Miranda Shorebird Center and Thames
The moment to venture out onto the highway had arrived. The thought of driving on the other side of the road terrified us both, but Walt had bravely volunteered to take on the challenge. He spent hours studying the New Zealand driver's manual and trying to visualize roundabouts.
We breezed out of the rental car garage, cruised through 3 roundabouts in rapid succession, and managed to merge onto an expressway without incident. Maybe driving in New Zealand wouldn't be so bad after all.
We had decided to stop at the Miranda Shorebird Sanctuary on our way to our next destination - Thames. As we headed down a narrow local road, we were greeted by an ominous sign advising us that the twisty road ahead was "unforgiving". Our confidence wavered, but we motored on.
I was struck by the thought that New Zealand is a very empty country. We were only about an hour's drive outside of Auckland, but there was no one in sight - only sheep and cattle grazing in the fields - until we rounded a curve and found ourselves unexpectedly in a town. For some reason, there were a lot of people standing in front of a small building and spilling onto the roadside. They glanced at us with dazed eyes. It was like a scene from a creepy horror movie. Who were these strange people and why were they standing in the road? They motioned that we should drive around them so we shrugged and motored on.
The bird sanctuary turned out to be a small building in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the only time the shorebirds appeared was at high tide which was several hours away so we snapped some pictures of the vast nothingness around the building and carried on to Thames.