Read Part Two here.
Last month motoring writer Donn Anderson and I drove two small cars from Auckland to Bluff and return. In a nation of big car lovers, these were tiddlers — new Suzuki Altos with three cylinder engines of 990cc. I thought we could do the trip in four days — two days each way — but Donn, who was the mastermind, allowed six days. Even so, there were people who plainly thought we were mad travelling such a distance in six days and then there were my “mates” who scoffed because I was in a car so small that it was under their particular radar.
We had a car each — one with an automatic transmission, the other with a manual gearbox and we took turns at driving each of them. One was pink, the other blue.
The purpose of that particular exercise was to see what sort of fuel consumption figures were obtainable. I confess that Donn is a master at this sort of thing and on one leg he got better than 70 miles to the old Imperial gallon out of the manual gearbox car.
Now, there is this popular misconception that small cars are merely town run-abouts. Home to the supermarket and back, that sort of thing.
But I’ve long held the opinion that that is nonsense.
It all goes back to 1986 when I owned two Rover V8 engined cars and I went to Europe where I rented a 990cc Ford Fiesta. In six weeks I covered 14,000kms in that car, that included a drive around the UK, trips across Germany and France and even as far south as Zadar on the Dalmation Coast. I was never out of it. That holiday convinced me that we have blinkers on with our love affair with big cars.
The Auckland to Bluff run wasn’t down SH1 all the way — and there were plenty of stops for sight-seeing, including calling and see my old mates, the baby seal pups in their fresh water swimming pool, under the magic waterfall at Ohau Point on the Kaikoura Coast. If you have never seen them, you must.
We even had time to come back via inland Southland, Wanaka and the Lindis Pass. Brilliant trip, beaut weather all the way.
Despite the misgivings of my V8 powered mates, I enjoyed the experience so much, later this week I am using the blue Suzuki Alto for a road trip that will take me deep into New Zealand Heartland. I am leaving Auckland for a “lap of the North Island” — and I won’t be using main roads all the way, but following my nose and my instincts as I do on these trips, to see what I can see.
Although the route is not finalised, my days will be. I’ll be on the road from 7.00am to 7.00pm — as much as I can. Not every town has a motel.
I plan to go clockwise — out of Auckland, up through Helensville, then on to Dargaville, up to Kaitaia. I may, or may not make the trip to Cape Reinga, but I will certainly do the Coromandel, East Cape, the Wairarapa all the way to Ngawi, into Wellington , back up the West Coast and around Taranaki before the last run home. But even that will be tiki-touring — from Awakino I plan to go up through Waikawau, visit the beach where there is access via a stock tunnel and on to Waitomo.
I have no idea of where I will be staying, how far I will cover, or how long I will be on the road. I will guess at the last two — 4,500km and seven days.
I will let you know.
Maybe you will see me, maybe you won’t. If you do, toot, or stop me and say hello. I’m in the little blue Suzuki Alto.
Encouraged by his trip to Bluff and back, Allan Dick is taking this same Suzuki Alton on a lap of the South Island. Here the car is seen on the return leg from Bluff at the Cardrona Hotel in Central Otago.