The idea for the North Island was to start as far north as we could and learn what a winter in the far north feels like! So it was a very quick trip as far as Whangarei where we slowed down, and this became the start point for our sightseeing. There are two main routes north from Kawakawa (which in turn is north of Whangarei) so we headed up SH10, and plan to return via the Number 1.
When I said we made a quick trip, it took four days to reach Whangarei as we stopped to visit friends and family in Paekakariki and Palmerston North. Even after that we still caught up with more family and friends in Kaiwaka and Kerikeri – I’d forgotten we knew so many people in the North Island! Everyone is very friendly up here; it’s not difficult to strike up conversations wherever we go, and of course there are lots more people up here than in the South Island.
What can I say about the Number 1 through Auckland? It was eye-popping and took a good hour of pure driving at 100 kilomtres per hour to get from one end to the other. It’s grown vastly since Kev and I were last up this way. I managed to see a few of the volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field as we drove, but mostly I was focussed on helping Kev by reading out the signs so we knew which lane to be in. We’ve had endless discussions with Northlanders since doing that drive. Some say they stay in the middle lane so they get a straight run through, but they comment that then they have trucks roaring away on both sides of them. That was too scary for us; we chose to stay as much as possible in the left lane and shift over as we needed. Most of the time drivers were respectful about letting us in; but it was pretty fraught with the speeds and amount of traffic and we were glad to be through. In fact we stopped somewhere that had a pull off with petrol and foodcourts at the northern end, and had a break. Lots of people we talked with north of Auckland don’t like the motorway, some intensely enough that they feel it actually cuts them off from the rest of New Zealand. They largely tend to follow an alternative, slower route that’s off the motorway; if I lived here I too would be learning that route!