It was magic, I tell you. The car never moved, only the road had.
One summer’s morning in December 2015, I awoke to reality and saw that I was driving a rundown SUV up a mountain in nothing but my boxers. There were three other people in the car and I was the only one awake.
A few hours’ previous, my then asleep travel partners and I had rolled out of the waters at an unmapped beach exhausted, and right into our car as one big wet jumbled mess. Marion, whose car it was and Jesus (not the son of God) lay sprawling in the back, asleep. Natalie- a log of wood in the passenger’s seat and I, with nowhere else to go, sat in the driver’s.
Ha! Imagine if I drive now, I thought. Ghastly images of lost control and crushed sheep crossed my mind; I winced. I grasped the wheel with both my hands in an attempt to feel, for once, in control when Marion tapped my shoulder, handed over the keys, said “You drive“, and promptly went back to sleep.
No, Marion, how about I not. It’d be so unwise of me to drive an automatic car for the first ever time in my life on a long and hilly highway in a foreign country, where I had never driven before. Suicidal, I thought, as I pressed the brake and ignited the engine. Suicidal but fun.
About five kilometers from the beach, it happened. I saw the speed limit- 35. The tachometer hovered at 34. Good. A tiny bridge came up and I’d crossed it when I simply stopped driving and the road took over.
Acres of pasture lay draped all around– the hills just folds in its cloth and the cattle its polka dots. The road went unfolding, an endless carpet- hugging the contours and moving our car. I sat within- like a moviegoer, though far more naked, watching reality happen. Every few kilometers, New Zealand tapped my shoulder and gave me directions, it told me to watch out for the sharp curve ahead and for the bumpy road in between, to drive slow now and go fast here.
The road took us all the way up the hill, past the giant sand dunes of Te Paki, to the teardrop-shaped car park at Cape Reinga. The car hit a speed bump and the road ceded control back to me.
Natalie awoke just as I looped through the lot, rushing to the one empty slot right at the end. A narrow gap between a huge pickup truck and hard concrete lining, it looked as if it were hastily carved and placed for my use. I made a sharp right into it, without braking. Natalie shrieked. Marion woke up. Jesus swore. And I parked it. Tight, snug and just in time.
It was magic, I tell you.