On Wednesday morning, Husband rang as I finished packing the car.
“How do you feel this morning?” he asked solicitously.
“Terrific!” I said.
“Right, pay attention,” said Husband. “We’ve been discussing how to get you and Jed to Oamaru, and we think the best way is to parachute you in-”
“You’re joking,” said Husband.
“Nope. Little road trip. <Jed: come! Sit! Good boy!> Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a ferry to catch in eleven hours-”
“The eight o’clock. We’ll be with you sometime tomorrow.”
“But what about Jed?”
“He’s looking forward to it. <Jed: hup! Hup! GOOD BOY!>”
“Have you got food for him?”
“Course. Stacks of Tux, some dog sausage, half a cow carcass.”
“Is there enough money in the account-”
“Have you got music for the trip?”
“BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN YAY! Hey – how much air should I put in the tyres?”
“Niamhie, are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Absolutely. You’re so negative. Why are you denying my natural instinct? I was BORN to drive the open road.”
“What if you break down?”
“Eh, some bloke will probably stop.”
“I think you’re mad.”
I mean, come on: it’s not as if New Zealand is that big. Why, it’s not even a fraction of the size of Australia. Well, obviously it is a fraction, but a very, very, very, very small one.
And we were off. We left the house at 09:30hrs, but only hit South Auckland at 11:00hrs after a pit stop to fill up on diesel and air.
I always underestimate the time it takes to get from Auckland to Wellington. Well, obviously, I have limited experience having only done it once before. The AA website estimates the distance from Auckland to Wellington as 658km, or 9 hours and 25 minutes – but they probably cater for the lowest common denominator i.e. tourists trying to locate the accelerator on a campervan. However, it’s a 40-minute drive from Henderson to Auckland Central, and the Interislander specifies check-in NO LATER THAN 1 HOUR PRIOR TO DEPARTURE TIME and they really sound quite snotty about it.
It was a foul day – driving rain. Luckily, I was prepared with Deadlyjelly’s Ultimate Road Mix, a solid foundation of Foreigner, the Erics Carmen and Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Crowded House, Matchbox 20, and Dire Straits, with a dash of Mister Mister and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
I obviously took full advantage of Bruce, since Husband has declared the house a rock-free zone. He makes the occasional exception for Bon Jovi, Van Halen and Aerosmith – really, any rock band that relies heavily on lamé and/or spandex. However, the soundtrack of our lives mainly comprises female artists that sound as if they are preparing a compilation for their own funeral.
Driving through Kaimanawa Forest Park south of Turangi, the rain retreated and mist drifted through the trees. Jed was inspired to blow raspberries out the back of the car. The Desert Road was bleak and beautiful.
Apart from a diesel stop in Waiouairouaeaou and the odd five minute break to stretch Jed’s legs, I pressed on. So you will appreciate my joy when I discovered a bar of chocolate Helen had abandoned in the center console. In that moment, I loved Helen in a romantic and entirely inappropriate way. Probably just as well she was not present.
In Hunterville, I pulled over to give my puppy a trot and he lifted his leg for the first time. I am not sure whether it was because I had been on the road too long, or I was tired, or because it was a gorgeous evening with late sun tinting the country with a sepia glow, but I got quite emotional thinking about my little dog growing up and how Husband was not there to see him balancing confidently on three legs.
Coming into Wellington, I called Husband and asked him to book me on the 20:00hrs ferry that left in 45 minutes. The Interislander had closed Internet and phone bookings, but there was plenty of space when I rolled up to the check in booth. The Hilux Surf was the only car, dwarfed on all sides by articulated lorries.
Dinner was a smoked salmon sandwich I had purchased in a BP Connect in Paraparaumu. I had prepared a description of my falsely advertised soggy sandwich featuring the faintest trace of salmon flavour. In fact, it was a superb and supremely salmonly sandwich and I am hard pressed to recall a more satisfying meal. I will also seriously consider serving up Bluebird crisps for dessert the next time we have guests.
Although I was prepared for it, in the end Husband ensured I did not spend an intensely unerotic night sharing the boot with my dog