Dead-ends, detours and deliverance.

I came to Castlepoint by accident. I never meant to stay. I thought I could pass through and continue north along the coast. I’ve always been shit at reading maps. The place is a dead-end. The only way out is the same way in. Too exhausted to contemplate another drive, I pitched a tent and took a nap.

I was woken a few hours later by a man barking instructions outside the tent. I almost jumped. His words were familiar but his voice was not.

Lay the tent this way, not that way. Here, pass me that.

A woman protested, and negotiations ensued. Two children ran around, yelling and whooping. I could see the shape of the man through the mesh of my tent. He was stout, like the bear from AA Milne’s poem, only not cute.

I got up, stretched, then pulled my board out of the boot of the car. A boogie board, not a surfboard. A people-mover, not a car. I avoided making eye contact with the woman as I walked past. She was crouched on the ground surrounded by food containers and baskets, building some kind of portable pantry. I could almost feel the aluminium rods in my hands. The way they slotted into the pockets in the fabric and pulled it taught.

I surfed until I noticed a gathering of black clouds at the edge of the sky. They were approaching fast. I was halfway up the beach when a bolt of yellow lightning split the sky open directly above my head. It was so loud, and so close, I thought I could have touched it. Like an idiot, I stood there shaking as the rain sluiced through me. Compared to the ocean, it was warm. Back at the campsite, my neighbours had stuffed themselves into their car, steamy windows, a half-built tent flapping behind them in the wind.

A few minutes later the clouds shot through and disappeared. People wandered around the camp looking dazed, picking up bits of camp furniture that had skipped down the road. A man pointed to the gravel beside his caravan and told me it was the exact spot the lightning had struck, he knew because the grass had momentarily caught fire.

While people busied themselves in the cleanup, I packed a bag went for a ride on my new bike. I bought it from cash converters with the money I made from selling my son’s school uniform, a box of books and a steam iron. I’ve had the bike one day and used it more times than I ever used that damn steam iron. It unfolds and clips together in three swift movements, infinitely more satisfying than a pantry.

On my way past the store I picked up some fish and chips and rode until the asphalt ran out and turned to sand. It’s not a mountain bike, but what the feisty little thing lacks in gears she makes up for in tenacity. Skinny tyres dug in and took me all the way across the beach to the reef, then up and over the hill to Deliverance Cove. I don’t know why it’s called that, the sign didn’t say. It was an aching uphill grind, interspersed with terrifying short descents, slicks skidding sideways at every turn.

Finally, I came to the end of the trail. Invincible Silver could go no further. I leaned her up against a crop of toitoi and continued on foot. 162 meters above the sea, there’s nowhere to look but down. Waves along this stretch of coast are famous for plucking fishermen from the rocks like they never even existed. But from up here the sea lies calm against the ocean floor, heavy like a blanket. Even the lighthouse, commanding at its base, is nothing more than a notch on the craggy spine of a sleepy taniwha.

Deliverance (n) the act of being rescued or set free.

I had thought that Rangiwhakaoma meant “the day that makes you run”. Because, rangi – day, whaka – to make, and oma – run. I despair sometimes at my lack of imagination in te reo. My brain sees words, not pictures. In fact, the sign at the base of lighthouse tells me that Rangiwhakaoma means the skies that race, after the changeable weather that rolls through; bolts of lightning and lashings of rain followed by clear blue sky.

Seems so obvious, now.

It makes me wonder if there’s any such thing as a dead-end. It might just be that the place you end up is not the place you meant to go, but it is the place you need to be.