Driving a rented car in unknown terrain in New Zealand
When travelling in unknown terrain on the Northeast coast of New Zealand we searched in vain for a place to stay overnight. We had gone off at random and despite warnings we had not ordered any accommodation beforehand. On the map it looked like a lot of small towns laying in a row along the coast. But it turned out to be only junctions. Accommodation, food and petrol were about to be a big problem! The fuel tank blinked dangerously and the arrow was far down the reserve tank. But then late in the evening we at last found a hotel at a junction in Titikiki.
Here was a wild party. The youngsters came riding bareback down the main road, shouting and screaming. Old ladies staggered drunk in the middle of the road while they were swinging beer bottles over the head. The hotel really needed some refurbishment. The paint was peeling and some of the windows were broken. Per refused to stay for a minute more!
We drove to the next junction and the town Ruatoria. Hotel Ruatoria did not look much better than the previous. But at this stage we were completely out of petrol and could not drive for a kilometer more. We were hungry and tired so there was no choice at all. The car was parked outside and we entered the unpainted door and both our olfaction and eyes was put to the test. First meeting was with a very drunk, small and bearded man with a beer bottle in his hand. He wanted a hug and he got it! Behind the bar we met an older woman who got quite surprised when we turned up. But anyway, she could get as a double room for the night, she said with a big smile.
Per just wanted to escape. All his instincts signaled danger and discomfort. But we were dragged through a couple of doors into something resembling a reception with combination lock on the door. We got room no 18, one of total 25 rooms at the first floor. Following the woman, we went through a long dark corridor. All the doors to the rooms stood wide open. An in the rooms, all bed were neatly made with towels and a piece of soap on each bed. And over the whole room it was a thick layer of dust. I noticed it myself – my curiosity was too strong!
Per walked behind me and whispered: This is like being part of a horror movie, I am getting associations to movie The Shining. Room 18 was far into the corridor and was one of very few double rooms. Amazingly enough equipped with a bathroom and fortunately not a layer of dust, but the more spiders. And Per hate spiders! The room cost 45 Dollar including a continental breakfast.
We got quickly installed and then we went down to the bar. A cold beer was tempting and we were starving. It was around 12 guests, half of them women sitting in front of slots machines. The men were sitting with their beers and the atmosphere was quiet. We attracted some attention when we arrived but it was not long before we were invited to play a game of pool. The evening turned out to be very nice and we became an exotic experience richer.
The only petrol station in Ruatoria opened early next morning and we were saved! But before we went further on our trip, we drove down to the nearest beach on roads that at times was only a dry river. The beach was perfect. There was a small white church and a Maori community house and then some few small houses. And 2 big busses that were parked forever and served as a summer home, I believe. White sand as far as the eye could see.
The area around Cape East, the coast north of Gisborne and the National Parks inland, is one of the finest experiences we had in New Zealand and the Northern Island. Our trip in this area lasted only 3 days and went from Auckland eastward along Bay of Plenty to East Cape. From there we went along the coast to Gisborne. The coast here has fantastic beaches and great riverbeds. Long walks along the beach collecting shells are one of my favorite occupations. Much of this area is reserved land for the Maori people.
Near Gisborne we took off inland and drove through Te Urewera national Park to Rotorua known for its hot springs and geysers. This part of the Northern Island is just fantastic and the route can be recommended!