Wellington’s a great place to live for a while, but there’s still a lot of New Zealand I haven’t been to yet. So when my friend Anne invited me to ride along in their car to visit family in Dargaville, a couple hours north of Auckland, I was stoked to see more of the country, especially with New Zealanders.
Despite warnings of Cyclone Cook being the worst storm NZ’s seen in decades, we made the drive from Wellington to Auckland with only a few sporadic rain showers, and zero traffic. (Contrary to the kilometers and kilometers of traffic jams traveling south.) Much of the highway (motorway) in NZ has only one lane on each side, with no more than two lanes per direction.
Once in Auckland, I caught up with a friend who I hadn’t seen since my summer Europe trip. Janna kindly let me crash at her place in South Auckland, and we got to climb One Tree Hill (which now resembles “none tree hill,” as they say). We saw lots of sheep on the hike up, and I gawked at the sweet view of Auckland from the top.
After a dinner of amazing curry, the next morning, I saw a bit of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. I finally learned some safety tips in a volcano exhibit, in a tiny house that simulated natural disasters. We also wandered through an awesome music exhibit, where I learned that there is SO much Kiwi music I need to catch up on, which sadly never made it to U.S. radio stations (the exception being the hit song “How Bizarre”). It was so cool to see artists and bands that closely resembled styles of U.S. & British music over the decades, with the influence of Maori culture as well.
That afternoon, my friend and her family swung back to pick me up, and we were off to Dargaville in Northland: population 5,000. I noticed the landscape became similar to the Midwest, with flat land, farms, and houses that were more spread out. The most striking difference, as usual, was the vegetation, with kauri trees and tropical plants instead of fir trees. Dargaville is quiet, peaceful, and has been a great place to spend a long holiday weekend with a big family who so warmly welcomed me (into their gorgeous renovated home, I might add). It’s been lovely to relax in the jacuzzi outside, amidst a garden of feijoa trees (a tasty fruit that’s like sorbet), mandarin bushes, and a wraparound patio, and I’ve enjoyed delicious New Zealand wine and wonderful home-cooked meals in caring, lively company.
We drove an hour to Tinopai yesterday while some of the family attempted fishing. I enjoyed lounging on the pier as the last remnants of the sun graced us, and then took a nice walk around the shore, past homes having Easter celebrations, blasting reggae music. 🙂
We’ve got another 48 hours here, so I anticipate more adventures and pictures to follow in next week’s post!