Our Kiwi rental car was a nine year-old Nissan Sunny with a quarter of a tank of petrol, creaking suspension and a knackered drivers’ side door lock that could only be undone from the inside.
At Karekare we had miles of black sand and ocean almost all to ourselves. That’s the thing about New Zealand: we were very nearly as far from London as it’s possible to be without getting closer again. Not many people come here and the crowds are easy to lose.
After Australia, driving in New Zealand was a real pleasure. Not only is the weather better suited to being encapsulated in a plastic and aluminium and glass capsule for a few hours, but the roads and views are rarely less than breathtaking. Think of the best scenery you’ve ever seen (this doesn’t work if you’ve been to New Zealand already, mind). Now make the hills higher and the valleys deeper. Make the grass greener and, every now and then, pop a tractor or two on a distant hill. Populate the fields with a million sheep and, finally, roll a perfectly smooth road through the middle of it, winding its way through the countryside in sympathy with the hills. Add a few cars every ten miles and prepare to stop every time you crest a hill to take pictures. It’s a strange thing to drive somewhere where the view improves with every mile, but there you go.