I planned on driving until I felt tired, then pulling up beside a lake or stream, cuddling up to Jed for warmth, sleeping like an antivampire, then waking to watch the sun rise over snow-capped mountains.
Husband failed to appreciate this romantic vision. In fact, he really didn’t enter into the spirit of the road trip AT ALL. He suggested that if I slept in the car, I should camp in a populated location like a garage or Mitre 10 carpark. If I was questioned by police, I was to say I felt sleepy, so pulled over for a nap as recommended by their copious advertisements lining SH1. He asked if I had a torch; when I answered in the affirmative, he asked if I had a 48” monkey wrench to twat all the assailants who would be queuing up to break into a 1992 Toyota Hilux Surf with duct tape over the rust spots.
Husband finally snuffed out the last vestiges of my spirit by pointing out that a guesthouse would be equipped with a shower.
He booked me into Sequoia Lodge in Picton: $27 for a bed in an empty dorm, complimentary hot water bottle, bedlinen, and lashings of hot water.
At 04:00hrs, I woke up feeling cold, and lay there for a while fretting about Jed’s temperature in the back of the car. I got up, pulled on a top and pair of jeans, and went to check on him. Jed was shivering, so I wrapped my fleece around him and put his little paws in the sleeves. I rubbed him for twenty minutes, then added another two rugs to his wool blanket and left him again. However, I was still anxious about my puppy, so I got up early.
Applying makeup at 06:00hrs is a measure of how much I love Husband. That, and how haggard I looked (after six hours of sleep, I resembled two-week-old carrion).
We were past Blenheim when the sun rose over the sea. It was so beautiful – full of golden promise, the sanctity of a new day, a suggestion of redemption – that it brought tears to my eyes. Alternatively, it might have been the knowledge that I willfully passed up another couple of hours in bed, or Jed vigorously licking my left ear, or a combination of all the above.
Pulling off SH1, Jed and I bounced down to a wide, shallow river tumbling over bleached rocks. It was balmy: the sun was warm, the sky a piercing summer blue. I stripped down to a thermal top, long sleeved t-shirt, woolly jumper, fleece and a jacket (it was a lightweight jacket). Jed splashed around a while, then settled down by the water to chew his bone. I sat on a large rock and raised my face to the sun and felt fulsomely content.
After Blenheim there was a garage drought, so even though I still had a quarter tank of diesel left, I stopped to fill up in Kaikoura.
“How much is diesel per litre?” I asked when I went to pay, still mildly stunned at having to fork out the same amount for three quarters of a tank of gas as a full tank in Auckland.
“Oh, I don’t know,” said the cashier, fingering his left nipple. “Changes all the time. Goes up and down.”
“I noticed neither you nor the BP Connect up the road advertised the rate.”
“Yeah, we’re too embarrassed. The locals don’t like us much.”
“Well, I’m from out of town and I don’t like you much either. If that makes you feel any better.”
“Oh, ah, no, not really.” Although he laughed, but I wasn’t really joking.
For two days, I had subsisted on a restricted road trip diet of a) crisps b) salted peanuts c) sandwiches d) pies e) chocolate f) whole, solid forms of fruit and/or g) mints. Further down the main drag in Kaikoura, I stopped at Hislops Organic Café to treat myself to breakfast, and had a visceral response to the hash browns served with my eggs benedict. They were a genuine taste sensation. The staff at Hislops also recharged my mobile phone, brought Jed a bowl of water, and scratched his ears. In fact, the service could only have been improved had they scratched my ears, too. Highly recommended, campers.
Although vast tracts of the trip were unremarkable, there are snapshots that stand out with a shining clarity: mist over Lake Taupo; the incredible blue of the sea driving down the east coast – each wave trailing a half rainbow; Jed charming drivers out the back window; sitting by the road with the morning paper in Kaikoura with my dog by my feet. There was something liberating about not being answerable to anyone, with nothing to do but drive and think about whatever popped into your head (admittedly, not that much, usually).
Every time I let Jed out for a break, he went berserk; yet not once did he refuse to get back into the car. I was so proud of my little boy.
We arrived in Oamaru shortly before 17:00hrs. Jed was overjoyed to see Husband again and leapt around doing cartwheels and somersaults, much like myself.
ROAD TRIP STATISTICS
Auckland to Wellington 658km
Picton to Oamaru 583km
Total driving time
Auckland South to Wellington 8 hrs
Picton to Oamaru 7 hours
Percentage of time Jed stuck his head out the window
Niamh: superficial scarring on forehead from stick wound