Saturday, January 23, 2010. Waking up in the morning, I thought I'd check what Steffan was up to. Turns out he had to drive to Te Kuiti to meet his mum, where they were planning on swapping cars. For the past week or so, Steffan had been driving him mum's car, as his car was in the garage being fixed in his home town, Wanganui. The drive would take about two and a half hours each way. I thought it was pretty notable that it was only a two and a half hour drive for him to meet him mum halfway, considering that Auckland and Wanganui are located at the opposite ends of the main body portion of the North Island. This was very amusing to me, as a drive from coast to coast across Canada or the US would take much longer!
The drive was very calm and relaxing, travelling through the New Zealand countryside, through fields of grazing cattle and sheep. After a while, though, it did become a bit repetitive. A bit outside of Auckland, the highways deteriorated to simple two-lane highways with no shoulders as is the case with most highways outside of the Auckland region. A lot of international visitors, including me, have found the speed limits in New Zealand surprisingly high for the quality of the roads, and often, in especially tortuous portions, it's rare that we will be travelling at the posted speed limit, whereas in Canada and the US, the roads are over-engineered so that it is rare to ever have to go significantly below the speed limit.
After about an hour and a half, we arrived into the central street of a small town, where we parked the car. After a phone call to Steffan's mum, it was revealed that they she was running behind schedule so we had half an hour to burn. We spent the time walking up and down the main stretch of Te Kuiti, where there were some dodgy-looking teenagers wandering around. Two of these dodgy teenagers were a pair of girls who appeared to be dressed better than the others we saw, which isn't saying much. They shouted something at us when they passed, which I thought might have been "Are you guys gay?" I assume that's because we didn't try to hit on them. In any case, Steffan and I were confused enough to find it pretty amusing. We explored a two dollar store and ended up spending most of our time in the Warehouse, where I saw a copy of SimAnimals DS, the game I worked on while at Electronic Arts. The only other item of interest we saw in Te Kuiti was a small roofed structure called the Trust Waikato Millennium Pavilion, there to celebrate culture or something along those veins. Apparently Te Kuiti's main claim to fame is that it is the host of the New Zealand Searing Championships.
After a while, Steffan's mum showed up with the car along with either her boyfried or new husband. We had lunch together and departed soon afterwards. We had to be back in Auckland before a certain time, and we started to realise that we wouldn't have much time to spend in Raglan at all.
The first stop in Raglan for us was an area of the coast besides Whale Bay, called the Index. The Index is supposedly the surfing spot in Raglan with the largest waves. After walking over some rocks to the Index, we were kind of perplexed. There were very few surfers around, and the large waves appeared to break directly onto some dangerous-looking rocks, which the surfers were staying their distance from. However, it was nice to stand on the large smooth boulders making up the coastline, watching the curling waves against the beautiful backdrop. The water was blue in the sunny parts, the cliffs were a wonderful shade of charcoal, and the hills all around were emerald green. Combined with the puffs of cloud drifting overhead, it was quite a pretty sight.
After watching for a bit, we decided to drive around as it was almost time to leave. We drove around some other water access points and found one particularly popular area with many surfers in the water. Even here though, there were rocks, and the waves did not look particularly impressive. This area also seemed overcrowded and I wondered how the surfers stopped themselves from running into each other. After driving through town, which looked like a typical happening beach-side New Zealand town, we headed back. It was a nice slow day of driving and getting out of Auckland.