Onwards to Wellington

Trip Start Mar 06, 2013
Trip End Apr 04, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday we were up early again, wanting to get a good start on the drive to Wellington. Did we mention that for the most part there are no highways here? Most travel is on 2-lane roads jammed with traffic of all sorts. Rush hour in Hamilton was in full swing as we passed through. We were amazed at how many school children were trying to cross the busy streets or stuck in the median between lanes. No crossing guards here. They must not lose too many of these free-range kids.
South of Hamilton we made a pretty drive to Taupo on winding, mountainous terrain over well maintained roads. Actively being maintained roads at numerous locations. Lake Taupolived up to its reputation as a gorgeous site and the town of Taupo was our coffee and banking stop. We still needed to pay Doug & Jane for the nights at the B&B in Paihia. Taupo is a rather ritzy little vacation town with many banks and we eventually found the right flavor for depositing money into Doug's account as we had promised. A problem in identifying the account sparked a quick call to Jane (still in the hospital). She preferred we deposit the money in her bank. Was there a little scandal here? We couldn't tell but due to a glitch at Jane's bank we ended up making Doug the lucky winner with payment for the cost of the room.
While wandering around on our banking tour of Taupo we found a McDonald's with a full sized, twin engine, World War II  cargo plane attached, a McDonald Douglas DC3. This required closer inspection. Sure enough it was part of the playground and it also provided additional dining space for those not minding eating on an incline. Very cool! This seemed like a really unique feature--until we saw the next DC3 on a stick attached to a coffee shop 50 miles down the road.Apparently it is common here!
Driving out of Taupo to the south there was a road sign indicating whether several major roads were open or closed. In Colorado this would be a weather issue. We're not sure about NZ but it might have to do with the big, smoking volcano we drove by. Driving south we had amazing vistas on another perfect, clear day. We are hoping the weather and visibility will be as good for the safari because we'd like to see that perfect cone shaped volcano from the air!
Our second stop was in Marton, a town named after the town in England where captain Cook was born. Food and internet were the goals. We wanted to make sure the CAA had responded to our BFR validation. This would make everything complete for our flying trip. We have been learning that there is little or no free wi-fi in this country. And now we know why. Somehow the US has missed a great entrepreneurial opportunity. Here they sell you the internets at $1/10 MB. The provider of the hot spot gets a 50% cut. In Marton, however, we could get access via the public library where they had 10 large Macintosh desktops set up and a staff to help people use them. We were able to access and print the certificates from the CAA. Mission complete! We now have everything we need to fly here.

Food is proving to be a harder challenge than expected here for Gail. Lunch required buying a tin of gluten/dairy/soy free spaghetti and asking the bakery owner to warm it up. For the price of a lovely pie for Doedo, they cheerfully obliged in heating my lunch.
Back in the car to drive to Wellington and be staged for an early ferry to Picton tomorrow.

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George on

Vicki is Gluten and dairy free too which is a drama at times. I shudder to think about adding soy into the avoid list too.

Gretchen on

Taupo is a fascinating geological area - Huka Falls are incredible. Hope you found the adult half of the McDonald's that serves real sandwiches and killer desserts.

And yes, there can be terrible snow and ice storms on the Desert Road during the winter that shuts down a large part of the highway.

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