Since we only had a limited time in New Zealand before moving on to Australia for our study abroad orientation, we had pre-booked all accommodation, major transportation and activities before making it to the country. This was good in that we knew exactly what was going to happen, and when we were going to make it to where—or so we thought.
Turns out, when we got to the Auckland airport, our flight to Wellington couldn't take off because the city was fogged out. Apparently this happens once or twice a month, so watch out—it's because the runway is only long enough for a 747 to land, and absolutely no longer—so if you overshoot the runway, you end up floating in the bay.
Unfortunately, at least a day's worth of frustrated travellers were already at the Auckland airport, and we couldn't get a flight into Welly before our ferry was supposed to leave at 2:30pm the next afternoon. We looked up train and bus schedules, but all of those were full of angry people for at least the next day as well. As we were all just under 21, we couldn't find any place that would rent us a car.
When we were just about to give up the rest of our travel plans, we met a nice guy, whose girlfriend's mother just happened to be in Auckland and had a rental car. My friend begged him to let us go with him, and somehow the three of us managed to squeeze in, along with our backpacks, his 3 months of luggage from a summer trip, his kiteboard, and him and his girlfriend's mother into a budget hatchback car. It was rather amusing when, 20 minutes into the ride, we offered to introduce ourselves and the mother said, "You don't KNOW these people?!"
It was a great experience though, and one that I wouldn't have had happen any other way—rather than skipping the entire north island on our way to Wellington, Karen tried to show us the main sights, including thermal pockets, Huka Falls (near Taupo), the view across Taupo itself (although it was too foggy to see anything), and she showed us the wonder that is L&P (a drink that is "world famous in New Zealand") and pineapple lumps (chocolate covered pineapple flavored goo). Not only that, but we had a real New Zealand dinner of fish & chips & pineapple fritters. Although it was a bit of a squish in the car, it was worth the 8 hours and definitely inspired me to make my next trip to New Zealand to further explore the North Island!