Unprecedented rains and a road trip: if you can’t have a good time in bad weather, you need more pratice.


We got us some chocolate and such,

And the drive it seemed a bit much

     For the rain to endure

     On a short weekend tour

To visit a doc who is Dutch.   

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  I’m on assignment now  in Matakana, on the North Island of New Zealand, north of Auckland.

State Highway 1 crosses lush green plains and negotiates hills and escarpments with alarming curves.  I would have loved the drive at age twenty-two with a Porsche and assurance of immortality.  Some wisdom and game theory application  induced us to stop in Kerikeri, at a quality motel at a reasonable price and surprise free drink. 

Next morning we checked the local grower’s market.  We found familiar vegetables with unfamiliar names; courgettes, aubergines, and capsicums correspond to zucchini, eggplants, and bell peppers. 

An avocado grower offered small Hass for $.50, large for $1.00 and seconds for $2.00 a bag.  We looked at each other and remembered a road trip thirty years ago.  Newlyweds with our first child on the way, we bought a bag of defective avocados with tiny pits at a farm stand in south California.  One or two ripened a day as we toured Indian Health Service sites on our way back to Wyoming.  Remembering how we relished each one, I handed over a $2.00 coin.

 We talked to a Japanese orchardist with a passion for persimmons.  We had never tasted one, and had no idea how to eat them.  The Pakeha bloke selling cold-pressed olive oil at the next booth joined in the conversation; he recommended eating the skin, but the persimmon vendor disagreed.  In the end, we got two gratis, one soft and one firm.

Over breakfast in a café we read New Zealand newspapers.  I skipped international news and read about a fatally battered child, a lawyer caught driving drunk, an internationally recognized Kiwi woman caught with five kilograms of cocaine in her suitcase in Argentina, political maneuverings, and a woman who uses Facebook to lure fifteen-year-old boys.

Before we left town, we stopped in (another) chocolate factory and couldn’t find a meeting of Chocoholics Anonymous, so we bought chocolates.  It’s not like we have a problem or anything…

The shop next door sells items made out of kauri, the huge trees that dominated New Zealand till a hundred years ago.  The world prized the fine-grained, knot-free, honey-colored wood.  Most of the kauri trees, like most of America’s redwoods, have been logged.  Until the stands reach sustainable numbers, fossil kauri (some 30,000 years old) provide wood for small items.

As we left Kerikeri, the drizzle strengthened, and the gentle breeze freshened to a strong wind.

We arrived in Mangonui in a heavy rain to meet with a Dutch doctor who had been through orientation with me.  We met his wife, his father-in-law, and the couple’s two young children.

The northernmost district of New Zealand, Northland, got pounded this week by unprecedented rains, up to half a meter (about twenty inches) in an hour, damaging infrastructure and closing the road to the north tip of the island.  Power shut town for eight hours today.

An unprecendented storm pounded northernmost district of New Zealand, Northland, with 50 cm(twenty inches) of rain in an hour, damaging infrastructure and closing roads.  Power shut town for eight hours today.

Most houses rely on electric pumps and tanks of rainwater.  Few outlying towns have sewage or water treatment systems.  When power goes out, houses lose water.

Our hosts made tea and coffee, brewed with water heated on a barbecue.  We drank while we looked out over Doubtless Bay, talking about children, scabies, Netherlands, dolphins, impetigo, family, vacations, appendicitis, Maori, pig hunting, tobacco, and alcoholism.

We talked about how great it is to work in the laid-back Kiwi culture, with a reasonable pace and a well-integrated cross-cultural experience.

We had a late lunch in Whangarei, a town large enough to host a teaching hospital.  The steady rain strengthened to a storm as we left town.   For the next three hours, rain fell in sheets when we could see it and winds buffeted the car and threatened to push us across the road, already damaged by record rainfall.

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