It sounds like a nightmare; a 5 hour solo drive and only one CD. Recently I drove from Auckland to New Plymouth, about 360km (220m), and for the entire trip listened to only one disc – Pat Metheny Group’s new CD “The Way Up”
As I left Auckland it provided a sound-track for Friday “motorway” traffic that rarely exceeded 60–80km/h due to people cruising along in all the lanes – brain in neutral. With no choice other than to follow (keep left is a concept not commonly understood it seems) at least I had stimulating music to pass the time.
I don’t really feel I’ve escaped until crossing the one-way bridge at Rangiriri, 70km south of the city. Here you leave “State Highway One” for country roads and finally feel free.
It still puzzles me why so few people do this but the roads that run down the west bank of the Waikato River are generally empty and free of the painful road improvement works that currently blight State Highway One on the other side.
By this time I had heard the disc once and as I crossed the river “Opening” faded into “Part One” (trk2) for the second time. Flat straight roads pass by dairy farms and fields of maise ready for harvest. By now up to a more comfortable 100 km/h the scenery rolled by as if it part of a great road film. The mood of the music ebbs and flows and seemed to match the road as it follows the river through Huntly and Ngaruawahia before heading inland to Pirongia.
You leave the river valley and travel over rolling farm county towards Otorohanga and Te Kuiti. As I rounded a corner or crested a hill another variation of the scenery unfurled and the music seemed to match with an appropriate change of pace or tone. By this time it was probably on its third play but with the CD on infinite repeat it had become one long virtuoso performance.
The track markers on this disc are superfluous as it should, no it demands, to be listened to as a whole. Break it into tracks and you loose an essential aspect that an uninterrupted session provides. That it is rich and varied enough to stand five repeats without becoming repetitive yet still hangs together as a cohesive piece is a tribute to both the writing and performance.
The trip down the Awakino Gorge was fun, stunning scenery and nice clear roads, until near the end where I caught a line of traffic behind a cattle truck. It was empty, so light, and as the road straightened near the coast was travelling reasonably quickly. However, rather than follow it I decided a pit-stop was due and diverted to explore Mokau.
Its a delightful “old fashioned” holiday settlement where the “baches” (Northern Kiwi term for holiday homes, they are “Cribs” in the South) are just that and not the pretentious mansions that form “suburbs by the sea” in some other places. Its good to know the traditional Kiwi holiday atmosphere survives somewhere.
The Tasman Sea was unusually calm and the evening sun made for stunning views. At the end of “Point Rd” Part Two (tk3) played softly while taking I was photos and two surfers debated where, if anywhere, it would be possible to get a wave. I suspect thats a rare problem on this coast!
Mokau has an interesting history and is worthy of a longer visit. There is a river cruise on a classic boat that looked interesting and nearby walks to the Tongaporutu “White Cliffs” and “Three Sisters” coastal features. Unfortunately time was short and I had to drive on to New Plymouth – something for next time.
It wasn’t intended to provide the sound-track for a trip down south in New Zealand but nice drive was dramatically enhanced by the best Pat Metheny Group album to date – “The Way Up”.