Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 2 - Taupo to Whitianga

The day dawns early but I laze in bed trying to get over the tiredness from yesterday’s drive. Finally after much pushing my reluctant body around, I check out of the hostel at around 10AM and head north. My next stop Whitianga is around 350km away and is at the northern tip of what is called the Coromandel Peninsula.

After I leave Taupo I glance at the fuel meter and find that the tank is low in petrol. Gosh, goshhhhhhh!!! But I keep going ahead and just miss a petrol station, ie. I see one too late and it’s hard to turn around on a 100K motorway. Anyway, a little distance away, I turn right into a road that says ‘Geothermal Station’. The whole area around Taupo and especially Rotorua has a lot of geothermal activity. The earth’s crust must be lighter over here because this area abounds in boiling mud pools, natural geysers and gaseous smoke that comes from deep under smelling heavily of sulphur.

I turn around and try to go back to the petrol station but the traffic is so heavy from both directions that I get tired of waiting and go ahead instead. Wrong decision!!! Because shortly the road enters a reserve forest. Tall pines tower on both sides of the road and the air is filled with the fragrance of freshly washed pine. After I’ve gone some 50 km, with no sign of a petrol pump I stop to take stock and consult the map. Which is a good thing, because I discover much to my chargin that I’ve taken the wrong route :((( So many litres of petrol wasted, each drop of which now seems precious to me. So I turn around this time and back track, getting more tense by the minute. What if I run out of petrol in the middle of that forest, with cars just whizzing by in high speed? To be honest I am more nervous with the thought of being stranded with an empty petrol tank than when I jumped from 15000 feet yesterday :) I’m feeling lost and confused. This happens with life too. Sometimes we lose track of where we are headed and lose our bearings, floundering in confusion. Then we have to refer to the grand map, take a global view of things and get back on track.

Finally, since I’m now hungry also, I spot a place called ‘Lava Glass and Cafe’ and turn into it, for a bite and a cuppa to soothe my nerves. The counter lady informs me that Taupo is only 15 mins away, so now I can sit back and relax and enjoy my cuppa :)

So, over a piece of carrot cake, I browse the ‘Vogue’ magazine. There is an article in it which talks about the Lost Boys, or men in Western countries (and increasingly women also) who refuse to grow up and take responsibilities. Their activities are geared to make them believe that they live in the world of eternal youth. It has been men’s best kept secret and women’s worst fear come true. Hmmmmm... I know a few like that :)))

My mind tells me that I should be moving on, and getting to where I’m destined, but I counter that with the thought that each moment is to be savoured for itself, the destination can wait, but the moment cannot. Or should not. Live it to the full, a little voice tells me. The little joys are just as important as the major ones :))) So true, like finding a petrol station at last :))) I fill up and and this time find the correct route and I’m off again, carefree and singing to the music. :)))

Taking the wrong route was really such a stupid thing to do because I have a GPS in the car which I’d borrowed from a colleague just for this trip. So now I sheepishly take it out of the box and feed the destination into it :)) When it asks me if I have to reach by a particular time, I firmly press ‘NO’ :)) Time can wait. I’m living in the eternal now, am I not? From then on, I obediently follow the lady’s instructions, turning right and left when she say so :))) If I miss a turn, she firmly tells me to “turn around” :)) Little does she know that some people do not learn from mistakes, hehehe...

However, since I had chosen the shortest route, the GPS takes me through some backroads. Which is a good thing really because mostly mine is the only car on the road, so there is no car following trying to overtake and no car in front which I have to follow. This is farm country and there are corn and other crops growing in the fields. In some places the hills are dark with pine and the countryside stretches undulating on both sides. I pass little villages with quaint houses some looking like colonial bungalows with terraces and creepers trailing on the verandahs. Also, because the traffic is sparse, little birds sit and peck among the dust on the roads and when the car approaches they take off in a flutter. Some birds have a little white patch under their wings, so when they fly off, they glide and flutter, glide and flutter, doing a very pretty dance. I’m enjoying the side-shows immensely :)))

Finally, I reach the Coromandel and discover I’ve still got 82km to go before I reach Whitianga. The road get winding, rising and falling with sharp curves and treacherous bends, but the mountainous landscape is beautiful. It makes me feel small, going through these hills where nature reigns supreme and man has only carved a road around them. And such wonderfully kept roads they are. Except for a few bumps in the backroads, the roads here run smooth and even. Driving on them as such is pleasant, it’s only the heat and negotiating the curves that makes one tired. When Whitianga comes into view, I’m much relieved.

The YHA hostel is situated on the beach :) Well, almost :) It’s across the road from the beach. The room I’ve got here is much more self contained than yesterday’s. Four of us share a kitchen and bathroom and the other family are a mother and son with whom I’ve a nodding acquaintance. After a little rest, I set out for the beach and sit for a while watching the waves and the ferry boats sailing across the harbour. It is most calm and people with hardly any people on the beach.

Then a bath later, I set about to find the only Indian restaurant in town. It’s called ‘Sangam’ to celebrate the mixing of Indian cuisine with a NZ venue, it says on the menu. After filling up my fuel tank with missi roti, palak paneer and mango lassi, I go for a wander around the esplanade. The moored sailing boats make a pretty picture against the background of a setting sun. Maybe I should go and sit on the beach in the night, if the moon is out it will be most lovely .......