...The next morning, we woke up flawlessly and started the dark, rainy drive to Auckland. We FINALLY spent money at McDonald's on the way, but it was only for a coffee. We swear. Shut up, Ricky. :)
We made it to Auckland with more than enough time to return the car, and started to visit other rental companies for a car we could get for the weekend. The lowest price we could find was NZD$49/day so we decided to sit by the pier to talk things over ... money, itinerary, etc. We'd found a brochure for an overnight cruise that seemed really inexpensive compared to everything else around here, and so we spoke about it a little more and decided that if there was ONE special thing we got to do the two of us, NOT roughing it, this would be it. So we called the number and booked our spot on The Rock, which was leaving the next day from Paihia.
Here's a Dizzle. Relaxing.
This left us with nothing else to do but wait to rent the car. We went to an Internet cafe and sent off a quick email to our folks to let them know we were, you know, ALIVE and stuff, and we waited with Ricky while he tried to sort out his passport/visa information.
Auckland is a very sprawled out city that you'd normally think is very cool, what with it being so close to the sea and volcanoes and whatnot, but it honestly struck us as a little generic. It is a windy cross between San Fransisco, Chicago, Washington, DC and Houston, without any of the standalone qualities of any of them. We got the feeling that it's Auckland because people live there, as opposed to people living there because it's Auckland. Regardless, we had to come back to return the car in a few days, so we figured we 'd keep an open mind and see what happens.
We took a picture of "The 12th tallest tower in the world":
Sadly, we left Ricky to his own devices at around 2:30, as that's when we had to get what was to be our car for the weekend.
They ended up renting us an early-model Toyota that, though fully automatic, coughed and wheezed it's way uphill so badly we thought maybe there was something wrong with it's design. Turns out, nope, it was just a really crappy rental.
We stopped at a rest stop about 20 minutes out of the city to grab some peanut butter, bread, chips and coke...you know, road trip food. Our goal was to make it to Whangarei (which locals pronounce "FANG-ga-ray", though we have no idea why) before pitching the tent. On the way, we took a couple detours.
One such area was called Warkworth, a tiny little town that's known for it's giant kauri tree, one of the oldest in the country and comparable to the redwoods in California. Please believe us when we tell you, it really is a large tree:
That's a Dizzle at the bottom of that last picture.
A little while off the road from Warkworth (We don't know the actual distance in "A little while..." Judging by exactly how far off the road it FELT, let's just say it seemed like we exited the highway in 1957, and finally arrived tomorrow) we hunted down a little marine reserve called "Goat Island".
It seemed to be a popular little beach for families, and held spectacular views of the bay leading out into the Ocean. We saw a live crab and did a little wading, but it should be noted that Baby G got photographic proof of Dizzle setting foot for the first time in the Pacific Ocean:
Maybe worth going back sometime, but we had to book it to Whangarei before sundown, otherwise we're pitching a tent in the dark. Plus, the last campsite we'd stayed at closed it's office at 9:00, and we didn't have reservations for ANY of the next few nights, with the exception of the one on the boat.
We made it as far as we needed to, and Dizzle was getting a little tired from all the driving. Once there, however, the manager of the campsite copped a little attitude and tried to overcharge us what our flyer had said they charged. We ended up leaving. Baby G asked how much longer Dizzle could hold on behind the wheel, and they agreed to push on a little closer to where the cruise left the next day. Dizzle threw in a CD that was loud, grabbed a coffee, filled the tank, and floored it through Kawakawa, looking for a little tent symbol notifying us of a campsite where we could crash for the night.
There will be a digression here, because the cruise, The Rock, is going to be two posts by itself. There are so many pictures, we're posting this way. Kawakawa is really small, but it is also the resting place of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Supposedly, the reason to visit Kawakawa (and perhaps STAY THE NIGHT THERE) are the public toilets he created before he died. Seriously.
So, we went, before the cruise, and spent our afternoon trying not to laugh and pee at the same time:
So that happened pre-cruise on Day 4, but we wanted to blog it now, because we passed through the town and, trust me, the boat ride is worth at LEAST two posts.
We managed to find a little campground right outside of Paihia that was only $13/person/night and set up our tent there. There was nothing interesting about this campground, except we were set up next to a campervan that housed two of the cutest/most obnoxious children we'd ever encountered. The novelty of a young person with a Kiwi accent fades quickly as he tries to attack your already crappy rental car with a tennis racket. Baby G had to be like, "PLEASE don't do that!" while the kid's parents just watched and laughed. It was pretty surreal. We were glad to leave the next day.
Coming Soon: You wanna ride The Rock? You wanna ride The Great One? You wanna ride THE MOST ELECTRIFYING BOAT IN THE BAY OF ISLANDS TODAY?
...to be continued...