I begin this episode of What Did Andy Do To Cause Others To Laugh At Him with a confession. I’m an aspiring rugby fan. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, there’s a field where a bunch of players run into each other, with fervent aggression, until everyone dies of injuries/bludgeoning. There is allegedly a ball involved, and most likely some sort of scoring system, but I’ve covered the basics and the parts people really care about.
When it comes to rugby, there are teams and then there’s The Team: the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team. Imagine if you will a group of men the size of small hatchbacks, hell bent on causing you bodily harm. Your only defense against them? Aside from the sheer human will to live, not much, just some blokes who have run some drills with you who also do not have pads. Then it begins. The haka. Haka is a Maori word that, loosely translated, means “Ha, you guys read the rules about the ball and the scoring while we practiced tackling and infliction. This will end badly for you.” There’s simply nothing like it. Observe the haka against the French, who you’ll notice are wearing white and holding hands: All Blacks Haka
As we wish our French readers well as they leave offended, we move on to New Zealand’s match against Australia on August 24th in Wellington. Had I used Planning, I would’ve realized that this was happening and booked my ticket to arrive in time for the match, but the confession: I’m a moron, and while New Zealand was beating Australia in a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all the fans, I was in a plane over the Pacific. hashtag fail.
Alas, I arrived early early on Sunday morning in Auckland. I stepped off the plane and was immediately hit by a chair by the still celebrating All Blacks fans. Either that or I very calmly made it through a very empty immigration hall and was politely welcomed to New Zealand. I made my way to the luggage carousel, retrieved my bag, and walked aimlessly around the arrivals hall looking for my rental car agency. Again, had I used Planning, I would’ve found out they were located off-site and had a shuttle that you could call from an information desk. Having been politely told this by Auckland Airport’s designated Kind Old Information Desk Man, I called Ace Rentals and was retrieved by their shuttle.
A word about Ace Rentals. New Zealand doesn’t have a fantastic public transport system, so hiring a car is almost essential. Ace Rentals is a fantastic option. The low-cost rental market is a crowded one in New Zealand, with cars about half as much as the big name brands like Avis and Hertz. I picked Ace because they had cars available for about $25/day. I have a variety of credit cards, and only my Chase Sapphire Preferred’s insurance would cover rentals in New Zealand, so be sure to check your card’s policy, as most won’t cover rentals in New Zealand. I picked up my rental, a Nissan Whattheheck (I think the actual name was a Tiida). It was older, but perfectly functional except WAIT WHY IS THE STEERING WHEEL ON THE OTHER SIDE.
Driving on the other side of the road really wasn’t that bad, you go hoarse from screaming in terror more quickly than you think you will. The one part that was always funny was cars driven by foreigners who were about to turn. The turn signal on most New Zealand cars is on the right side of the wheel (instead of the left in the civilized world, like France WELCOME BACK FRENCH READERS), the wiper control on the left. So it’s easy to tell when Americans were driving, as they’d come up to a turn and turn on their windshield wipers. It’s really funny, shut up.
I had all day to make it to my destination: the Hilton Lake Taupo. I absolutely love driving in foreign countries, so I looked forward to a wonderful road trip. My initial plan was to head down south to Waitomo, so I made my way to one of New Zealand’s main highways (there are two). I was oddly drawn to the Coromandel Peninsula though, and found myself turning east, towards Coromandel. The scenery was lush and green, as expected. It reminded me of Scotland, or the rural parts of Norway.
The fields of New Zealand have a way of making your mind drift, along with your car, but after a horn honk and getting back into my lane, I really enjoyed just watching the scenery go by, Crowded House on the radio. (recommended listening for this part of the report: Running on Empty, by Jackson Browne) I made it through Thames, and recorded a video for all my Facebook friends, and unsurprisingly made a painfully bad pun for all of them.Share
The road got simply fantastic on my way up the Coromandel Peninsula. Quick turns, long winding hills, more turns, and all of a sudden I made myself motion sick from driving, which has never happened before. So I blessed New Zealand with a little bit of sick, then continued my journey. The scenery up the peninsula was simply breathtaking, the rain adding weight and a seeming thickness to my surroundings. The views were epic, and most will remain in my memory because it was raining too hard most of the time to stop and take pictures. I managed to grab a few though, just for you guys.
I stopped in the town of Coromandel for lunch and a quick fuel stop, then, well, basically turned around and headed back south. My goal was to turn further east and head down the east coast of the peninsula, linking up with the southbound road towards Taupo near the town of Tauranga. I instead completely missed my exit and went all the way down the motion sickness road again. It was just as nice and the rain let up a little, allowing for more pictures.
As those of you who either are from New Zealand or know it well are thinking, Coromandel is quite legendary for not being anywhere near Lake Taupo, my destination for the evening. I realized this over lunch. The jetlag hadn’t hit me yet, but I could feel it creeping all up on my insides, so I wisely decided to head straight towards Taupo. It was a lovely four hour drive brought to you by Red Bull, due to the amount of it I consumed (I was going to say how many gallons I had, but they’re metric, with which I struggle, I think it was around 7 kilopascals).
I wearily arrived at the Hilton Lake Taupo. And by “arrived” I mean I couldn’t find it, so went to every overseas American’s favorite place (McDonald’s) and found the proper directions. Why, you ask, is McDonald’s every American’s favorite place? Just about anywhere where you go in the world (outside of the US), every McDonald’s will have free wifi. New Zealand it turns out is quite stingy with free wifi, so this was very appreciated and utilized often throughout my trip.
As you can see, the Hilton isn’t directly on the lake (New Zealand’s largest), so the name of the hotel is a bit misleading, although it’s understandable, Hilton Lake Taupo sounds a little nicer than Hilton Kind Of Near Lake Taupo. The rates were surprisingly low (the winter is pretty slow for the North Island), so I had just booked two nights through a special Hilton was running. I was given a complimentary upgrade to one of their suites, which was very nice (pictures below). I made my way to my room, unpacked, and was tackled by jetlag, sleeping hard until the next morning.
I awoke on my second day in New Zealand, and began exploring.
I do need to apologize, the pictures of the room at the Hilton are on my other computer, so I will update this post when I get back from this work trip I’m on