Our whole trip started with the plan of visiting my cousin Sharon in the South Island of New Zealand, that was our anchor for everywhere else from the other side of the world back to home. It was a very loose plan with our only confirmed dates for NZ being the flight in to Auckland in the North on 20th November and out of Christchurch in the South on 22nd December. We had a ticket for the Kiwi experience bus with the idea that you can hop on and off wherever they stop in both islands.
When we landed in New Zealand we started to look at the kiwi bus route and their advice on how long to stay in each place. With this we were able to devise a possible route for getting to Clive to see Sharon. Apologies to Sharon for leaving it quite late with I think an odd message sent here or there within the 12 months before we set off to say we would be visiting before the end of the year, then once we landed on NZ on the 20th November we thought we’d be there before the end of the month, then in fact we made it there on the 3rd December. Taupo was the closest stop to Clive and we could hire a car for a 2 hour drive and possible stay over with Sharon.
I really love driving but as I crashed my first car when I was 18 and my 2nd car was in and out of the garage as I drove it to and from London until it could be fixed no more, I’ve always been wary of speed and cars breaking down. Therefore whenever I drive a different car I need awhile to get used to the noises etc to get over the fear of it breaking down on me, and on new roads the understanding of the terrain etc to get over the fear of being in a crash. Andi first suggested driving on our trip when we were in Hawaii however even the native tour guide said how bad the roads were whilst we were there. Knowing we would definitely be driving in New Zealand and Australia I have spent the trip observing the roads, traffic and drivers. Left side driving would always be a benefit so wasn’t too fearful of New Zealand roads. I also looked up their driving advice and took a short online video test to get used to signs and potential obstacles.
It’s pretty much one road all the way from Taupo to Napier, up the hill of windy roads until you leave the weather of Taupo and reach the east coast climate and head down the hill on the windy roads to Napier. My only knowledge being a story of when my Auntie Marie first flew out to visit Sharon and had a harrowing 2 hour drive from the airport in an automatic in which she was uncomfortable driving. Having now done the journey I agree an automatic is best for those that don’t know the hills. It was a simple journey with a brief toilet stop and some fighting with Andi has he tried to turn the music up louder than the sat nav and keep the window open defying the working air con. On a slow approach into Napier, through Hastings and Clive we arrived at our destination at lunchtime. Sharon and two of her kids Izzy and Zac came out to greet us and after the initial hugs the immediate questioning about Andi’s nose began. He had resigned himself to tell the truth at that point, purely because of the amount of questioning he was receiving it wouldn’t be feasible to keep up a lie or to come up with a new story each time. Sharon’s house is lovely and we settled ourselves in by putting some washing on and filling up her fridge with beer. Family hospitality!
We briefly caught up over lunch and then they left to watch their youngest play a basketball tournament finale for a few hours. The last thing they said to us casually was “if there’s a quake and it knocks you off your feet, run, as the sea is just behind the house and you won’t survive a tsunami in here”. Um…thanks for the warning? They returned with dinner and Sharon’s husband Matt and their youngest Eli, the latter who we’d never met, him being born in New Zealand. Izzy and Zac had caught the NZ twang but Eli was a full on kiwi linguist. Sharon explained there were pronunciations even she couldn’t get used to with one example being the word ‘deck’ (as in their garden wooden patio) being pronounced ‘dick’. Dinner was a lovely Greek selection from a place where Izzy is a waitress. We shared travel and wedding photos, talked of family back home and then Matt entertained us with stories of his travels around Australia and Asia in the 90s. Where his dad back in the UK could only communicate with him via letter left at a post office for Matt to collect and island hopping through Indonesia had some harrowing tales that made me think he could write a screenplay for a movie thriller.
We returned to Taupo the next day for our last night before joining the next Kiwi Ex bus leaving south. We only knew of Albin and Matilde who would be on the same bus having stayed in Taupo four nights, the rest of the bus would be strangers, but not for long.