On the Road Again

Our time in Te Awanga and Hawkes Bay has come to an end. We are moving on after a month-long stay here. It has been nice and we learned a lot about the area, drank some good wine, had some very lovely hikes, hung out, got rained on, met some seriously cool people, and just generally tried to fall into the groove of the area.

On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is making music with my friend
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again

— Willie Nelson

It has been a great visit to Hawkes Bay, but in the end I think both of us decided it was not likely to be our final stopping spot. The distance you have to drive to get to great hiking was probably one of the biggest downers, although the biking did look really good.

We were lucky enough to be here for Matariki, which is the Māori new year. It is marked by the appearance of the Matariki (Pleiades) constellation in the east before sunrise. We took a nice walk along the river first and then headed over to Waitangi Regional Park to see what celebrations were going on. They have a cool Māori star navigation clock there. We walked around that and read up on the history. Other than that, there wasn’t too much happening—there was some food, but we weren’t ready to eat.

After talking to many of our peeps back in the States, we have decided to extend our current stay past August 11th, when we were originally scheduled to fly back. Instead, we are going to go back on October 23rd so we can see some friends, take care of some stuff and celebrate Thanksgiving with my sis and family. This did create a bit of a dilemma for us, though. We have only planned out to August 11th.

We talked about some options and started digging around. We dreamed about places we might rent after Upper Moutere (Nelson area) and where we might want to go. We had also, back in the States, discovered a website that was for house sitting gigs.

We both started to search through those to see if we could find anything that was attractive to us, both on the types of animals and location of house.

The one thing about house sitting gigs here in New Zealand is that you have to carefully check out the animal situation. It is a rural country. One place in the South Island, that looked quite lovely, required you to take care of 3 dogs, 2 cats, 12 chickens, 4 horses, sheep, cows, and goats. The number of sheep, cows and goats was unspecified. Thankfully they did recommend that “some experience with farm animals would be helpful.” Ya think? Negatory on that one. That sounds like a job.

We did find two that were quite promising. One up in the Nortlhands area on 6 hectares and one near the beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. Each required no farm animals, reptiles, fish, or llamas. Just one dog. I pinged both and got a quick response back thanks to a wonderful reference letter that Caroline from Ft. Collins wrote us. In the end we decided on the house in Cooks Beach in the Coromandel area because we really wanted to visit here and it looked AMAZING!

Cooks Beach

So we are booked to hang out with Romy, a 10 year old Golden, from August 12th to September 16th while his parents head off to Europe. We are super excited to check out the area and get some serious dog kisses. Yeah! The whole dog sitting thing is looking like a good option for us going forward. Now we just have September 16th to October 23rd to sort out, but we will do that later.

Sadly, Otis seems to be a bit sick. He has had this very annoying squeak. It has taken me quite a while to diagnose the problem. At first I thought it was the suspension because sometimes going over the sleeping policeman (speed bumps) I would hear it. But after paying closer attention, that theory fell apart. I monitored the diagram that shows the interplay between the petrol engine, the battery, and the car thinking maybe that was it. I couldn’t find a correlation that was predictable. Finally, one day when I was coming back from the Clive swimming pool, I figured it out. Every time the car shifted from pure EV mode to petrol, it would squeak. Bummer. I called up Mr. Motors and told them I had a problem. They sent me over to Keith in the service department.

It’s a complex system

I described the problem. He said “just bring it in.” I informed him I was nowhere near Auckland and wouldn’t be for months. He said he would talk the transmission guy and call me back. He called me back and said it was urgent that I bring it in. Ugh. After a lot of backing-and-forthing, we decided we would drive up to Auckland on Sunday and have them look at the car on Monday and drive back to Te Awanga on Tuesday. Not ideal and kind of expensive and a drag, but it was the only option we had. Serious bummer.

I looked around for a hotel that was halfway decent and wouldn’t cost a fortune that was near the service center in Mount Roskill. Nothing. Susanne found an Airbnb that looked pretty nice, was a bit of a guest-housey thing and was very affordable. Done. Whew.

I had been trying to change our plane tickets with Air New Zealand, but after spending multiple hours on the phone I gave up. I googled it and this seems to be a common thing right now; so much so, that there were several articles in the New Zealand newspapers about how bad it was. Since we had to drive up to Auckland, I figured we could just stop by the airport and try to do it there. So we headed out on Sunday for the always fun drive over Highway 5. It wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered, but still kind of a gnarly road. All the people were still complaining about the 80 kph speed limit. I still had no complaints.

We got to airport around 3, found a parking spot and headed on in. I told the lady at the Air New Zealand desk that after a very long time on the phone, I had given up and at the advice of other online travelers we had headed out to the airport to try to get our tickets changed.

Need to be more zen, man

She then informed us that we owed a penalty for changing. I informed her that I had paid for a changeable ticket. She told us that she didn’t see that. I got a bit miffed. She got defensive. She told us that she didn’t have to help us because she was only required to help same day people. I got angry. As Susanne pointed out later, once I was obviously angry, the woman had shifted her focus and had started talking to Susanne, only looking at her. It was obvious she was trying to get this done for us, but didn’t want to deal with me. Oops. Susanne stepped in, smoothed over the situation and we managed to get our tickets changed without the penalty. Evidently, once she clicked further through the menu, the charge had gone away. Ugh. But I wish I had managed it better.

We headed to our Airbnb and settled in. I ran to the store and we did an appy dinner and watched some TV before heading to bed. A bit of a drag to have to do all that driving, but we didn’t want Otis’s transmission to crater.

The next morning we drove to the repair shop to drop Otis off. Only, we ended up at someone’s house. It looked like it could possibly be the shop as there were a bunch of old tires and stuff in the front yard, but it seemed unlikely. We were both confused. I tried to call Keith, but no answer. Ugh. We sat there in there driveway for a while trying to figure it out. Finally, a young woman came out and very nicely asked us what we were doing in her driveway. I explained that we were given the wrong address and were looking for the car shop. She said, no, this was not the car shop. She was amazingly sweet and nice considering a couple of strangers were parked in her driveway at 7:30 in the morning for no apparent reason. I can’t imagine what kind of response I would have gotten in the US if we had done this. Maybe the same … but not likely.

We found the correct address and went and dropped the car off with Keith. He said it would be out all day and would give us an update later. So now we had a day in Auckland to figure out what to do. We didn’t want to get too far away in case something came up with Otis. We tried to go do a walk that looked nice, but it turned out to not be much of walk because it had to be done at low tide and it currently was not low tide. Bummer. So we decided to run errands. Susanne needed some warm but cheap slippers, so we headed to Kmart. Woohoo! Who doesn’t want travel halfway around the world to go shopping at Kmart. I think the answer is obvious…Everyone!

Some seriously nice slippers

Next on the fun and excitement list was to go look at some campervans at a place out by the airport. We met Sven and he showed us a bunch of units. They were really nice. 7m sprinter van kind of types. Made in Germany. Super-expensive. Even the used ones were expensive. But we both agreed that Sven was nice and it would be awesome to have one of those. I asked if he would cut a deal and/or do a lease/purchase. He said Pip, the owner, would call me and discuss. It was fun to look at them and it ate up some time.

The last time we were in New Zealand we had stayed at a hotel in this same neighborhood near the airport. It is a big industrial area but there is a really nice winery there, with some beautiful grounds/gardens. So we thought, “let’s go there!” Susanne looks and it is closed on Mondays. Bummer. So we did a bit of a walk along some wetlands. Not too bad, but a nice walk AND a nice winery would have been better.

We head back and I called Keith. Otis’s transmission checked out fine. He is now at the hybrid folks’ getting a software update. Evidently this is a common problem in Nissans. Bummer. We decide to get Chinese takeway and hang out. The driving in Auckland has a reputation of being bad. Narrow, congested streets with too many cars. The drive to the Chinese place is maybe 3 km, probably less. On one street I felt like I was in Rome. It was nominally a two-lane street, but there were so many cars parked on the sides, it was distinctly just one lane. So you would find a small gap and dash forward as far as you could until you felt like you were being un-Kiwi (impolite) and then tuck into a slot and let a bunch of cars coming the other way go through. It took me 20 minutes to go 1 km. Ugh. In the end, the Chinese food was terrible.

Summiting the mighty Mount Albert

Keith was supposed to get the car back first thing in the morning and give us a call. We hung around until 10 and checked out of the Airbnb. We drove up to the top of Mount Albert where there was little walking path. It had a great view of the city and it was worth taking the short stroll around the park. We even got to pet a dog or two. Then we drove down to the Countdown so I could get some lunch items for later and hopefully eat up the remainder of the time until we could go pick Otis up.

Finally, we just headed over to service center and waited. I reminded Keith that our drop dead time was 1 pm. Neither of us wanted to drive Highway 5 at night. Finally at about 12:45 Otis showed back up. We packed up and headed out. It took all of 400 meters for us to hear the squeak again. Ack! We were both like “fuck it, man” and kept going. I’ll bring it back in August when we are back this way.

The dude from the Airbnb in Auckland gave us a (slightly) bad review. Said we left food on his precious counter (we didn’t) and he had to clean it (didn’t we pay a cleaning fee??) Sheesh, as if the trip hadn’t been a big enough PITA. It irritated Susanne to no end, which isn’t easy to do, but in the end she decided to not respond to his comment as it would likely end up with un-Kiwi-like words being exchanged.

Our next stop is Martinborough about 3 1/2 hours south of us. Famous for Pinots. We are spending just a few short days there, but both of us are excited to see a completely new area.

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