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Roadtripping with My Loves…

She was a rare beauty: smooth exterior, reliable, and displaying exquisite features. Love is fickle and I was falling for a nineteen year-old named Bazils… an automobile. Was my heart large enough for two ladies? Time would tell. And Ash was along for the ride.

Auckland Skyline Arriving in Auckland Auckland

However, our three-week adventure discovering New Zealand’s fjords, mountains, and vineyards with Bazils the campervan would have to wait a day. Auckland was our first Kiwi experience and Ashley found this North Island city quite likeable. A couple local pints of beer were consumed in a pub while a driving itinerary was planned. All the while, a loud and very obnoxious man was blabbering about this and that using foul language every other word. It was the first time we encountered the worldwide American stereotype proven accurate. We both apologized to the pub staff declaring that the rude person isn’t typical of USA citizens and the Kiwis agreed. Feeling good about the good folks of New Zealand and excited to hit the road the next day, we strolled home to the hostel and caught some shuteye. Damn you Sir for making America look bad.

Bay of Islands285,000+ kilometers on the odometer, but she was looking good and purred like a kitten. Ash hopped into the shotgun position as I guided the manual transmission Toyota HiAce onto the left hand side of the wet asphalt. Like that, we were headed towards the Bay of Islands region and hoped for dryer weather. We were exhilarated upon arriving at our first destination, but our excitement was tempered with the need to fill the small fridge with groceries. If you would like to see how different Ashley and I can sometimes be, follow us into a supermarket. Ash insists on perusing each isle while my impatience boils over. Anyway, we procured the necessary (and unnecessary) items and found a spot to camp along the road. We woke early and cooked breakfast with the bay providing a pristine backdrop. Next stop was the tip of the North Island: Cape Reinga.

Cape Reinga Light Tower Cape Reinga Cape Reinga Waves Crashing

Only one road connects Cape Reinga and the journey is no short jaunt, but Bazils was fearless. Located 100+ kilometers from the nearest town, we sought the advice of the gas station attendant and he assured us the weather at the Cape would be swell. But as we drove North, the drizzle turned to a steady downpour and the fog grew thick. Pulling into the carpark, it was clear the friendly petrol man should not opt for a career in meteorology. Nonetheless, we hit the footpath and reached Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet in a raucous manner. Through the dense fog, the crashing sea was plainly audible. Despite not witnessing the grandeur how we imagined, the inclement weather did not deter us from enjoying the moment. Seat belts fastened, we headed South for the Giant Sand Dunes of Te Paki.

Te Paki Giant Sand Dune Meets Rainforest Te Paki Giant Sand Dune Te Paki Vastness

We had no idea New Zealand offered such a unique place. The rainforest literally abuts a barren desert of huge sand dunes then gives way to the Tasman Sea. A bearded man sat on the bumper of a 4×4 vehicle offering rental boogie boards to essentially sled down the golden sand. We declined, but saw revelers in the distance making slow progress up one massive dune. If you have ever walked in sand, you know the difficulty. Now apply a 45 degree slope. On all fours, we climbed Te Paki and finally reached the summit only to realize the dunes stretch for eternity down Ninety Mile Beach. It was as if we were transported to a barren wasteland (like Cleveland, Ohio). Before the delightful descent, we watched the sandboarders leave snake-like markings as they jetted downward. One poor gal made it to the top after fifteen grueling minutes of climbing only to drop her makeshift sled and watch helplessly as it plummeted to the base. The return trip was tremendous as we bounced like astronauts down the fluffy sand towards the surrounding forest.

Te Paki Giant Sand Dune Sandboarders Ash On Her Way Down

With no grand stop on our next day, Bazils treated us to a delightful and relaxing drive along the coast. Initially, Ash and I were bummed about the unrelenting fog, but in the end it made every place look more charming. Cable Bay was empty on such a damp afternoon, so we enjoyed the vista under a tin shed as the droplets rang out above us against the metal roof. Certainly our favorite drive on the North Island was into Doubtless Bay. The lush green forest surrounding the calm water filled with fishing vessels and monohaul schooners was enveloped with a white fog. It seemed the Kiwis were sipping tea on this day because yet again, no one was around. Hugging the forest on one side, the bay on the other, the narrow asphalt road was a bit tricky to navigate especially when the driver was gawking at everything in sight. But Bazils did not want to meet her fate quite yet and kept us from a cool bath in Doubtless Bay.

Cable Bay Doubtless Bay Fog Doubtless Bay

Our love affair was just beginning, but it turns out Bazils is quite the minx. Upon arriving in Christchurch three weeks later, she would go gallivanting with yet another adventuresome individual(s). So I am stuck with the gal from Claflin, Kansas. Happily stuck with the gal from Claflin, Kansas, I mean. Bazils, please don’t forget the time we spent together.

- Greg

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. There are countless way to see New Zealand. There are hop-on/hop-off buses, internal flights to smaller airports, or daytrips from major tourist destinations. As you have read above, some of the best adventures cannot be had within the confines of packaged tours. Having your own automobile opens up more doors than you can walk through. We found the most awe inspiring places not mentioned in any guidebook as a result of having our own four wheels.
  2. Most rental cars or vans are manual transmission outside America. Thus, before embarking on an international trip it is suggested you become acquainted with the “clutch and stick.” You’ll find automatic transmission vehicles for hire, but prepare your billfold for the increased cost.
  3. New Zealand was my first experience driving on the left-hand side of the road. Couple that with changing gears with my left hand and you get a rough first two kilometers. If you find yourself in a similar situation, first get a general sense of where you intend to go then focus on the flow of traffic. Simply following the car directly in front of you will ensure you stay on the proper side. If criticized for poor driving, insist that they drive on the wrong side of the road!

  • GMYH

    I can't believe you guys didn't visit the Toothbrush Fence while you were there.

  • fofs

    Andrew – Flight of the Conchords… brilliant. Being cheap
    backpackers, we woud have considered using one of the fence's

    - Greg

  • ericajoh

    I know the feeling of falling for an automobile. And I love the title to this post!

  • fofs

    Erica – Beneath all the steel, rubber, and sweet smell of gasoline,
    automobiles have the ability to love back. In our strange opinion.

    - Greg and Ash

  • fofs

    Erica – Beneath all the steel, rubber, and sweet smell of gasoline, automobiles have the ability to love back. In our strange opinion.

    - Greg and Ash

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