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To Make Lemonade


I woke up right at 8:00 the next morning to call the folks at Escape rentals to get the van in for servicing. After a few rings, I got through to the manager and explained what was going on. He was very understanding, and said that not only would they cover the current repair, but the cost of getting started in Wellington, since it sounded like that was caused by the same mechanical failure. He directed me to call the New Zealand roadside assistance number and let them know that I needed to get a mechanic. The roadside assistance folks were similarly efficient, and in no time I had the number of a mechanic in New Plymouth that could fix the van. I called the mechanics and let them know we’d be in later that morning.

I was quite pleased with this turn of events, and Dore and I happily headed out to breakfast. Berta continued her trend of amazing service by offering to cook us a hot breakfast with eggs and bacon, then simply refusing to take no for an answer. I had to accept to avoid seeming rude. Really, I did.

After breakfast (which was wonderful) Dore and I got cleaned up, then headed down to the van to take it in. As before, it wasn’t starting, so I had Dore turn the key as I banged on the starter motor with the tire iron. Lo and behold, it worked, and we were started in no time. I’m definitely going to remember that trick!

We drove in to New Plymouth, which was about thirty minutes away, and found the shop without much trouble. They told us that it would not be ready until later that afternoon, but we were already planning on spending the day walking around New Plymouth, so that didn’t hurt our plans at all. We grabbed everything we’d need for the day, and headed out. Fortunately for us, the shop was only a few blocks from the town center, so we didn’t have far to walk at all.

Our first stop was the i-Site info center for a bathroom break and to find out about what to do in town. As usual, the folks at the info center were really helpful, and gave us maps, brochures, and more things to do than we would ever have time for. As we headed out, we took stock of our options, and decided to head toward Pukekura Park, which is an absolutely gorgeous (and huge) park in the middle of town. My mom had actually told me about the park before I left as the one “must do” thing that she remembered from her time there.

The park was definitely not a disappointment. In fact, in a country seemingly chock full of amazing parks, it was pretty much the coolest one we had seen. As we entered the park, we walked past a perfectly manicured cricket green with cool grassy, terraced stadium seating. Then we found one of the two lakes inside the park, followed shortly by a view over the main lake toward Mt. Taranaki that had the mountain perfectly framed. I’m usually not a huge fan of taking the same postcard picture that everyone else has, but darn it if this wasn’t impossible not to stop and take a few shots.

Next, we headed in to the fernery through a tunnel in the mountainside. Inside we found a huge variety of ferns and flowers in all shapes and sizes. It was amazingly calm and relaxing, and we were loath to leave. But we wanted to see what else this awesome park had to offer.

Outside again, we cruised along the main lake, checking out a couple of beautiful old red-painted wooden bridges along the way. Eventually we came to the amphitheater, which sits in a smaller section of water opposite a large, semicircular grassy bowl. I could just imagine sitting on the grass and listening to a concert on a warm summer’s evening.

Finally to the end of the park (or at least as far as we were planning on going), we headed up the hill to see the final attraction we’d been aiming for: the Brookland’s Zoo. Inside we were delighted to see a whole herd of raucous capuchin monkeys, a pair of lazy lemurs, a pack of pacing alpaca, a brace of fuzzy chickens (seriously… their feathers were fuzzy), and a number of other fun animals. It was actually considerably cooler than either of us had expected. And the best part? It was all free! Hooray!

Finally spent on looking at animals, and getting ravenously hungry, we headed back to the town center as quickly as possible and found a Japanese restaurant that we’d been recommended. We popped in and got a few small things, but unfortunately the restaurant only had a la carte rolls (and not particularly good ones) and miso soup. We had been hoping for more of a full menu and made-to-order food, so we ended up just having a few things as a light snack and moving on.

We ended up going to the mall that was next to the info center, where we got some coffee and tea and rested a bit from our long walk. Dore was suffering from another round of her cold, and was feeling pretty run down. After a bit we decided to head toward the city library and relax while we waited for the mechanics to call about the van.

We found that the library was attached to the info center. It’s really an awesome building, housing the i-Site center, a cafe, a free museum, and the library. We scoped out some free chairs, and plopped down happily. I pulled out the computer, and found that we had free wireless Internet access. Hooray! We played around for a while, checking our email and various other sites.

Not long after we sat down, however, the shop called with some bad news: they had the van all apart, but weren’t going to be able to get the new part they needed until the next morning. We were going to be stranded! I asked if they had a loaner car or an agreement with a rental agency, but no dice. I hung up and let Dore know the bad news.

“What are we going to do?” she asked, not looking happy at all.

“Don’t worry, I can take care of this.”

I called the folks at Escape again and explained the situation. They were very understanding, and told me that they’d reimburse us for a taxi or rental car (our choice) until the van was fixed. Not only that, but they were going to refund some of the cost of the van rental because of the inconvenience! This is incredible. Every time I think I’ve found the limit of Kiwi hospitality, they do me one better. Did I mention I’m in love with this country?

Given that we were thirty minutes outside of town, it was pretty clear that a rental car would be the best thing to do, so I started looking on the Internet for an agency. That is, until Dore chimed in with a fantastic idea.

“Doesn’t the info center do bookings?”

Why yes, they do! We packed up, headed over, and within about ten minutes had not only a rental car booking (at a very reasonable price), but the rental car folks were going to bring the car right to us! Incredible. We thanked the lady that helped us with the booking, then headed over to the cafe to wait for the car.

They arrived about twenty minutes later. We went over the customary paperwork, and in no time we were on the road, headed back to the B&B. By the time we got there, Dore was completely exhausted, and feeling pretty down. We got her some tea and tucked her in to bed, then I called an Indian food restaurant in town to get a takeaway meal. I went in and picked up the food, and was back about forty-five minutes later. Dore had gotten some nice rest, and the spicy food helped get some life back into her.

After dinner, we chatted with the family from Perth some more, then finally headed off to bed.

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  1. Mom
    April 11th, 2010 at 15:45 | #1

    I WANT TO BE THERE!!! Your writings are sooooo interesting. It’s as if I am reading a book. It sounds like you guys are having the time of your lives. Love you both, stay well and keep up the fantastic blogs !

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