Okay, so first I’m going to tell you that Jack and I misunderstood how far up the North Island of New Zealand Russell actually is.
Earlier this month we watched a documentary about Russell, a town that was once known as the Hellhole of the Pacific - town of sexual debauchery, orgies on the beach and brothels. What can I say? That pretty much sold it to us and we decided to head up for a couple of days last week. It wasn’t until the night before that we discovered that to drive there we would have to take the harbour bridge past Auckland, pay a toll road and a cross over on a vehicle ferry, but we were pretty committed to doing it by then so to hell with it, we said and drove up there anyway.
The early morning drive out of Taranaki saw us arcing on winding roads up over hills with the sun in our eyes and then down into fog shrouded valleys. It took us a good eight hours to get to Russell, but now I understand how confusing it must be for foreigners to drive on our roads. After driving out of Auckland on a six lane super highway you would find that over the space of an hour it dwindles down to a curvy one lane road that seemingly heads into nowhere at all. Don’t worry, you are still on a highway, but don’t forget to brake, accelerate, brake, accelerate, for all those tight corners and roaming sheep.
Before Russell was known as the Hellhole, it was Kororareka (Sweet Penguin), a much more fitting name for this pretty little town of 800 people. I found it astonishing to see the affluent side of NZ, one of yachts and holiday homes after growing up in a farming region. We ate battered fish and kumara chips on the beach and just enjoyed the warm, calm evening.