OPINION: Having returned from a recent holiday up north I can confirm I am a committed Mainlander.
We went for our first ever entire family holiday which included a leg on an airplane.
With a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old in tow we thought that was going to be the difficult bit but, in fact, the flight to and from Auckland went like a dream. The seats were good, all of our luggage made it to the appropriate destination, the staff were great and, amazingly, the kids behaved.
The drama started when we went to collect the rental.
Firstly the lady checked our booking and, without talking to us, got on a radio to try to organise the children's seats and there was clearly a problem as they did not have enough. They resolved the issue by going to another company who agreed to lend them the required seats.
Then she told us we could not have the car we had booked. I was already a bit annoyed about the seats drama so now I was starting to be more than annoyed. I had rung up a couple of days before the travel to reconfirm the booking we had made several months earlier just to be sure there was no chance of a muck-up. The problem is that you can't fit the three kids, all with car seats, in a normal sedan back seat so we definitely needed something bigger.
Well, apparently people just weren't dropping the cars back at the appointed time and she was now waiting for four of these bigger vehicles to be dropped off for waiting customers. They offered us an alternative that we initially rejected but it soon became apparent there weren't any other choices at all so we eventually had to agree. It wasn't that much of a compromise but it was very annoying all the same.
So we packed our alternative vehicle and headed off on the three-hour journey to Opononi.
More than an hour later we found the Auckland Harbour Bridge. I know this should have been easy to find and if I hadn't decided to use iMaps then I could have got there in about twenty minutes simply by following my nose but we thought we had better take the "proper" route, somehow ending up way past Waitakere, finding our way back to downtown Auckland and then getting lost in the spaghetti of motorway on and off ramps near the top of Queen St with the kids screaming at us to stop fighting.
But it was all good now. We were on the Northern Motorway crossing the harbour and heading off to Northland.
We had decided to take the new Northern Gateway motorway and pay the few dollars online and we silly South Islanders thought this would mean we would avoid the traffic congestion we hear about on television as Aucklanders head off on their northern holidays.
We entered the Northern Gateway Motorway, drove for a few kilometres and then I saw a sign telling us we were leaving the Northern Gateway Motorway. We drove through a tunnel then stopped. I looked ahead and I felt sick. There was a line of traffic 12km long in front of us and it wasn't moving.
This is because there are traffic lights and merging traffic at Warkworth, and once you get through that the same thing happens again at Wellsford.
Everyone else in New Zealand probably already knew this but I didn't and it causes the most frustrating and slow-moving traffic congestion I have ever had the misfortune to experience.
I am not very good when it comes to traffic and I have been known to curse because of a two- minute wait at the traffic lights on Portsmouth Dr but on this occasion I found myself to be quiet and calm. I could do nothing, I accepted that this situation was beyond my control so I simply handed over to a higher power and found serenity. For a couple of hours anyway.
Once we escaped the Warkworth-Wellsford world of pain it was pretty plain sailing through to Whangarei and, after about eight hours on the road, we arrived at Opononi and the warm waters of the Hokianga Harbour.
At the end of the week we left early for a couple of nights in Auckland. We had a few more interesting experiences including a filthy, broken pool at the motel, human poo in a restaurant playground, and a day at the zoo. We were up early in the morning for our zoo visit and we arrived only ten minutes after opening time to find another huge traffic queue and a full car park sign.
The zoo was fantastic, Opononi was lovely but I struggled with the mass of people in and around Auckland. So unless I really have to, I am not moving away from my slow-moving South Island home.
- © Fairfax NZ News