Thursday, December 18, 2014 – 12:53 p.m.
Auckland, New Zealand
S 36º 51.405’ E 174º 45.775’
70º Partly cloudy, occasional rain
The territory north of Auckland is called Northland. It is subtropical in climate. Tree ferns are more common than sugar maples in New England.
It rains on and off each day I’ve been here. This dictates my travels. However, the air temperature is in the low 70s, so it’s easy to work up a sweat walking as you get rained on.
The rain itself is very soft and gentle, at least during the day. In the middle of one night it came down hard enough to wake me up. I then discovered the communal restroom flooded because its one window was left open for air circulation. So it goes.
I plotted a route on connected paved roads as close to the cost as I could. The steep hilly roads are narrow and twisting. There is no look-ahead visibility. The speed limit is 100K (62mph) — insane. Did I mention all the bridges are one lane?
Sometimes there are cows, sometimes horses in the road. Sheep and goats stay in their fields. Sometimes the horses and cows are loose, sometimes the cows are heading to or from the milking shed. One farmer guided me through his herd while sitting sideways on his ATV, steering with one hand and giving me directions with the other. The directions were either, “Hurry up and pull in right behind me!” or “Get over to the side!” I made it through, there was no cow/tourist accident for the news. I did have to wash cow splatter off the sides of my car before turning it in.
My drive north plan was vague. If the weather cleared, pull over and take pictures. Otherwise keep driving slowly, pull over to allow Kiwis to pass, find a town with a hostel and hang out.
Finding places to stay is easy. The accommodation hierarchy is Backpackers, Hostels, Holiday Parks, Motels, B&Bs, Hotels, Resorts. My first choice is hostels. Sometimes I find a double, sometimes a dorm.
I stayed at a Holiday Park “cabin” in Whangarei. It was half a shipping container with a sliding glass door and interior walls designed for easy bathroom remodeling. It also had a large soft easy chair and a TV. The communal kitchen had sinks and range tops, but no utensils, pots, pans, plates or cups. It seemed abandoned, although it was filled with Holiday Campers.
In Paihia, home of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, I stayed at the Base X Hostel, one of about eight in this small tourist town. It was the last bed at a reasonable rate. I shared a small room with four Swedes, two Danes, and a German, three males, five females. True international cooperation.
In Dargaville I stayed at the Greenhouse Backpackers across the street from the police station. The owner was very gregarious and memorized everyone’s name. The next day I realized I left all my food there. Everywhere I sleep like a log.
It’s more expensive here. Gasoline costs at least twice as much as the United States, often more. Food is 20-50% higher. That is after currency conversion. It’s expensive for residents too. Milk is very expensive and no one can understand why. They have dairy cows aplenty.
I did not go to the Cape Reinga Lighthouse on the northern tip of the country. My car rental contract forbids driving on 90 Mile Beach. Too many cars have gotten stuck in the sand and never returned. Also, the lighthouse would have been fogged in.
So I circumnavigated Northland about 1,100k in rain and fog, but when it was clear I did get in a few photos, which I show you here.
A few days back in Auckland, then it’s off to a meditation retreat. I’ll keep you posted.