For those of you who have been spending too much time on the blog, I just wanted to quietly let you know that summer is coming. And if the early spring weather patterns are any indication then it’s shaping up to be a cracker, which is quite a relief given last year’s disappointingly wet affair.
As a car-free household summer holiday travel plans are always a challenge. My main objectives are to try to save money and carbon and try to have a bit of fun along the way. Today I just finished booking my summer holiday travel plans and what a success. I’ve also learnt some things along the way that have, well, pleasantly surprised me about bus travel in New Zealand.
First some context to this year’s challenge: My lovely mother has rented a bach at Oakura Bay from 23 December all the way through to 4 January. For those unfortunate enough not to have visited Oakura Bay, it’s located about 2.5 hours drive north of Auckland on the wondrously spectacular east coast of Northland, between Whangarei and Russel. Plenty of fun to be had in these blue waters!
Finding my way Oakura from Auckland was the easy bit: Good old fashioned car-pooling with whanau all the way, replete with nostalgic childish teasing.
But from here things get decidedly trickier, because I needed to get my blessed behind from Northland to the Southern Alps (for a friend’s wedding) and back again, in the space of 4 days and without a car. I was able to grab some cheap flights from Auckland to Christchurch and back. The Christchurch end was sorted by car-pooling with other people who were headed for the wedding. But then came the trickier question of how to get from Northland to Auckland, and vice versa?
First port of call is the Naked Bus or InterCity websites . I was thinking that a bus fare from Whangarei to Auckland would cost around $40 each way, which was about what I paid 10 years ago when I lived/worked in Kerikeri for the summer. Quite simply, I was astounded at how cheap the bus fare from Whangarei to Auckland was: Approximately $40 for a return trip. That’s approximately 320km at a costs of $0.13 per km. You would pay almost twice as much just for the fuel to drive that far. And it’s cheaper than when I last used buses to travel north, despite 10 years of inflation and higher fuel prices.
All this got me thinking: If it’s basically cheaper for two people to catch the bus rather than drive long distance, then why don’t more people do it? I suspect some of it is just people not liking buses and/or car-habit. The primary downside is that you need to deal with “last leg” connections from where the bus drops you off and where you are staying; not usually so much of an issue if you’re staying with other friends and family, who in my case will come pick me up.
And on the other hand I’m sure there’s lots of people out there like me who probably would prefer to let someone else drive through the crazy summer traffic while they kick back and do some work, read, and/or snooze. Speaking for myself, I know that I’ll be that much more relaxed travelling by bus rather than driving myself through all the traffic and heat.
So aside from whimsical dreaming about summer swimming, the main point of this post was to point out that if you’re making summer travel plans over the next few weeks then just check whether you can leave the car at home and travel by bus. This is particularly cost-effective if there’s only 1-2 of you, plus you save some carbon. The best place to start is one of those two websites, and the best place to finish is somewhere like Oakura Bay.
P.s. Bravo to Naked Bus and InterCity for making the booking process so easy, and bravo to the bus operators who are providing such an efficient and well-priced travel option for car-less households such as myself. I wish you the best of business over the summer break; hopefully some of which stems from this post :).