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I miss you, Pukaki.

A love letter to childhood memories and days spent with friends By Joel Armstrong (he/they)

I miss playing footy on that small patch of field adjacent to the bach. Except, it wasn’t our bach, it was a family friend's. Still, it was home. We would play for hours, sweating under the beating sun as it stung at our arms and faces. We would play with a lot of the other kids who visited the area in the summer, some of whom I can’t even remember the faces of. Prickles would jab at our feet, but we didn’t care too much. I miss riding my bike to the local dairy to grab a hefty bag of lollies. We always took the same route around the lake, which took us along a gravel path that led right to the dairy. We never swam in the lake (that shit was gross) but honestly, it was tempting. When we got to the dairy we would immediately be ambushed by a white, stale fan that surely hadn’t been changed since the late 90s. We would go to the counter and choose a bunch of lollies that they would then lump into a bag. I hope that’s still a thing. I miss swimming across the Purangi River to the tree on the other side. Swimming across the river was always a challenge, not because it was a challenging swim, but more because I wasn’t the most energetic 10-year- old. The tree was super sketchy and would shadow a bunch of rocks. One slip and it would all be over. But at 10 we were dumb as fuck and honestly didn’t care too much. We would scoot across the thick branch, extra cautious not to slip, towards the tip of the branch. Oh boy, would it sway. The jump into the river was worth it though.

miss sleeping in the tent and caravan. There was never enough room in the bach itself, so they would just chuck us kids outside. I remember one particular night when there was a massive thunderstorm. In the tent we were excited, but a little anxious. In a sense, it was also cosy too. I remember bringing my Nintendo DS to play Mario Party. I remember seeing my first shooting star. Despite being a relatively new addition, the caravan was so run-down it looked like it came straight out of the 70s - it was surprisingly comfy though. But, waking up in my sleeping bag drenched in sweat, sunlight beaming through the windows splashing onto my face, and feeling like I’m being cooked alive won’t be a feeling I’ll miss too much.

I miss the bach itself. With its broad deck that wrapped around the whole building and the outside shower that always had cold water that, even during the hottest days of January, would send you into shock. I even miss the flooring in the lounge that was so sturdy your bare feet would audibly clap against the surface of it. The ripped couches, the sand that would never find its way off the ground, the hidden away bedrooms that were reserved only for the parents.... I miss all of it.

It's been too long, Pukaki.

But I’m afraid it will never be the same anymore. The bach was sold a couple of years ago. But even in the years before then, I wasn’t fortunate enough to get time off work to come and visit you.

It’s been four years, Pukaki.

I hope you haven’t changed too much. I’m scared you have. I haven’t seen you since 2018 and have been longing to drive along Purangi Road, with the coast slowly encroaching around the twists and turns of the long, winding road. It was always so exciting, awaiting that view with every corner we turned. I can’t wait.

I can’t wait to see you again, Pukaki. Hopefully, it won’t be too long now.


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