I had heard Nate talk about how every American he's ever seen drive a car in New Zealand turns on the windshield ("windscreen" here) wipers instead of the turn signals, and hugs the outside edge of the lane to a frightening degree. Well, I had never driven a car on the "wrong" side of the road before, but I thought I would probably adjust pretty quickly.
The car we rented is manual, which means I am the designated driver. Of course it would happen that I stalled before we even pulled out of the driveway, but once I got used to the clutch, we were in business. We pulled out of the rental lot and first off made a right hand turn. Moving to the far side of the street I could handle, but sure enough I surprised myself by flicking the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal! With a little assistance turning them off (or, as it was, turning on the rear wipers as well, before figuring out how to turn them off) we were officially on our way! We made a stop at the grocery store to stock up on some food for the weekend and then headed out of Auckland towards the Coromandel Peninsula.
Highway driving was not too bad, as I just had to remember to keep left and pass right. I got used to it quickly, with the exception of occasionally overshooting the stick shift and grabbing the passenger seat to change gears. Once I was used to that, I started to relax and feel pretty comfortable. Nate sat calmly in the passenger seat and gently mentioned things like "you might want to pick a lane" when I was hugging the center line, or "use your right hand" when I was reaching for the turn signal. He was surprisingly cool, even when our course brought us onto country roads where at times he felt I was a bit too close to the outside edge, or a large truck was approaching us on an uncomfortably narrow part. It was reminiscent of my mom's reactions when dad was driving us around in a rental through the winding hills of Scotland. My trusty navigator got us out to a "backpackers" (hostel) by the sea in Whitianga in time for a lovely evening walk on the beach before cooking ourselves a tasty pasta dinner. After my first day of "thinking left," I have become much more comfortable with the idea, and can imagine driving will soon become less of an adventure.
There remains a subdued atmosphere between Nate and I, as we are both frequently reflecting on how we left things with our WWOOFing hosts. It was an uncomfortable situation all around and, though I am glad to be away from it and moving on to new adventures, there is still a heavy load of guilt I will carry for a while. I am sure we will make the best of our weekend, and I will soon be focused on planning future endeavors, but for now my enthusiasm is somewhat lacking. At least now I have experience driving a car on the left hand side!