I spent the last two weeks in New Zealand attending an intense Red Cross training seminar for the international Information Technology & Telecommunications Emergency Response Unit. Class ended Saturday, and we all returned to Wellington on Sunday. Everyone went their separate ways although I ate dinner with a few classmates Sunday night). To put in in the appropriate NZ terms, the Fellowship is now broken.
Over the past couple of weeks, in brief snatches I’ve queried classmates and instructors for information and suggestions for cycling in New Zealand. I decided to arrange travel to Auckland, and cycle back to Wellington. The prevailing winds should be behind me. It’s still spring in NZ, and that way I’ll also be starting farther north where it’s warmer, and be heading south as it warms up.
That just left how to get to Auckland. The train only runs Sunday (missed that one), Wednesday, and Friday. The next train would leave me in Wellington for a couple days, and eat into my cycling time. Buses run daily, but can be a hassle with the bicycle stored underneath. My first day in Wellington I’d seen a sign on a car rental place that indicated free one-way rentals to Auckland. I just hadn’t had time to nail that down.
Several of my classmates had chosen to spend a few more days in New Zealand. One had the similar problem of how to get north, and we decided to drive north together. If the car rental was free – I’d had no time to confirm it!
I’d arranged bicycle rental before I left home. For this shorter trip that would be cheaper than bringing mine. I also didn’t want to risk any issues with the bicycle impacting the Red Cross training.
I woke Monday morning, freaked out I’d overslept, then realized it was 6:30 am, and couldn’t get back to sleep. At 7:00 am I arrived at the rental place. I could indeed get a car for the cost of insurance. I made sure I could get full coverage, nervous about driving on the left. However, I figured once I got out of Wellington I’d be on major highway all the way to Auckland-easy enough.
I decided to pick up the bicycle first, so I didn’t have to drive backwards more than necessary. The bicycle shop didn’t open until 10:00 am, so I picked up groceries and otherwise wandered around Wellington until then.
I didn’t have any problems picking up the bicycle. They even performed a complete maintenance check on every wire and bolt (although in hindsight I don’t remember if they checked the pedals). I dropped the bicycle at the hostel and picked up the car. At the hostel I repacked everything in touring-mode. The hostel would keep my luggage until my return.
Everything then loaded up, I headed over to pick up Andy, far later than I would have liked for the 8-hour drive to Auckland. With Andy navigating, we set forth. Andy still hadn’t decided exactly where he wanted to go. About halfway to Auckland a number of cities hosted a variety of attractions.
Everything in the car is reversed. Every time I signaled a turn, I’d turned on the windshield wipers. I’d reach for the seatbelt on the wrong side. And the shifter. Andy did an admirable job of not making fun of me, with only occasional cries of, “Too far to the left!” as I tried to stay away from the traffic in the oncoming lane.
The highway (Highway 1), one of the two main highways in New Zealand decidedly does not mimic US highways. Much of it is only two narrow lanes. Significant distances are tight, twisty two-lane roads with no shoulder, prompting flashbacks to Bosnia Herzegovina. One if those sections had been specifically recommended because the other route I asked about was deemed terrible. Andy and I agreed the section of highway we were on was certain death for cycling. Now I have to choose between a known terrible and an unknown terrible. Time to search for a third option!
After some indecision, Andy decided to disembark in Taupo. From Taupo he could go to Rotorua, a larger town from which to continue on. I dropped him off at a hostel and bid him adeiu. I missed his company.
Heavy traffic and extensive construction meant I didn’t reach Auckland until 10:00 pm. Instead of dropping off the car, I decided to defer that in the morning, leaving the bicycle secured in the car.
I think Andy is Frodo.