Sometimes vacations don’t always go as planned. That’s what happened this morning when we called APEX to pick us up at our hotel. They had ten other pick ups and couldn’t do it.

Auckland is quite hilly, and my toes were quite painful from the sunburn. Although I wanted to stay at the hotel, NosyNeighbour wanted me to be with him so he could find his way back. So we both set off towards the car rental place, then realized after going down one of the hills that the paperwork was back at the hotel. Extra hill climbing today! Thankfully we’d stopped for breakfast at The Juicer just beside the hotel and had some really yummy smoothies.

We’ve got a Ford Focus, which seems relatively new, but completely gutless when compared to the Mazda 3 or Mini. But it will do. From there we drove to the grocery store and picked up a few supplies before returning to the hotel to checkout and pick up the luggage.

We opted to take the scenic west coast route towards Dargaville. We’d done it on our last trips, but it had been raining and dull for the whole drive. What a difference the weather can make. Dargaville seemed so much more cheery, and the volunteers at the info centre were helpful and full of local stories. Like the one about the dolphin that swam into the Hokianga Harbour near Opononi.  Children used to ride the dolphin all summer, until one day someone shot it.

I remember driving this route before and not being impressed. In fact, I had felt it was a bit sketchy. Today it was beautiful: sandy beaches, children swimming in the harbour, people strolling through town.

We also stopped to see Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s oldest tree. It hadn’t grown much since our last visit. And we made the same mistakes as last time. So, if you’re driving from Dargaville, once you see the forest sign, pass by the first two signs for parking lots. You can’t miss the Tane Mahuta because the parking is on the side of the road, and there will always be cars there. On a hot day, there’s even a chippie that sells icecream.

We’re now in Kerikeri at the Kauri Park Motel. Our room is on the opposite side to last visit. They’ve added a pool and two additional rooms. It’s family run, and they’re very polite and helpful. The only down side is not much space to store clothes. Just a small closet and no dresser.

Tomorrow we’re off to Cape Reinga and some toboganning down the sand dunes. Can’t wait for that experience! Maybe I could live without snow?

*****

We picked up groceries at the New World, and had BBQ lamb shoulder, kumara and cauliflower for supper. Neither of us had the appetite to eat the salad we’d picked up.

Our neighbours are two elderly Brits who recently arrived from Auckland. They watched as Rob walked off to the BBQ area with the meat and utensils. Then I soon followed with his beer and a plate to bring the cooked stuff back.

On my way back we chatted about the BBQ and I explained that the owners don’t cook it for you, but lend you the utensils. Mmmm, there’s nothing like fresh New Zealand lamb on the BBQ! And when I explained that he’s BBQing because I’m still doing laundry and groceries, she looked at him and said, “Guess you’re BBQing tomorrow then.” She was clutching her plastic bag that she’d brought the dirty laundry over to the main building.

I smiled and said that I had to get the veg ready, but that we could talk later.

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