So - in case anyone hasn't worked it out, I'm currently in New Zealand (not Isla Nubla). My mate Jason is working over here for a few months, so while I had the opportunity to crash at his place, I decided to take a trip to NZ. Jason had returned to Tassie to propose to his girlfriend (now his fiance) - so we traveled back to NZ together.
Made it to New Zealand without much difficulty myself – although Jason had some trouble in Sydney going through security. They pulled him out of line to go through the xray machine (probably random or maybe he looked dogey) which was fine – but when he collected his gear again, he somehow forgot to get his phone and iPad. We realised a few minutes later – but the security guys couldn’t find them. After about 10 minutes of Jason panicking and me constantly trying to call his phone in case someone had it by accident, the security guards found them. They had stayed in a tray and ended up in the pile of empties (even though they said they’d looked). Jason relaxed a bit after that – Jason without a phone would be like me losing my glasses and both feet.
Just as we were boarding, Jason got a message from his boss that sort of messed up our plans. His boss had been going to drop a car at the airport for us – but the car was broken down so he offered to collect us. That’s extremely nice of him, but with the car broken down (it’s the car Jason has been using) that would stop us from getting back to Auckland on Monday to pick up the rental. The rental car I’d booked was from a smaller (and much cheaper) rental place – which wasn’t open until 8am. So we asked Jason’s boss to try and book us a 1day rental – but then the announcement came to turn phones off – so we didn’t get a reply. Jason’s Aussie phone had run out of credit, so he’d sent the last messages on mine – which turned out to be an issue.
The flight itself was fine - one of the smoothest flights I’ve been on. And yes, we had the awesome AirNZ Middle-earth flight video that’s been on the net for a while. We were a little worried about what we’d do for a car, but distracted ourselves playing Catan on Jason’s iPad. I occurred to me part way through that comments like “I need some sheep” might have been taken as an inappropriate NZ joke – but no one commented.
We landed in Auckland at midnight. Apart from the artwork it felt like any major Australian airport. Went through customs and declared my brand new tent (you have to declare hiking stuff) which was fine. Picked up our bags which were already on the belt (normally I have to wait) – and then on to the pick-up area.
^ A dwarven statue at the airport
As we weren’t sure what Jason’s boss had managed to arrange, we weren’t sure if he’d be here or organized a car or what. Both my phones didn’t have international roaming, so if he had replied to my Australian number, I wouldn’t get it.
After hunting for him in the crowd, Jason gave him a call. He’d tried to book a car for us, but needed license details. He’d replied to me (which we didn’t get). So we were stuck at the airport with no transport.
We hit the rental desks. Most were sold out – but we did manage to get a Corrolla for the day. Almost a third of the price of my rental for two weeks! But it was necessary – so we rented the car and said we’d return it that afternoon (it was about 1am).
So down the dark motorway and rural roads to Jason’s place. Not that different to Australia – even the signs look mostly the same – and you can’t see much else in the dark. Arrived at Jason’s and called it quits for the night.
In the morning I got my first look at NZ in daylight. It’s a farming area with lots of hills. Could be Tassie – but with twice the number of hills in the paddocks.
^ Landscape around Jason's.
After we got sorted, we went to Pukekohe for a look around and to get some groceries. Jason shops at Pak’n’Save which is a cross between a supermarket and Shiploads. Basically it has all the supermarket stuff – but arranged like Shiploads. Jason is also apparently allergic to vegetables.
We called into ‘the warehouse’ which is a Kmart-like shop. Jason scoffed at the $30 tents as too expensive and decided he’d get a $15 one at Kmart. I got a sim card for the Skinny network over here so I could use my phone.
Pukekohe seems about Devonport size – although Jason says it’s growing faster than the town can really handle.
So back to Jason’s place to unload, have lunch, and then we headed into Auckland. We had a few things on our list – and managed to do a couple of them…
Pointing out the sights as we went (even the ones where he was entirely wrong) – we headed to the north shore of Auckland for a geeky nerd shop that Jason wanted to go back to. Like most of those shops, it was packed with geeky awesomeness. I got some badges, a book, and a keyring – Jason bought some DC glasses (the drinking kind, not the seeing kind). I’m not sure if he thinks he’s a DC fan or just wants to be like Sheldon…
^ This feels familiar
Next stop – Devonport. There’s a nice suburb on the north shore called Devonport so we took a look. I might have to go back next week and catch the ferry somewhere – just cause it’d be fun.
By now it was after 4 and we hit Auckland’s famous traffic. We’d been planning to hit ToyCo before heading to swap hire cars – but that went out the window. By 4:30 we hadn’t crossed the bridge yet, so I rang the car rental place and said we’d be late (the pickup was scheduled for 5). According to Google, we’d get to the rental place by 5:30 (google knows the traffic state). Turns out Google was pretty much spot-on, so I went in and signed my life away at the rental place while Jason waited with the Corrolla. According to the booking I was getting a Corrolla-like vehicle, so was rather surprised when I ended up with a Mitsubishi Outlander. If I’d booked that, it would have been almost double the price. It’s an auto, but otherwise seems fine.
^ The Outlander
So onward to the petrol station to fill up the Corrolla. It was about 4km, but took over half an hour. Got the fuel, and then hit Kmart as it was just up the road. No cheap tents for Jason. Subway for tea, and then back to the airport (traffic had eased by now) to give the Corolla back. No issues there, and then back to Jason’s place for the night.
As an aside, both the Outlander and Corolla have pathetic high beams.
Day 2 – Tuesday
Jason had left for work by the time I woke up this morning. Did some stuff around here (including writing the above) and some research on where I wanted to go today and beyond before heading out back to Auckland. On the way back to the motorway I saw the police and a crane that had just retrieved a car from going over the bank. The rural roads around here mostly follow the ridge-line of the hills, so you often have drops on both sides of the road. Almost a spine-crawl, but not quite.
Today’s mission consisted of the two parts that we didn’t get done yesterday. 1 – find Jason a tent. 2 – pick up a Lego spaceman I’d ordered online from Toyco.
Part 1 supposedly consisted of finding a “the warehouse” store and picking up at $10 tent they had advertised. Not quite that easy – as I discovered after the third “the warehouse” that didn’t have any cheap tents.
^ Lego rugby display at ToyCo
Part 2 was easier. Found my way to ToyCo – which happens to be the only place on the globe I could find still selling the classic spacemen led lamps that I wanted. I collected the one I’d already purchased online last week – annoyingly the remaining ones were now on clearance – but I’d already paid for mine. It’s a pretty cool thing if you ask me, but I doubt everyone would agree.
^ Lego Spaceman lamp
I was also on the lookout for a cheap fan because Jason’s place is rather warm –stupidly hard to find though – Warehouse, Kmart, Bunnings etc all don’t stock them. Was starting to think they might be illegal over here for some reason, but Jason says he’s seen them at a hardware before.
Found some lunch in the ‘hot food’ section of a Countdown (which is the local name for a Woolies). Countdown is very much the same as a Woolies – but where we have hot BBQ chickens, they have a bit more of a range of hot stuff.
After another warehouse or two (no tents), I headed back towards the airport for something I’d seen the previous day as we crawled past in traffic. It’s a place called Butterfly Creek that has (strangely enough) butterflys, farm animals, and things of that nature. But it also has just opened an exhibit called “Dinosaur Kingdom”. I’d done some research in the morning and it sounded good – so I wanted to have a look.
Basically it’s an enclosed area with a heap of animatronic dinosaurs. I was only there for 40 minutes or so – and only because I was taking a lot of photos – if you’re not a dinosaur fan you’d probably get sick of it after 15 minutes – but I really enjoyed it. I’m just regretting leaving my tripod in the car (I used a stone under the lens). I also need to set up my camera to swap between standard and time-delay photography on a button like my old one. It does it fine – but it’s annoying to do it via the menu each time.
I managed to get a few photos of myself with the dinosaurs though, so I was happy.
^ And suddenly - a spinosaurus!
I then headed to the nearest Bunnings that Google could find (I personally know there is a closer one that I’d been past the day before – but I couldn’t find an address). At Bunnings I finally found a tent cheap enough for CheapskateJason to afford. He is now the proud owner of a $9 tent and a $4 tarp to try and make it water resistant.
After all that, it was late enough that I missed the traffic jams coming home – and arrived back at Jason’s about 7.
Tomorrow should be more interesting though – as I’m branching out east. No more day trips to Auckland, it’s time to explore!
Oh a side note – I’m finding it much easier to recognise the Outlander in carparks than I was with the Corolla – didn’t stop me opening the boot of the wrong one today though. The owner was friendly (although a little startled) and offered to take my shopping if I wanted to give it away.
On another side note - posted a photo of myself with the Raptor on facebook. Most people still don’t know I’m in NZ :)
Day 3 – Eastward and down
Today was the start of my southward wanderings. My aim was to reach the town of Gisborne.
Many people have warned me that the roads are slow and it takes longer to get places than expected – and they are true, but that wasn’t much of an issue – my problem was getting going in the morning.
Did some emailing, dishes, hung the washing out, and packed the car. Shouldn’t have taken long – but it did. This delayed my trip into Pukekohe to get the groceries, which delayed my final leaving.
Anyway – I turned the wrong way out of Jason’s driveway because the GPS wasn’t really awake yet – and it decided that I could go the back way, which was interesting. Bit of gravel and back roads until I ended up somewhere I recognised. Quite enjoyable, probably didn’t help my lateness though.
Made it into Pukekohe and did my groceries (things for lunches etc). Filled the Outlander with petrol (ouch - $1.70 a litre here!). Before I left I pick up a Kiwi all-blacks fan who wanted to take a look around the country. His name is Kevin and he joined me for the day’s adventures.
^ Kevin the Kiwi
So back to Jason’s to get the washing off the line, only to find that his boss’s wife was blocking the driveway because she was doing the lawns (Jason doesn’t have a mower). Introduced myself, grabbed the washing, and left again.
Midday – the journey begins.
The first part of the journey was the same as the other roads near Jason’s – fairly windy with lots of hills. But once I got past the motorway it got flat and straight. It was actually flat and straight for ages. Still felt fairly Tassie-like, except the motorways are only 100km when they should be 110. Roadworks slow down to 30km which is painful.
Stopped at a rest stop for some lunch (rolls and meat paste and cheese) and again at a little town to use the amenities, only to discover that the particular park is apparently the centre of the North Island.
Had an enjoyable but uneventful drive to Mattamatta which is somewhere I think I’ll be back to later for the Hobbiton tour (at least I think it leaves from here). I stopped there briefly because there was a Toyworld and Toyworlds often have old stock of Lego. A couple of Hobbit sets, but not the ones I wanted.
After Mattamatta things got interesting again. The motorway goes over a range – and it suddenly gets very twisty. Almost like one of the passes in Tassie but shorter, and it’s a three-lane highway with traffic instead of a quiet narrow road. It was actually a lot of fun passing a heap of trucks climbing over the range – but I missed what should have been a pretty good lookout because I was in the passing lane at the time.
Over the range things settle down somewhat – but it’s still more interesting than it had been. The GPS was guiding me but I didn’t really know where I was in relation to anything, so I was a little surprised when the coast turned up unannounced.
^ If you're going to have an island, it might as well have a mountain...
I had originally planned to head via the coast but had decided to go straight to Gisborne since it was later than I’d planned – but apparently the GPS decided that was the better way anyway. So I went along the coast from Tauranga to Whakatane to Opotiki. It felt rather like the northwest coast of Tas.
^ Me and a Kiwi
Along the way I found a giant kiwi fruit so stopped for a photo and visited the shop. Bought a “Liquid Kiwi” drink which was awesome – but had Kevin a little worried.
^ Kevin is a little worried about the implications...
At Opotiki I turned inland to cut the corner off the journey (although it would have been awesome to visit the east-most point).
The Opotiki to Gisborne road is awesome. Truly epic. It’s like the West Coast roads at Savage River or somewhere, but it’s longer. If you don’t like corners, don’t come this way – but if you like to drive, it’s fantastic. Would have to rate among my best drives I’ve done. Takes an hour and half or so – but well worth it.
^ A few random photos that utterly fail to show how much fun this road was.
Arrived in Gisborne at 7 after a thoroughly enjoyable trip, and found the caravan park. Took a lap until I found the office and checked in, but got there eventually. Erected my $20 tent – which is somewhat embarrassing. I’ve always believed it’s worth having decent camping gear – and this certainly isn’t. I even added a tarp to keep off the dew. But it should do for a night or two.
^ An embaressingly cheap tent
^ With a tarp that's too small
Left the tent to it’s own devices and headed into town in search for some food. Finally got my fush n chups! Ate tea while sitting on the beach watching the sun set, which was great until the mozzies decided to eat me in return.
^ Fush and Chups!
Headed back to the caravan park and threw some stuff in the camp fridge (with my name on the bag) and then retired to the games room to update this log. We’ll see how the tent goes tonight.
Day 4 – travelling
Another day – another few hundred ks.
I slept on and off last night. Unfortunately the cheap tent doesn’t really suit people as tall as me – so I have to sleep diagonally with my pillow hard against one corner and my feet at the other. If you’ve ever done any camping you’ll know that touching the walls of the tent is a bad idea.
Thankfully it didn’t rain – but there was a heavy dew like there always seems to be. My cheap leave-behind pillow that I’d bought the other day was a little damp, but that was the only casualty. I’ve bought a couple of extra tarps today to try and assist.
Not sure why – but I kept waking up every few hours. Seriously missing my proper tent and stretcher etc. The cheap tent and hiking lilo just aren’t the same.
Anyway – got up – had a shower – cooked toast in the camp kitchen and waited for my tent to dry. And waited, and waited. By almost 9am (which I think is check-out) the tent still wasn’t drying, even though the sun was fully on it. So in the end I gave up and just bundled it into the car on the back seat.
While I was cooking toast I was chatting to a New Zealander guy who said there’s an Art Deco festival on in Napier this weekend, which is why there are so many classic and antique cars around. There were three very old cars and a couple of classics sharing the caravan park with us – and I saw more during the day.
I headed into Gisborne proper looking for a souvenir shop hoping to get a hat badge. I’ve collected hat badges on a few trips now (Great Geek Migration with Klutz from Mt Isa to Tassie, Europe trip with Emma, a few family holidays) and thought I’d try and get a badge each place I stay. Well turns out that souvenir shops aren’t very common in Gisborne which is odd considering it’s a rather touristy spot. The only actual souvenir shop was shut when I went past – so I googled and ended up at the information centre. They were very friendly but had very little for sale – they did suggest I go up to a lookout which I did later. I tried the newsagents and the 2 dollar shops, but no luck. When I was coming back I noticed that the souvenir shop was open so I stopped there too – but they didn’t have much apart for shirts. So much for my hat badge idea…
I did go into the local ‘The Warehouse’ – wouldn’t you know it – every tent imaginable (ok, so that’s a stretch) including the cheap ones – why couldn’t any of the Auckland ones be like this?
Before leaving Gisborne I wanted to find a geocache. There were two on the beach right near the campsite – but I struck out on both.
So I headed up towards the lookout. I wanted to see the lookout, I wanted to take a photo for Emma, and there was a cache up there. Apparently this hill is a women’s only exercise area. Not officially or anything – but I passed probably 30 people jogging up and down the hill – but they were all women (except possible some of the kids being pushed in prams).
Anyway – I got to the lookout and quickly found the cache – my first one overseas! I also took my photo with Thorin for Emma. I’ve emailed it to her and she appreciated it – not sure if anyone else would get the joke though.
^ I couldn't find Sir Guy - so here's a photo of Thorin the dwarf at Gisborne.
There’s a statue up there of some bloke who’s not Captain Cook. Basically that’s all they know – he’s not Captain Cook. As Gisborne is where Captain Cook first landed on NZ, some well meaning person decided to make a cast of a statue of Captain for them. Some he took a cast of the original, and made a bronze statue for Gisborne. Unfortunately someone realised that the statue was wearing the wrong uniform and looked nothing like Captain Cook. So they have a statue of some random captain (probably Italian) on their lookout.
^ Not Captain Cook
Back into Gisborne for fuel (ouch – it’s $1.84 here) and then finally hit the road.
There was a lot of driving today – but it wasn’t as awesome as yesterday. They were still nice roads – but nothing to write home about (except I guess I am). After Gisborne the next town is Nuhaka which is a small town with a shop and mechanics and about 20 houses. It wouldn’t be memorable except it’s the only thing for ages. I did a couple of laps looking for any interesting old 4wds, but didn’t find anything. Sort of like Gladstone – except on a more major drag.
^ A decked out Patrol at Nuhaka.
Had lunch besides the river at Wairoa a while later. This was a bit larger town (Campbelltown size). While walking along the street I spied a fan for sale – they do exist over here! I hope I mentioned that earlier or it’ll make no sense. I’d been looking for a fan because Jason’s place is very warm and couldn’t find them anywhere. This one was expensive, but at least it proved they do exist.
Just to keep things interesting on the drive, I stopped a few times to take photos – sometimes in a logical spot –sometimes not. Sometimes it was scenery, sometimes it was 4wds. I thought I’d spotted a G60 at one point and did a quick uturn only to find it was a series Landy. Nothing wrong with Landies, but it’s not a G60. I think I ended up passing the same truck three times due to my erratic stops.
^ Not a G60
^ A random bridge
Eventually I arrived at Naipier. I almost drove straight past, but figured I should take a look. Drove around the town a bit (it’s quite large) and did a little shopping. I found a cheap fan in a hardware shop – there were lots of them – maybe they’re only outlawed in Auckland? Lots of old cars to admire too – but it was the Pajeros that had me doing blockies to take photos. Gen 3 shorties – not at all common back home, and Gen 2 shorties (like mine) with some of the Evo body-kit. They might even have been full-on evos, but with some of the trim removed. I know an Evo is generally a Lancer back home – but Pajero Evolutions exist too – just not in the Australian market.
^ Gen3 Shorty
^ No idea what this is...
From Napier it was only 30ks or so to Hastings. Smaller than Napier, but still decent sized. This was my destination for the day. It’s not quite half way to Wellington – but I arrived in time to have a look around tonight – so I should be able to get away earlier tomorrow. Found a cache so I can tick this off too.
^ I found a tram...
The caravan park is a little dearer than Gisborne but has a pool and things. It’s quite nice, apart from the coin-slot showers. I’ve decided not to bother with the tarp over the tent tonight – I don’t think it helped (I’d do it if it was raining). I threw the tent up first thing when I got here – so it’s nice and dry now. I expect tomorrow will be similar, so I won’t bother waiting for it to dry.
Had tea at a restaurant called Carl’s Jr. It’s just another burger chain – but one we don’t have back home.
^ Carl's Jr
One a side note – the Outlander is making me glad I got a Forester instead. It’s ok to drive, but the Forester is much more fun. Less power perhaps, but seems to be more responsive anyway. The Outlander has a keyless key that you just have to have near the car to start, which is fine, but I keep reaching for the key to turn it off – the button is on the other side. I don’t know why they wouldn’t put the button on the same side as the key normally goes. I’m getting more used to the auto now – I don’t think I’ve double-foot braked today.
When you lock the car, the mirrors fold in. It’s not terribly useful, but it gives an easy visual way to see if the car is locked.
Another note – I bought myself a cheap LED lantern at the start of the trip. It worked ok last night – except when it’s turned off it has a very annoying and bright blue LED that pulses on and off. I can only assume it’s so you can find the torch in the dark – but it keeps you awake. I haven’t worked out how to turn it off – so the torch lived in a sock last night. Today I got some tape and the light shouldn’t bother me now.
Tomorrow it’s onwards to Wellington – the bottom of the top!