We left San Francisco at 9pm and, after a 13 hour flight, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand at 5:00am. Dark and a bit chilly (May is their fall season) we found our rental car and took a few spins around the parking lot. There is nothing like the sensation of driving in the right side of a car on the wrong side of the road – all at the same time. Yikes! I must say however that New Zealand's road signs and easy round-abouts make up for the unnatural sensation of driving “right” – thank goodness! We found it very easy to navigate and, in no time, we felt comfortable getting around in our zippy little Hyundai Getz.
As dawn approached, first with a soft grey light illuminating a sky full of cumulus clouds and then tinted so beautifully with sunrise, we found ourselves in the green rolling countryside of New Zealand. For hours we drove along country roads cutting through hillsides dotted with sleepy cattle and soggy sheep as a gentle rain came and went. Full arching rainbows and streaming beams of light proffering a religious experience as we drove toward our destination – Rotoma.
Our first stop was for our very first down-under coffee experience in a town whose name I can’t remember but I will always remember the town. It’s those ‘first times’ that do the trick. The only two shops open that early in the morning was the bakery and butcher next door. We opted for the bakery since they were the one’s serving coffee. And what a coffee! Compared with our normal brew at home in the states – standard brew and filtered - our coffee never tasted as good as it did this first day in New Zealand. (And it turns out we should have visited the butcher; he had some of the best lamb prices, though we didn’t know it yet). There was a lovely nursery across the street I would have enjoyed browsing but we were on a mission to arrive at our destination and they were still closed.
This is also where we discovered a big 'boo-boo' that the car rental company failed to tell us. I photographed a golf ball sized dent on the front fender that was not noticeable in the dark when we retrieved our car. Bad, bad car company. We would soon find out how bad they were. Stay tuned...