I need a picture here before I bore you with a long story, so here is a pretty tree in Auckland. OK, we need a car. The cheapest I could find to rent for 9 months is $16,000. That’s calling all agencies, even ones in NZ. NZ’s version of “Rent a Wreck” still wanted $12000 for a 2002 Nissan getting poor mileage. There’s a monetary advantage to renting; the credit card gets me free insurance, and I can leave the car in the North Island and rent another in the South Island, avoiding the $500 for car ferry. But still, $16,000? Really? Leasing wasn’t much better, and was impossible to do for a new car. Soooooooo – time to buy a car. I discovered I could buy a used car with guaranteed buy back, thus capping my car expenses. Not any car, mind you, but ones the dealers wanted to dump. Not a new car, usually an older model (eg, 2005, sometimes a 2010, but all before the big push for better mileage). We really wanted a newer, more comfortable car, since we’ll be doing a lot of driving. We finally got a pretty good deal on an inherently expensive car, a 2012 Ford Mondeo, diesel, 15,000 kilometer mileage, with a lot of bells and whistles. Computer for everything – but no navigation system (say what!?). Good thing the boys got us a Garmin! So we bit the bullet and bought the beast (but caveats; drive less than 15,000 km, no damage, etc; I can live with that).
So now we need auto insurance (US insurance will not carry over beyond Mexico and Canada). The car dealer said they could get it for us, but this was Sunday and the insurance guys didn’t call back (and I’m thinking, what a way to pad a profit, I’ll find my own). I didn’t mention that while test driving the cars we were considering (driving on the “wrong” side of the road) I kept edging left (curb side), with Ginger gently suggesting that I’m about to broadside the parked cars (in falsetto, no less), and at a red light when I made a left turn I pulled into the far (wrong) lane rather than the curb lane, freaking out Ginger, the salesperson, and all the oncoming drivers before I scooted into my correct lane. Would I insure me? Hmmmm. I visit the big insurance guys in their store (AA), go on-line, get the yellow pages and call everybody with a picture advertisement – same story. You’re a tourist, we won’t insure you; you need a home address here in NZ. Wow, this was just like buying a phone in Spain – I have to buy a house first! So I’m thinking, the auto dealer has some motivation here to find us insurance since we haven’t signed any papers yet. I go from “I won’t buy your stinkin’ insurance” to “pray you can find me any insurance”. And of course they did, and not too bad, really. So all is good. Now to get out of here – say goodbye to Auckland!
We left Auckland and put quite a few Kiwi’s at risk of life and limb as I drove north to the Bay of Islands. Ginger was a nervous wreck and kept up a steady (continuous?) stream of “edge of the road” comments. Most roads here are just 2 lanes, rather narrow, and often twisty and up-and-down with no real break-down lanes and sharp drop-offs, and it’s hard to get a feel for where the left side of the car is when your steering wheel is on the right (“wrong”) side of the car. With oncoming traffic zooming by inches from my (right) side mirror I tend to NOT hug the center line and I drift a little (!) bit left. So Ginger was the official left-side audio monitor, which meant she was in charge of nail-biting, leaning hard to the right, and periodically (continuously?) reminding me that I was going of the edge – again! We went to bed last night at 10:30 PM, it’s 9:30 AM now and she’s still sleeping it off.
Also attached is a picture of the Northland above Auckland – very picturesque! Lots of cows and sheep! Greener than you can imagine! Almost Switzerland-like. Ginger didn’t want me to look at anything as we were driving (“It’s really pretty, but don’t look”). And if I pulled over to take a picture, she’d scream because we were suddenly lurching off the road (maybe at faster than normal?)…. Somehow we made it unscathed, though.
Our place at the Bay of Islands was carefully selected because we were going to spend 10 days there getting the blog up and using The Bay as a base to explore the Northland. We chose well – an apartment in Paihia, a spectacular place. The picture to the left shows our apartment from the bay – the yellowish one near the top, center. And then there is the view out to the bay. Mesmerizing, really. This is a piece of paradise, ours for a short while. The pictures below show a portion of the view from our deck ….
Not too bad. But just to rub it in, here are views from the living room:
And from the kitchen:
In other words, it was spectacular from anywhere. And like the sea, never the same from one moment to the next. Plus, this is New Zealand, so you get boats, and sailboats, and ferries and … parachutes? Are we surprised? Not really.
I’m going to close with a picture of an unfurling frond from a tree fern here on property (tree ferns and flowers are everywhere), and then a picture of “live music on Sunday, 3pm -6pm)” from Al Fresco, a local bar/restaurant.
Paihia is a huge tourist destination – very busy in the summer. Almost all tours come here to view the islands and swim with the dolphins. Nevertheless, there’s less than a thousand people living here, and it’s a small town. The music venue was cute. The band wasn’t bad, a lot of the people knew them, and you had a lot of 3 generation tables. Grandma and grandpa were tapping their feet. The food wasn’t great but hey, can’t have everything. I ordered a pot of mussels (I love mussels), and was surprised when the pot came out with like 8 mussels in it, protruding from the bowl. Each mussel is about 8-9 inches long, which pretty much fills the pot. The mussels are big! Arnold Schwartzenegger mussels. Unfortunately quite tough and chewy, kinda like unbeaten octopus. Bummer! Maybe they’re better elsewhere. We’ll see!