Friday, March 9, 2007

On the Road ...

I really can't explain it - but there was a collective sigh of relief when we got back in the car and headed out of Auckland. I hope the family that drives together stays together because we like to hit the road together.

Our timing wasn't great - we ended up in morning peak hour moving from Devonport towards the centre of Auckland - but there was amusement to be had. We had our windows down and admired a Holden AWD station wagon alongside us. I can imagine how hicky we would have appeared - freshly back in Australasia and thrilled by things as simple as the sight of a Holden. But, yet again New Zealand did not disappoint.

New Zealand is what Australia was twenty years ago ...

In the crawling traffic, when we realised the driver was aware of our admiration, we told him through open windows that we liked his car. A conversation ensued on the merits of said vehicle. After some minutes, our new friend asked "You lot over from Aussie, then?" We nodded enthusiastically, let him know how excited we were to be there, gave him a summary of our itinerary, had it approved, on only the one proviso that we had to return again to go fishing in Northland. We promised to do so as our lanes diverged ...

And then we were out of Auckland and among soft green hills. Such a welcome change after the alien landscape of southern New Caledonia. The road was straight and uninteresting and lunch was an unimpressive affair at a roadside tourist trap. As we drove towards Rotorua, it slowly dawned on us that tourism was important to New Zealand. The excellence and ease of planning a holiday in New Zealand over the web had been the first clue ( and the roadside craft and food centres and the thousands of winnebagos left us in little doubt. The trick would be to keep out of the way of what D described as New Zealand's Tourism Juggernaut.

And so - despite interest in seeing The Lord of the Rings village of Hobbiton (, we ditched the idea, only to learn later that nothing remains of the movie set but a few holes in the hillside. A sight we did not need to spend close to $75 to view.

What do you call a New Zealander on a street corner with a sheep under each arm?

We pushed on to Rotorua, skirted it and headed straight for our first rural bed and breakfast experience. The surrounding countryside was like nothing we had ever seen (athough reminiscent of parts of Yorkshire, and summoned a particularly vague childhood memory of a place called Buttertubs Pass). How to describe it? Green, lumpy, rolling (but steeply) ... and it became immediately clear why New Zealanders are the subject of jokes about sheep ... they were simply everywhere. Major industries numbers two and three spotted: wool and mutton.

The scenery kept getting more and more pleasant and suddenly we arrived at Te Anau which did not disappoint.

No comments:

Post a Comment