December 20, 2013
Christmas was rapidly approaching and we still had some unfinished Christmas shopping to do. Our friends on s/v Elcie were in the same boat. Thanks to s/v State of Mind, I had a car available to me, so I made plans to drive to Whangarei for a day of gift buying. Richard on Elcie joined me.
Prior to this day trip, I had driven on New Zealand roads exactly one time. Driving on the left side of the road was still quite foreign to me. I was even more nervous about driving with someone else in the car, especially a non-family member. Apparently, Richard was also just as nervous about my driving. Before getting into the car with me, he had secretly asked Wil about my driving ability.
Luckily, the drive to Whangarei was uneventful. During the hour drive, I became more comfortable with driving on the left, as well as more familiar with the meaning of the various road markings and signs. Unless Richard was hiding it well, he eventually seemed to relax in the passenger seat.
Once in Whangarei, Richard, who was somewhat familiar with the area, directed me to a convenient parking spot along one of the main downtown roads. We parked and immediately set out for some shopping.
As the day progressed, the number of purchased items increased. It was becoming a successful day. We took time out from shopping to pause for coffee, as well as a delicious sushi lunch. We also bumped into other cruisers who were out and about as well.
The afternoon wore on, and it was time to think about returning to Opua. Neither Richard nor I could remember the exact hours on the parking sign where we’d parked. In my mind, I figured it didn’t matter if we were just a little bit late getting back to the car. However, we were both in for a big surprise. The car was GONE!
We literally stood there looking at the empty parking space in disbelief. I had a huge sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Not only was the car gone, but it wasn’t even my car!
How were we going to find it? There was absolutely no indication for who we could call or where we could go. At a loss for what to do, we just started walking in the direction of the town basin.
It didn’t take long before we happened upon a police officer who was directing traffic. We explained our situation to the officer, and he immediately knew where to send us. Apparently, this was a common occurrence.
The police officer proceeded to give us directions to the location of most towed vehicles. I had to listen extra hard to understand any part of what he was saying. He had a thick Kiwi accent, plus I didn’t recognize the sounds for how most street names were pronounced. I had to stop myself from laughing when the only street name I understood was Kaka Street. The business we needed was located on Kaka Street near the Mitre 10.
Richard and I thanked the officer for his help, and we began walking in the direction we’d been directed. Thank goodness Richard knew the area better than I, and he was familiar with Mitre 10, a local hardware store similar to Home Depot or Lowe’s. As we walked, we texted our significant others to let them know we would be running late because we were in search of the car. We could only imagine the looks on their faces when they received the news!
Once we reached Kaka Street, it didn’t take us long to find the car. Before entering the building, we made plans for how to talk our way out of paying the ticket. Unfortunately, there was no such opportunity. Apparently, the towing company deposits the towed vehicles onto the lot with a city ticket under the windshield wiper. We were free to take the car, and we would be responsible for paying the $113 ticket to the city council, either in person during business hours or by an online payment. It was already after business hours, so our only choice was to go online.
By the time we sat down in the car, I think we were both feeling a wide range of emotions. After already having spent quite a lot on Christmas presents that day, my heart ached at the thought of having to spend additional money on a parking ticket. Fortunately, Richard agreed to split the cost of the ticket, but it still hurt.
Exhausted, our ride back to Opua was a quiet one. After we were collected by our spouses, we ended up on Elcie for a couple of stiff drinks, dinner, and a recap of the day.
Definition and explanation of a Clearway Sign.