We left the Hobbiton farm at around eleven-thirty in the morning and pointed ourselves north. (Well, actually, south for about ten miles, then west for a while back to Cambridge, but our general goal was North.)We were headed for the Bay of Islands, which is in the northernmost part of the North Island, but we didn't intend to try and make it all the way there today.
We stopped for gas just south of Auckland, after watching gas station signs for a while and realizing that it didn't matter where you bought it, gas was $1.63.9 a liter. Call me a whacked out cynical conspiracy theorist, but I'm suspecting some price fixing here.
In the interests of making good time, and because we were hungry, we picked up lunch at the same rest stop, at the Subway. I am happy to report that the antipodean Subway tuna salad sandwich is every bit as reliably mediocre as its North American ancestor. Which brings us to our fun conversational exchange of the day:
Girl making our sandwiches, after learning where we are from: "Oh, do they have Subways in America?"
Us: "Um, yes."
The freeway only extends about twenty miles each way out of Auckland (New Zealand's largest city, by the way), and never gets wider than three lanes. In Los Angeles, that would be considered a driveway. For the rest of its length, State Highway 1 is one lane each way, with occasional passing lanes to allow annoyed locals to get around timid and confused visitors.
It started raining around Whangarei; nothing serious, jut an on-and-off drizzle to keep things interesting. I mentioned before how we meant to stop somewhere along the way for the night and finish the trip tomorrow, but there's something about driving-- it takes so much less effort to keep going than it does to stop and start again, that you just keep pushing on through, to the next town and the next, until you're close enough that you might as well go along to the end, even if it's further than you really intended to go. So, on we went, through the rain and the gathering darkness, across on the car ferry and down a wet, unidentifiable road into Russell, the oldest town in New Zealand. And when, after several wrong turns and a certain amount of map consultation by your faithful navigator, we ended up at one of the motels recommended by Lonely Planet, it seemed like something of a miracle.
It was, as Mom figured out later, "like we drove from Santa Cruz to Fort Bragg on Highway 1". In the rain. On the wrong side of the road. In, basically, a riding mower with a roof. But, anyway, we were here.