Manna from Moo Cow

New Zealand 2007

Image by Szymon Stoma via Flickr

Who knows how old the meat was, but when meat is free does it really matter? I don’t mean you should eat old meat if there are worms in it, but if the meat has been frozen…then so what? It might not taste like you expect but life is full of adventures if you just let yourself get there. At least that is what my experience has taught me. Pass up an opportunity to eat free meat and two days later you might regret it.

Now I doubt that I would steal meat out of a freezer today, let me rephrase that, I doubt I would liberate meat left behind by tourists today, but at the time I was slowly running out of money and the meat was a risk I was willing to take.

My friend, Andy, and I had been touring New Zealand on our bicycles for about two weeks when we found ourselves at the Pauanui Pines Motor Lodge in Pauanui, New Zealand. We ended up there the same way we ended up everywhere else on that trip: dumb luck.

We left Auckland one day and just started pedaling southeast. We had no reservations anywhere, we had no general idea of where we would end up each evening, we just started pedaling and after it started to get late we would begin thinking about where we wanted to sleep. Most of the time it just worked out. We didn’t have a tent, we didn’t plan more than about two hours into the future and I must admit, it was one of the best trips I have ever taken.

The Pauanui Pines had little bungalows around the property with a couple beds, a television, a dining room table and a kitchen. We arrived just after the holidays so the place was nearly vacant and the rates were favorable.

So how did I go from staying at the Pauanui Pines to stealing meat? That is a good question. It happened on the way to the shower. Andy and I had a long day of swimming in the ocean, sunning on the beach and basically acting like bums, but even bums need a shower on occasion and so we grabbed our towels and headed over to the shower rooms. The showers were the kind where you drop in a ten-cent piece and then scrub like a madman hoping to remove all the soap and dirt before the water turns off. I believe there is probably some laboratory where they see how quickly someone can actually take a shower and then they set all of the pay showers to about ten seconds less than that.

Since Andy and I were super cheap I don’t think the time limit was going to affect us, if the shower turned off too early we would have just finished with a garden hose. On our way back to the bungalow we thought we should check out the clubhouse but once we got in the door we realized that it really was just a big kitchen for the campers with a few stoves and lots of table space. Two weeks earlier, during the holidays, I am certain that the clubhouse was packed with families, but on this evening it was just us.

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a habit of needing, I mean really needing, to look in unfamiliar freezers and there were two freezers in the clubhouse. I don’t know how Theodore Davis felt when he discovered Tut’s tomb, but I suppose he felt about as good as I did when I opened the first white freezer in the clubhouse. The freezer was packed with food. We checked the other freezer and it was also filled.

There are some people who would consider our next move stealing, but really is it stealing if someone leaves something behind? You don’t get arrested if you pick up a broken couch that is sitting alongside a road. You don’t get arrested when you find a twenty-dollar bill on the ground. Is it stealing if something is left for the good of humanity? Well Andy and I did not spend a great deal of time discussing the finer points of the moral dilemma before us. We each slipped a couple of loose hamburger patties into our towels and strolled back to the bungalow.

Andy and I had been surviving on potatoes, lamb sausages, barbeque sauce and beer for two weeks so it didn’t really matter to us how old the meat was. It might have been there for two years for all we knew, but hamburger is one of those beautiful meats that cannot be ruined, it is ruined as soon as it comes out of the massive grinder that combines all the crap they can’t chop into steak.

So, that evening we dined on two very well done hamburgers, I may not believe that hamburger can be ruined, but I do believe in cooking mystery food thoroughly. We ate those burgers with a generous helping of barbeque sauce and potatoes, and then began plotting our next shower. We certainly didn’t want to get caught hauling meat out of the freezer, but at the same time we did not want to pass up the opportunity to have a free meal provided by the generous people of New Zealand.

We showered twice a day. Our quick showers were always followed by hearty meals of mystery meat and potatoes.

The days were warm, the surf broke wonderfully, the beach was lovely, the few campers we talked to were friendly, but the showers were always exceptional.

Categories: Travel

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