I have now driven twice on the opposite side of the road and lived to tell the tale. It’s not as traumatizing as I thought it would be. I still turn on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal and wince as cars come at me on the right, but I think I might be getting the hang of it. My hosts Glennis and David have taken turns risking their lives driving with me. I salute their bravery.
I am currently in Whangarei (pronounced fong-a-ray) staying with friends of my grandparents. It’s about 2.5 hours north of Auckland on the East Coast.
It’s been great to stay with people I know (at least in name) while I get on the timezone. Glennis and David have been great, not only with helping me drive, but also explaining what stores sell what, and making sure I’m well fed.
Glennis picked me up from the airport on Thursday (Wednesday in the U.S.) and drove me to her home. Bleary-eyed after thirteen hours on a plane, I gaped at everything and resisted the urge to ask her to stop every thirty seconds so I could take a picture.
Glennis and David live on two acres land which they’ve turned into an extensive garden. They produce their own honey, grow all manner of citrus, and spend a lot of time sitting in front of their bay windows watching the birds, rabbits, and neighborhood cat explore their backyard.
It is very beautiful here, although I am greatly confused by the flora because it doesn’t adhere to a specific climate. There are tall pine trees sitting in bunches along craggy hillsides interspersed with giant ferns that look like palm trees, calla lilies and other tropical plants.
The birds here are very cool. Apparently there are no endemic mammals on the islands and so birds evolved to fill their spots in the ecosystem. One of my favorites so far are the Pukeko, which look like blue-black chickens with yellow legs. At night they let out these cries that sound like they’re dying. I have yet to get a picture of one.
The other birds I find amusing are Wood Pigeons, which are about three times the size of American pigeons. They can fly, but not very well, so they mostly flop from branch to branch.
I took a walk the other day and communed with the sheep and cows. As I walked by, the entire herd would stop eating and stare at me. While on my walk I met a Kiwi farmer who told me about his layover in Los Angeles and waved to the post-lady as she drove by.
It’s the beginning of spring here so there are baby sheep running around. They are very good at frolicking and looking cute.
The most confusing part of being here is the fact that I’m a day ahead of all my friends and family. Not only that, but while flying to Auckland I completely missed Wednesday, September 14. I know I’ll make up the missed day when I fly back to the States, but I’ll never experience September 14, 2016. How strange is that!
I have one more day in Whangarei and then I start my journey around the North Island. I’ll be traveling in my grandparent’s car – a Nissan named Nigel. My grandparents, who are sailing around the world, left their car with Glennis and David until they return to New Zealand in November. They agreed to let me use it as long as I didn’t crash it. I admire their confidence in me.