Coun­try diary:

on the road well trav­elled

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

When most peo­ple find out that the drive north to our place in the coun­try takes about four hours, they are hor­ri­fied. City peo­ple who spend a lot of time in cars get­ting from A to B by ne­ces­sity view un­nec­es­sary time in cars as some­thing to be avoided at all cost, es­pe­cially in four-hour in­cre­ments.

But, for me, four hours is a very small price to pay when you know that wait­ing for you at the end of it is your haven. Once I open the gate and steer the car down the drive­way, all ten­sion is gone and life is good.

But that four hours has not come with­out its chal­lenges, usu­ally in the form of traf­fic jams.

Re­cently we made a spur-of-the-mo­ment de­ci­sion to head north on a Fri­day night. We had spent much more time in Auck­land than we had bud­geted for in our 2017 cal­en­dar, mainly be­cause I had taken on a new job on the ra­dio.

“If I don’t get some time up north soon I am going to se­ri­ously lose the will to live,” I told my hus­band Paul on that fate­ful Fri­day morn­ing.

“If I don’t get some time up north soon I am going to se­ri­ously lose the will to live,” I told my boss later on that fate­ful Fri­day morn­ing.

And so, at four in the af­ter­noon, thanks to the machi­na­tions of these two im­por­tant peo­ple, I found my­self propped up in the pas­sen­ger seat of the car while my hus­band drove north.

As usual be­fore set­ting off, we had the stan­dard dis­cus­sion about which route to take. I pre­fer head­ing out west through He­lensville to avoid traf­fic on the Auck­land Har­bour Bridge and the ridicu­lous Puhoi tun­nel, which was built to make it faster to get north but is a very sen­si­tive soul prone to com­plete shut­down of its sin­gle lane north the minute there is anything re­sem­bling a break­down. Paul prefers State High­way 1, Puhoi tun­nel in­cluded, so that is the way we went – for about half an hour, un­til ev­ery­thing came to a stand­still. We had barely left the North Shore of Auck­land and we were going nowhere.

For­tu­nately, I had packed some sup­plies, which in­cluded a nicely chilled bot­tle of wine. As I wasn’t driv­ing, I saw no im­ped­i­ment to me get­ting out of the car in the mid­dle of a mo­tor­way cov­ered in mo­tion­less cars to re­trieve it from the boot, open the bot­tle and, fail­ing in my ef­forts to find a cup or a glass, take del­i­cate sips from it now and then.

Paul, mean­while, fumed. The words “bloody” and “traf­fic” and “Auck­land” may have left his lips un­til I did my calm­ing mantra of “we can’t do anything about it so we might as well en­joy it”. Which worked for me af­ter a few more sips, but not so much for him.

As we spent the next two hours in a queue not mov­ing any­where I watched the kids in the car in front of us per­form a sit­ting song-and­dance rou­tine for their very amused fa­ther. To the right of us, a man got out of his car and stood on the side of the road calmly puff­ing a cigar. And one man sim­ply got out of the car be­hind us and started walk­ing. Per­haps he was going to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the hold-up or maybe he just wasn’t good at sit­ting still.

For­tu­nately, I re­mem­bered I had down­loaded the new pod­cast Black Hands, about the Bain fam­ily mur­ders, so set that up and we both sat back to have a lis­ten and try not to think about how late we would be get­ting to the Hokianga.

Even­tu­ally things started to move and we crawled through the tun­nel, do­ing our best to see what had caused the hold-up and find­ing noth­ing – but we did see the walk­ing man, who had cov­ered a good few kilo­me­tres since leav­ing his car.

That trip took six hours, much of it in the dark, but we were on a fa­mil­iar route, the pod­cast pro­vided good en­ter­tain­ment and when we finally ar­rived it was well worth it just to be home.

Now, af­ter nearly four years of fre­quently driv­ing north, and two sets of new tyres, we no longer just jump in the car and go. In­stead, we check the traf­fic app for con­di­tions on both our pre­ferred routes, then have a sen­si­ble chat about which way to go, which doesn’t in­volve me re­fer­ring to “that Fri­day night we got stuck for two hours”. We try not to set an ar­rival time that plays over and over in our heads as we bat­tle traf­fic and, most im­por­tantly, I now pack a chiller with wine, cheese and crack­ers. That way at least one of us has a nice Fri­day night on the road.

“We had barely left the North Shore of Auck­land and we were going nowhere. ”

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