Castlepoint, New Zealand – February 18, 2017
I was up early because I was excited. I had a ticket for Wings Over Wairarapa, an annual air show held in Masterton, New Zealand.
By about 06:30, I was in my car, on my way to Macca’s (McDonald’s) for a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee. The weather was unusually dicey. It was cloudy and lightly raining. Regardless; I thought the weather might clear up once I got on the other side of Rimutaka Range. After finishing my brekkie, I got back in the car and headed north on Highway 2.
Crossing the Rimutaka Range, descending to Featherston saw no letup in the clouds or rain. So much for wishful thinking. I continued toward Masterton.
Approaching Masterton, I began to see electronic signs providing directions. The signs designated the preferred lane for use by those driving to the airshow. I followed the instructions. Shortly, near what appeared to be the entrance to the Hood Aerodrome, I ended up in a queue of about six cars. Each car stopped, and the occupants talked at length with the lone man directing traffic. When I arrived at the traffic director, he told me the promoter canceled the airshow for that day. That was so disappointing. I did wonder why none of the electronic signs displayed the closure information.
I turned around. As soon as I found a safe spot, I stopped and assessed what to do next. I remembered recently reading an article in the newspaper about the small town of Castlepoint. I realized I was only about an hour away from the town. I dialed in TomTom and headed east. Like so many other drives in New Zealand, the scenery was spectacular. However, clouds and rain dogged me all the way.
At Castlepoint, I stopped at a parking area overlooking the bay and lighthouse. The rain was heavy. Regardless, I snapped a few photographs. From there, I drove to the trailhead parking area for the Castlepoint Scenic Reserve. I could see the lighthouse; but, because of the weather, I opted to not walk out to the lighthouse.
I did see several boats on trailers on the sandbar. They launch the boats by tractors or other similar machinery that allows the boat to back into the water. The weather was disappointing, but I vowed to return with Leslie to spend a weekend at Castlepoint.
My next plan of attack was driving back to Featherston, having a wood-fired pizza at my favorite restaurant, drive back over the Rimutaka Range, and go home. I set TomTom for home.
Before I departed Castlepoint, I stopped at the Castlepoint Store. I wanted a bottle of water and a snack for the drive. Walking inside, I saw several of the reach-in freezers assembled in the center of the store. The woman that owned the store began to apologize for the inconvenience. She told me the store flooded the night before because of all the rain. That surprised me.
I drove back to Masterton, fully expecting to turn left, heading south on Highway 2. However, TomTom kept trying to get me to turn toward the north. I found a place to pull off the road and took a closer look at TomTom. From Masterton to our home is about 83 kilometers (51 miles). Under normal conditions, the drive is about 1:20. That day, TomTom continued to show my trip’s distance was 232 kilometers (144 miles), with an estimated travel time of nearly 3:30. The plotted route would have taken me to Palmerston North, over to the west side of the North Island, and then south to home. I tried resetting the device several times. Regardless of my attempts, the results were the same.
I decided I knew how to get home. After all, I simply had to head south on Highway 2. As I got to the outskirts of Featherston, I could almost taste the pizza. The road curved to the right. When I rounded the curve, I immediately found myself in an endless line of vehicles. As quickly as I could, I made a U-turn and parked. I grabbed my phone, so I could get on the internet to try to find out what was going on. Suddenly, I understood why TomTom wanted me to go the other way. Officials closed Highway 2 because of an accident and diesel spill on Rimutaka Hill.
There was no reasonable way to get to my pizza restaurant. Even if I could have gotten to the restaurant, I am sure it would have been a mob scene. My hunger demanded satisfaction. I remembered hearing about a place to eat at Lake Ferry. It was only about 35 minutes away. I apologized to TomTom for doubting and set my new destination. Until this trip, I had no idea TomTom was “tuned in” to local traffic conditions.
It was no longer raining, but the cloud cover persisted. I arrived at Lake Ferry and parked in front of the only business; the Lake Ferry Hotel. I went into the café and found it was surprisingly full. I ordered the seafood chowder and a beer. It was so hot inside; I opted to sit at a table on the covered terrace. Before coming to New Zealand, I was not a fan of chowder. But here, they are amazing.
I ate my lunch looking out onto Lake Onoke. Feeding the lake is the Ruamahanga River. The river and the lake drain directly into Palliser Bay. Because of this draining and the tidal action, the area is hazardous for swimming. A sign not too far from the hotel warns one of the dangers.
After lunch, I drove a little way out onto the beach. From where I parked, I walked to the edge of the beach, which was a small cliff of about eight or ten feet. I was there as the tide was going out. The water was angry. It was easy to see why there are so many warnings about swimming in the area.
When I got back in the car, I checked TomTom. I could see the route home was now direct. That meant the road over the Rimutaka Range had opened again.
When I got home that afternoon, I was tired. Without really trying, I had driven about 385 kilometers (239 miles). No wonder I was exhausted.