Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are We There Yet Papa Smurf?

When I first informed my family that I had run away from home and landed in New Zealand, they were naturally a little worried. That emotion was quickly followed by envy at the freedom that granted me the time and wherewithal to gallivant around the planet. Ever the stalker, my eldest brother, BBS, quickly latched onto the idea of joining me in KiwiVille™ before the fall semester started. The plan was to spend a week or so in New Zealand and then hop across the Tasman Sea to spend a few days in Sydney, Australia.

We (and by that I mean he because I’m a lazy git who never answers emails) planned to rent a car and drive around the North Island to see the sights. We mapped out a route that would take us from Auckland past Orewa, through Paihia, to the northwestern most tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. We initially planned to drive back through Auckland to hit Rotorua but to my dismay time got away from us and we never made it there.

The drive to Paihia was beautiful and reminded me a lot of similar views in Northern Ontario – except with more palm trees. Since I don’t drive, I enjoyed the relative comfort of the passenger seat while BBS put in eight good hours behind the wheel that first day.

Thanks to my executive decision to take the scenic route along Highway 12, we arrived in Paihia slightly later than intended. Whether because of the late hour or simply due to the laziness of the front desk staff at Bay Adventurer, it took us ages to check into this popular backpacker stop. Off-season though it may have been, I was shocked to discover that the town appeared to close down before ten every night. Any hope BBS and I had of enjoying a late night pint and a pizza were dashed as we wandered through the darkened town and were left puzzling over why this area was so popular with the backpacker crowd.

As we discovered two days later, Paihia was simply the eerie Bizarro World version of Russell, a brief ferry ride across the Bay. Literally every cafĂ©, tourist shop, and hardware store was identical to that on the other side of the bay. I’m sure there were differences but I simply wasn’t able to find any.

The beautiful Haruru Falls and Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the historic Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, make Paihia more than a simple backpacker magnet. The Treaty Grounds are, in my opinion, a far better way to enjoy Kiwi history and culture than stopping by the comparatively dry exhibits at the Auckland Museum.

Several days later, we made our return trip to Auckland along Highway 1 and I officially dubbed it the faster, if less pretty, way to navigate the North Island. The seeming speed of the return journey may have been due in part to the incredibly yummy lunch of mussels we had my SIL Eleanor’s cousin’s home. When we hit the road after lunch our car seemed to eat up the miles in front of us and we were back in Auckland ahead of schedule.

Road trips were a staple of my childhood, so spending several days in a car with my brother didn’t faze me. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I don’t drive so I was able to nap during some of that time. I can’t speak for him but I think we had fun during our Kiwi adventures. Of course, to hear about those adventures you’ll just have to tune in again on Monday.


theUngourmet said...

Well Howdy Hey! Welcome back! I just noticed that you had a new post up. I've missed reading your blog. I love the new look. New Zealand looks like heaven. I'd love to see it someday!

Anonymous said...

No pubs open--and no pizza that late? Humm. But the Treaty Grounds look interesting.

Pseudo said...

I so envy your gallavanting.

Connie said...

I am happy that you are galavanting , and so cool that you got to share the adventure with your brother! I've been reading a blogger from New Zealand for some time,( and I love the photos she posts. You have traveled some beautiful country! I'm jealous, but I sure hope you are having fun!!!

sprinkles said...

Can I be you? If only for a little while? I wanna gallavant all over the world.

Karen Peterson said...

That sounds so amazing.

New Zealand is high on my list of places to travel and every post you write about it just makes me want to get on a plane and go!