A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay: Part One

To be fair I wasn’t Halfway Down, more like A Quarter Up…

“A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay”

It used to be a term of snide derision.

The moniker for any unidentified person in the society photo section of Auckland’s Metro magazine in the 80s.

Whether they had their back turned, or were wearing a lampshade, they were “A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay”

Some in our region may have even aspired to it, but not many.

Certainly not me.

Sadly it appears some old habits die hard. Or not at all..

Yet, over recent months I have been an actual “Visitor from Hawke’s Bay” to Auckland several times, on account of surgery I needed to undergo that could only be done in the city.

Rather than the local tourism board paying for my visit and lavishing me with luxury accomodation and gourmet food as Hawke’s Bay’s agencies do to visiting Auckland media, the Ministry of Health paid for my return travel and equal nights’ accomodation in both motel and hospital beds, and I had to hunt and gather my own food, except when my kind social media friends shouted me a coffee or lunch. (Disclosure statement ends.)

So Close, Yet So Far.

The last time I was in Auckland was in 2011 for a Foo Fighters concert at Western Springs.

My wife and I stayed in the centre of town and we were in the city for about the same length of time it took to drive there and back.

It’s not that we didn’t WANT to visit more often, it’s just with IVF, the birth of our daughter, buying our first home, the death of my Dad, my month-long government-funded stay in Wellington, and the death of my Mum all coming hot on the heels of that concert trip, we simply hadn’t had the time or opportunity to go back to Auckland.

So, odd as it may sound, I was looking forward to this operation. As it gave me an opportunity to have a nosey around!

There and Back Again: A Hawke’s Bayite’s Tale

My first expedition for a pre-op appointment and assesment was by road.

Leaving Napier at O-Dark-Hundred I cross the fabled Napier-Taupo road in a mixture of bright, full, moonlight for the most part and pea-soup fog in the middle section around Lochinvar Station.

It isn’t until I am deep into the Waikato region that the sun starts to make an appearance.

And what an appearance it is!

A pink and purple pastoral panorama unfolds around me as the early morning hues illuminate rolling dairy country. Patches of mist lie in valleys and green grass glistens in the gloaming.

It’s the sort of view giant dairy cooperatives pay advertising firms millions of dollars to try and replicate on clogged, polluted urban motorway billboards.

I somehow manage to drive non-stop to Hamilton, where stomach and lower portions dictate I need to take a break for breakfast, stretch and a rest-stop at around 8am.

New Zealand’s state highways and roads really are a story of thirds.

One third is perfectly fine, one third is roadworks and the final third is utter rubbish and SHOULD be roadworks.

I drive the fastest I have ever been legally allowed to drive on the Cambridge Expressway – 110km/h!

The only thing is with that section of road being several hundred meters across, with multiple lanes and (almost) everyone else doing the same speed, you might as well be doing 50km/h – there is no sense of the added “Oomph!” that 10km/h would otherwise bring.

You also still get passed by Audis and Hiluxes regardless of the speed limit, so very little changes, really.

You quickly reel in those who have overtaken you anyway, as further roadworks and rush-hour traffic grind everyone down to a crawl past Mystery Creek.

Having spent the last few hours driving so smoothly and freely, we are now packed together so tightly I can see the irony dripping from their exhaust pipes.

Aside from some stunning native bush views along the northern Waikato River trying to draw your attention away from the road and task at hand, the rather deafening sound of cicadas in river-side pine plantations along State Highway One is quite distracting.

Before you realise what the noise actually is you fear something is going wrong with your car.

Sadly something DID go wrong with my car on this trip once I arrived in Auckland.

The exertion and heat of the almost non-stop trip up made my transmission somewhat fiddly upon starting, so I limited my movements in the hope I would be able to get home in one automotive piece.

Close encounters of the Twitter kind! Paul Brislen and a Visitor From Hawke’s Bay.

Never the less I do manage to meet up with fellow Twitterer, technology commentator and pop culture fan Paul Brislen in person for coffee at a swanky Mount Eden Village cafe and pick up a present for my daughter from the equally Twitter renowned Time Out Bookstore.

The appointment with my doctor at the Greenlane Medical Centre goes much better and quicker than planned, and the picturesque view of Maungakiekie – “One Tree Hill” (right behind the hospital) out his office’s windows cheers me up, so I decide to go into town.

This is where the logistics of Auckland traffic come into play.

Greenlane is, in the grand Auckland scheme of things, very “central”. You are kind of in the middle of, well, everything!

This does, however, mean it can take a while to get everywhere.

With my car recuperating at my nearby motel, I decide to test out Auckland’s public transport system and catch a bus into the CBD, do some sightseeing and drop some copies of the magazine I write for, “Baybuzz”, to some of my big-city media friends.

The fare is reasonable and the ride is comfortable, but there is only one issue – the other bazillion vehicles on the road! (I did, unwisely it appears, choose to travel at 4pm in the afternoon..).

What “should” have been about a 15 minute commute takes over half an hour and I get into the CBD just as most of its workers are heading in the opposite direction.

While in Auckland I decide to sample some of the city’s haute cuisine that is unavailable in regional New Zealand – Namely Krispy Kreme Donuts and Wendy’s Burgers!

“No Regerts!!”

After taking in central Auckland for about an hour the day’s driving and events catch up with me and I find myself rather exhausted, sitting outside Britomart without the energy or will to traipse back to the bus stop I arrived from at The Civic Theatre.

I decide to take the train back to Greenlane (have I mentioned before that I think trains are awesome?!).

The train trip takes a mere ten minutes, if that, and another short bus ride delivers me to the door of my accomodation for the night and soon after I am enveloped by the arms of Morpheus.

“I’ll see you again
When the stars fall from the sky,
And the moon turns red,
Over One Tree Hill.”

H.G. Wells, Huka Falls and Home

I wake early the next morning keen to get home, or as far home as possible before any further issues can afflict my car.

At least I THINK I wake.

Merging onto the Southern Motorway in the early hours of the morning is like entering an 80s neon dream.

A river of white, yellow and halogen blue lights stream towards you, as those bound for work in the city make their way in. While ahead, red tail and brake lights form a long, rippling rouge ribbon to the south.

It’s not too disimilar to the “Light Cycle Battle” in the movie Tron (and quite possibly why residents of the next major city in this direction, Hamilton, use the movie’s name as their city’s nickname).

As the motorway heads towards the Bombay Hills the pink and purple tinges of dawn are growing over the horizon.

But also coming over the hills is a scene from “War of the Worlds” – Row upon row of giant power pylons stretch towards the city and motorway.

Not unlike Wells’ giant aliens, these steel quadrapeds actually provide power to the metropolis’ populance, but in the misty glow of dawn they look other-worldly, straddling the red and white streams of light.

Traffic flows freely and smoothly, despite the sheer volume of vehicles that are simultaneously using this small strip of road. The only issue I have is trying to rejoin the flow after pulling over to take the obligitary picture of the Waikato River and Huntly Power Station beyond.

I bypass Hamilton to top up with fuel and grab breakfast to go in Cambridge.

I carry on, eventually stopping at Huka Falls for a walk, where my car decides to play its “lets not start of a while” trick again and in Taupo to take a look at the lake (transiting Taupo so early in the morning on the way up, I had bypassed the town).

The trip back over the Napier-Taupo is far less foggy and dark than the day before and I arrive home in time for a late lunch.

It was a roadtrip I had wanted to do for some time, but now having done it twice in 24 hours with car issues, I think I would prefer to fly next time.

Fortunately they fly you up for operations, which would come around quite quickly.

To Be Continued!

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