The long, slow journey to Tauranga

After 10 nights at Botany Downs, it’s time to move on. The plan is to slowly meander down the east coast of New Zealand, and when we reach the bottom we turn around and come back up. And if we find something that suits us just right along the way down, we’ll plant ourselves there for an extended time, maybe even a month, and ‘just hang out’. We’ll make sure to see the area NORTH of Auckland at the end of our stay.

So, today it was time to pack up our stuff and move out of our apartment. We checked out at around 10 o’clock and since the drive to Tauranga was only supposed to take 2.5 hours, and checkin there might be only at 3pm, we decided to go for one more walk around the Botany area. We got back to the van after an hour and started off on our road trip. We thought we might stop at a park along the way, go for a little walk, eat the lunch that Sue had packed from the leftovers in the fridge, and end up at our B&B in Tauranga at just the right time.

The drive was good. Busy 4-lane for the first part, a bit of drizzling rain for some of the way. Then we turned off on the #2 highway, and wound our way over the small mountains before hitting the coast. About 1.5 hours into the drive we came to a roadside park near Mangatarata where we stopped for lunch. There was a golf course across the road from us, out in the middle of nowhere. It looked okay. We decided to see if we could squeeze in a quick round.

The lady at the office of the Hauraki Golf Club welcomed us. No problem! I was wearing a collarless t-shirt. No problem! Nine holes or eighteen? Pay for nine, if you want more, add ten bucks when you come around the turn. Help yourself to a ‘trundle’ (pull-cart) from our selection — no charge.

And off we were! There were golfers on most of the holes ahead of us, but they’d started in the morning and were finishing up the ‘back nine’. We golfed alone. No pressure. Not a great golf course, but for twenty bucks? and the rain held off. and we only lost a couple of balls and found replacements! and we played not-so-good but had a good time. and we got in some great exercise on the rolling hills.

After about 50 strokes, including some serious damage in a big bunker on Hole #9, we packed our clubs back into the van and continued across the mountains. We were just over the hills, passing through the small town of Katikati, about 30 minutes from our destination, when the traffic came to a standstill. Hmmm… Maybe one of those single-lane bridges ahead? Or a holiday check-stop? We crawled forward. Stopped again. After 20 minutes of this we started turning off the engine in between moving one car-length ahead. After about 45 minutes a couple of local folks came along and told us there was a big accident ahead, two people trapped in their vehicle, could take an hour, could take many hours. If we wanted to be sure to get to our destination, best to turn around, go back through the mountain pass and the long way around — a 2.5 hour detour! Now what? Do we want to do that? Or take our chances. By now we realized that the intermittent traffic in the oncoming lane was in fact cars that were tired of waiting up ahead and were turning back.

Near the scene of a major car accident on the road to Tauranga.

Slowly we crawled ahead — one car-length, 5 minutes stopped, another car-length, another wait. But we WERE moving. And after at least an hour and a half of waiting, we finally crawled past a terrible accident scene. Pieces of car on both sides of the road. Emergency and police vehicles cleaning up the site. But we were through. Our B&B hosts had emailed us while we were waiting, wondering about our arrival time, and we’d let them know our situation. It was about 5:30, after passing 10kms of stalled bumper-to-bumper cars waiting to get through the roadblock on the OTHER side of the accident, we arrived in the Tauranga suburb of Bethlehem, and pulled into the driveway of our B&B home.

Tony and Marigold welcomed us into their beautiful home. We had a little happy hour on the outdoor patio and showered and changed. Then we walked about a mile back into the town centre for dinner. We ate at a lovely restaurant (The Orchard) and walked back to our place in the twilight, about 9:30. Exhausted (more sun and wind showing on our faces from golfing today), we soon went to bed.