Sunday, April 14, 1996
Woke Up: Wellington, New Zealand
Went to Sleep: Napier, New Zealand
To commemorate our wedding twenty-one years ago, and subsequent month-long honeymoon trip to New Zealand and Fiji, here is a day-by-day account of our travels. To travel with us from the beginning, start with Tuesday, April 2nd.We begin our day with a long search for coffee in the weekend desert that is Wellington. We succeed eventually. Then we hike over to the rental car office (“Thank you very much. Yes, we’re very happy.”) to pick up our north island vehicle. Alas, it’s no purple Ford – and not a vintage Mini Cooper either. It’s a boring white something-or-other. Well, we’ll be inconspicuous. Back to the hotel to pick up our things, and we’re off on the road to Napier.
The photographic record from today is all pictures on the drive. We took the rest of the day to make a four-hour trip. We resurrect the Standard Picnic in Palmerston North (not to be confused with Palmerston on the south island). It’s been a while, so we have to re-stock our supplies from scratch. Farm stand, grocery store, and on into the town center. Yup, there are plenty of places for a picnic in The Square. It’s here in Palmerston North that we begin to learn how seriously New Zealanders take their downtown public toilets. The one here is a masterpiece.
We climb back in the car after our late lunch, and we can’t get out of town! We keep trying different roads, and they loop us back into Palmerston North. Aieee! We’re both pretty savvy old-school mapsters, but we can’t get out of here. Finally, success. We find a road labeled Napier Road (Highway 3). That will get us there.
Napier Road switches back at Ashhurst (say that three times fast) and starts to climb the mountains. Up and down, we switch back again and begin to head north. We make it as far as Hastings for dinner. We’ve been thinking about what time it is back home in Madison, and we figure if we’re doing our math right, we are eighteen hours ahead. (No Internet to check our work.) We decide to test our equation.
Our dear friend Ed Monahan is the Saturday overnight DJ for WMMM in Madison. We figure if we call him at 9pm our time from Hastings, that’ll be 3am for him and he’ll be on the air. Over dinner, we get out our long distance calling card and figure out how to get a call from a pay phone in New Zealand to be billed to our home phone in Madison.
Lucky for us, we make a lot of requests when Ed’s on the air, so we know the number by heart. In the days before cell phones and Internet, long-distance calling was quaint and expensive. We figure it’s worth it just to make sure Ed’s awake back there in Wisconsin. All we have to do is type about 75 numbers on the phone keypad, and… it’s ringing.
The last time I made an international phone call was about 1984. Back then, the person on the other end of the line sounded like they were being broadcast over an AM radio stuffed into a toilet paper tube. Well, things are different now. Ed answers, “One oh five five triple M.” He sounds like he’s next door. I say hi it’s Dale, and I’m calling from Hastings, New Zealand, and I have a request. It takes a couple seconds for this to get through Ed’s pre-dawn skull. Finally he sputters, “Really? You’re calling from New Zealand? Hey, send me some #$*@&%-ing postcards!” We laugh some more and Ed says, “Hey, did I just bounce the f-word off a satellite?” Yes you did, Ed.
Before I forget in all the giddiness, I make my request for “One Step Ahead,” by Split Enz, a New Zealand band. Ed says later he played it right away. I’ll take his word for it.
We learn from Ed that our math was wrong! The United States went to daylight saving time while we’ve been here, so it’s actually 4am in Madison, not 3am. So close!
Just for fun, we have another technology experience. We use an ATM in Hastings. It’s the weekend and we can’t cash traveler’s checks anywhere. (This will be the last time we take traveler’s checks on a trip, ever.) What a strange experience to put my Madison bank ATM card in a machine in New Zealand and get money out of my account. And it’s brightly-colored New Zealand money! Brain twisting. We’re bouncing obscenities and bank transactions off satellites without an inkling of the connected world to come.
Finally into Napier and our accommodations at the Pinehaven Travel Hotel. (“Thank you very much. Yes, we’re very happy.”) This is about as late as we’ve arrived anywhere. That happens when we take eleven hours to make a four-hour trip.
At the End of the Day: The Pinehaven Travel Hotel
After 21 Years:
The Pinehaven Travel Hotel may or may not be called the Whangaimoana Luxury Accommodation now. Palmerston North still has a most excellent public toilet. I have no idea if the town continues to trap tourists indefinitely with poor road signage. The hills are still covered with sheep.
Tomorrow: Earthquakes & Art Deco in Napier