Took the ferry to Devonport and wandered around. Looked at stuff. Got some ice cream. It’s interesting how many of the plants are familiar: Moreton Bay Fig, magnolia, jacaranda, those spiky things that I don’t know the name of, and the ubiquitous agapanthus.
Took the ferry back. Did some other things.
Driving on the left was surprisingly easy to get used to. Multi-lane roundabouts took a few tries, but after a couple weeks I’m now yelling at other drivers when they’re too timid. Bloody tourists.
The hardest things are:
- Remembering to get in on the right side of the car. There’s no steering wheel on the left.
- Remembering to reach for the seat belt with my left hand.
- Remembering to signal with my right hand.
So I turn on the windshield wipers when I want to go left. No one seems bothered by it. Kiwi drivers seem pretty mellow, for the most part.
Outside of the major cities, there’s nothing like an American freeway. There are two-lane roads, and the major highways are somewhat less unstraight than the country roads, and they have fewer one-lane bridges, and you’re less likely to encounter sheep.
But there are no guarantees. Even the main highways pass through towns and you have to slow down. Outside of towns you see roadside stands selling honey or cheese or whatever, and you get the occasional crazy programmatic architecture.
It’s a lot like traveling in the US before the interstates. It’s fun if you allow the time for it. It’s sort of like going back in time.
Some other things:
There are few stop signs and few traffic lights outside of the major cities. What they have are Give Way signs, usually with roundabouts. If there’s no one else there, you don’t have to stop. The “California Stop” is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. And it seems to work just fine.
It would be difficult to speed. You would need a car that handles a lot better than the Aotearoaramblemobile, for starters. That thing drives like a tractor. But even so, you couldn’t go much over the speed limit or you would die. Consequently, I never saw a cop giving a speeding ticket.
What they have are propaganda signs everywhere. They say things like “Drive to the conditions” or “Drink, drive, die.” I drove all over the North Island and I don’t think I ever saw the same one twice. I don’t know how effective they are, but it probably doesn’t matter if all the bad drivers get themselves killed anyway.
And some complaints:
People of New Zealand! What do you have against street signs? You have them on some corners; why not put them on every corner? Finish the job!
If the parking garages in Auckland are any indication, New Zealand could learn something from California. Say what you will about California, they generally make very nice parking garages. Just don’t try to copy Seattle.
Update: The Britomart parking garage is pretty good. I give it a B+.
Today I went on a Failure Cruise. To partly make up for not going on harbor cruises at either Akaroa or Russell, I went on one in Auckland Harbor. It made it to its first stop, at Rangitoto Island, then developed “technical issues with the port engine” and couldn’t complete the cruise. We churned slowly back to the pier, turning 270 degrees left in order to go right. I overheard the captain telling the mechanic that the port engine “stopped,” which probably does qualify as a technical issue.
The lack of an engine made tying up more difficult.
But they finally managed it.
And we all got refunds, so I got half a cruise for free. Not a bad deal, really.
So one night I’m eating fresh fish of the day at a table on the bay in Russell, and the next night I’m eating a McDonald’s Kiwi Burger* in my motel room in Auckland. And what a room it is. I think the motel used to be an apartment building in the 1950s. They’ve updated the plumbing, appliances, and electrical system since then, but I’m sure the carpet is original. Furnishings are probably from about 1980. There are odd cupboards with tubing in them.
Each unit has a country or region associated with it — Italian, Mexican, Baltic, etc. I’m in the Swiss Suite. I can’t see anything Swiss about it, unless the Swiss put tubing in their cupboards.
I grossly underestimated the drive time for the Northland. In addition to sheep hazards, road maintenance, and slow logging trucks, the roads are more winding, and there are one-lane bridges and ferry crossings.
It’s 436 km from Cape Reinga to Auckland, or 271 miles. That took me a bit over seven hours. I would have been better off spending an extra day in Russell and driving straight down from there.
* I don’t think it’s made with actual kiwis, but I can’t be completely sure what’s in it.