I’ve spent three months travelling alone and I’ve enjoyed every minute.
I’ve met great people – with some of whom I can see a long friendship lasting, with others a short, sharp burst that I won’t forget and with others simply experienced a pleasant interaction that brightened my day.
All of these encounters have made a difference to me and my outlook on life.
For the next three weeks, I’ll be travelling with two close friends. This is probably all going to change how I experience the journey – I won’t be alone. That’s fine.
At this point, I’m ready to see some familiar faces and experience the journey with people who understand me and my frame of reference.
I love meeting new people but it is sometimes easier not to have to explain ten years of cultural references for others to understand why you think x is funny.
I travelled from National Park yesterday to Auckland to catch up with two friends from back home.
Because of a mechanical fault, the train wasn’t running and a bus replacement service was put on instead. I think English readers will understand the full horror of the phrase: bus replacement service.
This was a pleasant surprise.
Not only was the bus replacement running to the same timetable as the train, but there was a 50% refund AND there was an attempt to provide the same level of service.
As I mentioned, Northern Explorer train journeys provide an audio commentary of the journey being made.
The driver on the replacement bus service also provided a commentary – geology, history, culture and music.
It was highly entertaining and I was impressed by the courteous service provided by the staff, from the railway station cafe at National Park all the way through to Auckland.
It’s when there are problems that you really find out how good a service is.
Plus, if a bus replacement hadn’t been put on, I wouldn’t have seen Mount Ngauruhue, also known as Mount Doom for ‘Lord of the Ring’ fans – I don’t think it would have been visible from the train.
Once in Auckland, I set off to meet my friends at Bar Madriz (reasonably priced beer and tapas) before having dinner at Bamboo House.
The Korean menu was simple and tasty. The fact that it was busy with Korean families gave a clear indication that the food was good.
The vegetarians with us were very happy with the noodles with extra tofu while the carnivores were pleased with the spicy barbecued chicken. And at 16NZD for a main plus 6NZD for a beer, it was reasonably priced.
This morning, we collected a car (for our road trip) from Go Rentals where the friendly service from a trainee clerk just started the day off on a good footing.
She was so apologetic about learning the job but, let’s face it, everyone has to start somewhere and she was attentive, making sure that no details were missed.
Hiring a car can be tedious – paperwork, dire warnings of insurance breaches and just the amount of time spent can make you feel like life is slipping away.
We were done and dusted within fifteen minutes – contracts and evidence photos of the car’s appearance being emailed to us.
Attentive readers may recall that I mentioned Mr “How Fucking Much?” was joining me.
We, myself and Mr Charming, left Mr HFM with the luggage while we went to pick up the car. Mr HFM doesn’t walk far.
By the time we returned with the car, Mr HFM had made friends with a passing bus driver who had some very helpful advice for the journey we were making down to Napier – road closures, conditions, and the quality of other people’s driving.
The drive was very straightforward.
Driving in New Zealand, when you are used to driving in the UK, isn’t a problem.
The scenery is beautiful and the route we were on took us through a number of rest stops.
My favourite was Tirau.
In the the Māori language, “Tīrau” means “place of many cabbage trees” but what I loved was the use of corrugated metal to create the buildings.
We arrived in Napier by early evening and after dinner in town, it was an evening drinking wine on the beach with family and friends.