I was told to expect deep fall weather in late April on the north island of the Kiwi bird. However, all week its been near 30-degrees during the day, and I haven't seen a cloud since landing at Auckland International. I should have known since my new temporary home, Havelock North in Hawks Bay, is New Zealand's wine country. “Everything under the sun,” is the local visitors guide title. To a self-confessed hot weather grouch, I was here to prolong the dismally warm Canadian winter.
For three weeks, the Tauroa Farm would be my home, working as a farm hand few hours a each day in return for a bed to sleep and three meals to keep me going. Sunday was my day off, and as per the early waking hours on the workday, I was up at the break of dawn. A cold fog filled the valleys of North Havelock that morning, a perfect time to get out do some exploring, while the weather was cold. Jumping in my ten year-old rental car, a Nissan Sunny with wonky steering, bald tires, a broken front sway-bar and other curious noises of concern, I decided to explore the local Pacific beaches.
While the beaches were my destination, it would be the roads that turned out to be my entertainment for the day. The beautiful thing about New Zealand is the lack of freeways. Instead you have country lanes that been designated highways and are given a 100 kmh speed limit, everywhere. So no mater how winding or narrow the road gets, its still 100 kmh, with a couple lower speed recommendations for the tighter corners. This allows one to explore the limits of their car on a scenic country road.
Leaving Havelock North, I turn onto Waimarama road, heading south to my first destination, Ocean Beach. The tree-lined road gently winds through beautiful vineyard lands. With the steep grass and rock cliffs of the Craggy Mountain range towering over my right hand side, and fields of grape vines on my left, its a serene start to my day as the landscape slowly exposes itself to me through the light fog. Crossing over the Tuki Tuki River, I know have another mountain range standing between me and the sands of Ocean Beach.
The serenity of the vineyards fell as I began to climb out of the valleys fog and into the mountain pass. The road begins to undulate, and hug the increasingly rugged terrain, throwing the car from one blind corner, to another. Whatever mornings sleep that sill lingered in my eyes was quickly washed away with the red mist setting in. The road entices you to attack it, and attack it I did. Only a few short kilometers long, the drive to the cliffs above Ocean Beach, and the Pacific Ocean was short but sweet. My reward was a tranquil, breezy cliff over looking the long sand beach of the Ocean Beach village, followed by the expanse of a turquoise shaded Pacific. It was a view I could have taken in all day, however the draw on unexplored territory, and great roads to travel, pulled me away.
Making my way back, my excitement grew, as I now know the road, and began to lean the sagging and worn Sunny. By now the sun was intense in the sky, but with the window rolled down allowing in a cool ocean breeze, it was turning out to be a perfect sunny Sunday drive in my little Sunny.
Back to the base of the mountain range, this time a turn left, and head further south; destination, Waimarama beach. The Ocean beech road while a delight to drive, was still restrained with the constant metal-on-metal complaining coming from the front end of the Sunny. The road to Waimarama however, would see no such mercy on my part.
Long country straights handled easily at the posted 100 kmh limit, launch into a deadly series of hairpins climbing up and over the range once again, massive drop-offs lurking at the edge of the tarmac. The more aggressive nature of this pass had me pushing the poor tired little Sunny to its limits in the name of staying near the posted speed. Soon the front tires began to scream in pain as they struggled to grip the road surface, the car wallowing around madly with no sense of control underneath it. The wondrously entertaining road crested the hills, and the great expanse of blue could be seen once again. Tumbling down a series of tight hairpins towards the sea, tires lifted in the air as the chassis struggles to survive the onslaught of cambered corners, the chaos finally comes to an end in the sleepy town of Waimarama. The poor Sunny’s coolant, brakes and tires can now cool themselves in the ocean breeze as I drive the car out onto the sandy beech. As the car ticks and cracks away, I too can cool down on this breezy sunny beech, next to tractors laying in wait for incoming boaters, content that I have made the most of my day off with the little Sunny.