The Way to Whangarei

So I got up reasonably early this morning and bid my host family adieu – it was time for me to leave Waiheke Island and head north.

The drive would be my longest yet – about 2.5 hours long, and this was after an hour long ferry ride back to the North Island from Waiheke. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, my ferry wasn’t scheduled until 1130am, so I had a bit of free time on Waiheke. I went to the main town on the island, Oneroa, which I had only driven through so far. I explored the little downtown. It was a nice place with numerous small shops.

After about 30 minutes in the downtown, I had finished my circuit so I headed to the dock and waited. My ferry soon arrived. It would be a different ship that previously – where as my original crossing made cars go around in a bit of a loop so that you drove on and off the same way, this was a smaller boat and generally meant for cargo (it was discounted for cars this way – saved me $50 round trip). However, instead of driving on, I got to back on. Thankfully cars were on first, so I didn’t have to avoid much. The trucks that were loaded afterwards had the tough job.

The truck backing up took a few tries to get it right – and very nearly clipped my driver side mirror. I couldn’t get out of the driver’s door, I had to crawl over to the passenger door to get out. This is what the final arrangement looked like. It kind of reminded me of tetris but with different sized straight pieces.

My car is at the very bottom center. The ferry ride was uneventful after everything was loaded on. And then I was back across to the North Island (trying to avoid calling it ‘Mainland’, since that’s apparently a source of contention for Kiwis – there are two major islands, both equal in importance….or something). After 30 minutes of driving I was back in the Auckland downtown, picking up lunch and a few important pieces of mail that had arrived for me (debit card and the like). Around 2pm, it was time for me to finally leave the Auckland region (Waiheke is part of that region), and head into the Northland.

The drive was windy and fairly long. I drove through many spots of showers and rain, but nothing torrential. Interestingly enough there was a toll section – called the ‘Northland Gateway’, which costs $2NZ to use instead of the old highway – it apparently cuts 15-20 minutes off the drive. I actually just thought it was the only major access, turns out I could have saved money and gone the more scenic route. Oh well. Probably saved more gas this way.

Speaking of which, filled up with gas – $75NZ for just under 40 litres of gas. Not going to be cheap to drive this country! The minimum octane here is 91, which is considerably higher than that in Canada, so that might be contributing to the higher prices. It’s interesting though – every 6 months every single NZ car has to undergo what is called a ‘Warrent of Fitness’, or more or less a car inspection to prove it’s road worthy. This is a required program to drive your vehicle, so it’s kind of similar to the emissions testing you get in Canada in some provinces. Except emissions aren’t tested nor regulated here in NZ. So what you get is a ‘road worthy’ car that still belches black smoke. It’s very odd to see on the highways, but you really notice it going up and down the mountains – cars here just spew the stuff!

I made it to Whangarei by nightfall, just enough time to pick up some food and make dinner on one of the kindly provided BBQs. Naturally, I made something suitably meaty:

It was delicious! To finish off dinner, I had dessert all lined up.

I love KitKat Chunky – probably in my top 3 chocolate bars. So I was curious to find different variations on them here in NZ. Caramel and Cookies and cream await my sampling. The store I did my shopping had them on for 3 for $2.50, an outstanding deal (usually costing about $2 a piece). Not as good as my 5 for $4 that I had before, but close! I chose the Caramel, and it was very good.

The rest of the night was given to much needed laundry and cleaning up/reorganizing my backpack. Tomorrow I do what I stopped in Whangarei for – jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet! Weather permitting. 🙂

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