly like a pirate’s.
We got down to the docks and noticed Dick was waiting on the boat with his daughter, who couldn’t have been any older than eight.
“Ahoy!” Meredith called out to them.
“Kyle, take the gin and the lemons, my good boy,” Pops ordered me.
“Oh, it would be my pleasure.”
Lake Taupo is hands down the prettiest body of water I have ever been on. Pops drove us all around for about nearly an hour before we made a stop in a cove. Dick handed all of us a glass before scooping up some lake water in his. “It’s very sweet. Just mix a little gin and some lemon and you’ve got the freshest gin & tonic you’ll ever have. He handed me the bottle. And so it continues.
We continued on until Pops stopped to show us some Maori carvings that were done about twenty years prior.
“Carrie, get a picture of me! Anyone asks where these carvings came from, we’ll say no one even knows how old they are anymore,” I was kidding at the time but I still might tell that to a few of my friends back home.
“Not a bad spot, eh? I got just the thing for it.” Pops reached into his glove compartment and pulled out what may have been a nicely rolled joint. He fired it up and handed it to Dick who passed it my way. I was well aware of my increasingly drunken state but at the rate things had been going today I didn’t see how it would hurt. As I took a few drags I noticed that Sue, Dick’s daughter, was staring at me. I passed it back to Meredith before she turned away in tears.
“What’s wrong, Sweetheart?” Dick asked her. Sue ignored her father while Bridget made her way towards her.
“What is it Sue?”
“I don’t feel safe anymore,”
“Well why on Earth not?”
“Because my Dad’s smoking.”
“Ah, no I wasn’t! It’s just licorice, honey,” Dick chimed on. Licorice. That’s the best you got? I had really liked Dick a lot prior to this.
“Oh, you can trust your Dad, Sue.”
“It’s not just him! It’s all of you! All of you are trying to hide it from me!”
This little girl wasn’t naïve and this clearly wasn’t the first time that Dick had done this in front of her. The girls and I were visibly uncomfortable but it didn’t seem to phase the older men’s good time. We finished the smoke and worked our way back to the house. Bridget was able to cheer her up while they cuddled the whole way back towards the house. It was starting to get chilly and Rochelle had dinner waiting for us.
Pops pulled the boat all the way up to the house so all of us could hop out before he and Dick took it back to the dock near his car. I leaped off the edge of the boat and unto the grass. I reached a hand out for Carrie who slipped head fist into the water. I couldn’t help but laugh right in her face. This day was just getting too ridiculous.
I sipped wine with Carlie and Rochelle while the girls washed up. “Where do you think those boys are?” Rochelle asked me with a flirtatious smile. “You didn’t let them get too drunk today, did you?” I guess I wasn’t looking too gone because Rochelle reached her hand under the table to rub my thigh. I looked up and she was just smiling, with her friend sitting right beside her.
I let out an uncomfortable laugh before responding to the gesture, “I don’t think so. They should be fine.”
The rest of the girls joined us on the porch and we opened up another bottle of champagne. I went to light my cigarette before being interrupted by a familiar cackle. I looked up and sure enough there was Pops, falling out of his car. The wine in his hand crashed on the pavement, but it just seemed to fuel his laughter.
“God damn it, Trevor!” Dick yelled at his buddy.
“Did you assholes get lost?” Rochelle yelled towards them.
“Just for a bit, but we made it honey! I’ve got another bottle in the car.”
Carrie was staring at me wide-eyed, shaking her head and mouthing the words “Oh my God!” Our last night in Taupo seemed like it could be a repeat of our first.
Rochelle had cooked us another brilliant dinner: lasagna and broccoli. God, they were spoiling us. After dinner I went into the kitchen to put my plate away. As I went to set it in the dishwasher, I felt a familiar hand wrap its way around my waste. “How’d you like dinner?” she whispered into my ear.
“Whoa, hey there!” I didn’t want Pops to witness this and get the wrong idea.
“What’s wrong? You didn’t like your lasagna?”
“Of course I liked it. Mind if I have another glass of champagne?” I started to head towards the balcony. Did something happen last night that I couldn’t remember?
After an early morning and a full day of drinking I really wasn’t sure how long I could make it. Meredith was already starting to doze off.
Just as I started to fade, Rochelle sparked up another rolled up surprise. With the that making its way around everyone started to get real chatty. Trevor ranted until he fell asleep, repeatedly thanking me for allowing him to be our friend; for trusting him. He told me over and over how he needed this kind of fun every once in a while, that keeps him from feeling too old. He accidentally called me John, his son’s name.
The next morning I woke up face flat on the floor. This time the girls had woken me up. My bus was leaving in less than two hours. We decided to go pick up some breakfast instead of finishing off the rest of Pops and Rochelle’s food. We went upstairs, exchanged numbers and said our goodbyes.
“Thank you so much for everything, really!” We told the couple who were still comfortable in bed.
“Come back anytime! Anytime!” Pops told us.
“Pops and I were just planning our trip to visit you and Carrie in New Orleans next spring,” she said before giving me a wink.