I had only been in the Bay of Islands for a few days but I was eager to move on and explore parts of New Zealand I had not visited before. I had hoped to see Cape Reinga again before I left Northland but the weather was still cloudy and stormy so the long drive up to the cape would not have been worth it.
The Bay of Islands offers so many things to do and see and I barely touched on them in my last few posts. Cape Reinga is one of my favorite spots on earth. The northern most point of New Zealand accessible to the public, Cape Reinga offers the stunning view of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meeting. The two bodies of water are different shades of blue so you can literally see them crashing together amid white caps. In Maori legend, the spirits of the dead leapt off Cape Reinga to return to their spiritual homeland. When I was standing on the windy promontory, watching the sea and ocean come together, I couldn’t think of a better road to the afterlife.
My next stop was Whanganui, on the west coast of southern North Island. Because I’m not too bright, I decided to drive straight through from Paihia to Whanganui. Whanganui is on the west coast of the southern North Island which meant I had to drive south from Paihia through Auckland and Hamilton and then on to a highway which can only be described as disquieting. Just a little ten hour jaunt, no big deal. Until the last few hours when it was growing dark (I kept misjudging the time of sunset since I had come from full summer in Baltimore) and starting to rain and I was driving past barely cleared slips and washouts from massive storms a week or so earlier.
Whenever a car came roaring up behind me I pulled off to let it pass as soon as I could, no pride here. The speed limit was generally 100 kph with signs every 100m or so warning of sharp curves ahead or roaming stock or mountains that could just fall on your head with no warning. Adventure!
And then there were the “!” signs. What should I “!” about?! I was already ! over the slips and washouts and curves and hills, was there something else?!
Driving along the Parapara (the name of the highway I was on) I wasn’t passing many cars and it could be fifteen minutes or more before I saw another vehicle. This led to a whole new fun experience. It was easy to stay on the left side of the road when other cars were around to provide visual cues but when I was left alone for long stretches I would start to panic. Am I on the right side of the road?? I mean the correct side, I mean the left, ahhhhhh! I never was on the wrong side of the road but those flashes of anxiety kept me on alert.
Nearly ten hours after I left Paihia, I saw the “Haere Mai Whanganui” sign on the side of the road. Welcome to Whanganui. Thank goodness, I had arrived.