How better to gauge the nation's Rugby World Cup mood than put a man in a campervan and tell him to get lost?
For this entry, Matt Johnson checks in from Hamilton.
He's just completed his first week in a campervan following the World Cup circus, and Matt Johnson is starting to rediscover why New Zealand is such a fantastic place.
Mum was a no-show. Either she'd slipped back into the underground cage-fighting network, or Interpol had finally caught up with her. I put her in the "Too Hard" basket (she's pretty small) and moved on.
Already, the Far North was far behind us. All I had to show for it was an idea for a new novel - Once Were Road Warriors - about a Mel-Gibson type traffic cop of the future who cooks eggs all the time.
What was New Zealand if you looked at it for the first time in nearly five years? It was one thing. Almost empty. Like it had been defriended on Facebook by all the other countries but refused to close its account.
It was easy to think you were in one of those movies where someone decides to walk the scorched earth after a really big war. Only instead of bombs, fertiliser had been dropped. Here was a green dead-end; a nice apocalypse.
Back in civilisation, or Whangarei, Canada won hearts. And rugby. It was hard not to like Canada. With their big beards and bleach-blond hair, they were like metrosexual lumberjacks: stylish, yet still able to chop down trees quickly, if needed.
At Paihia, I sat down for a cup of tea with Honest Jim, who was expecting his first baby in five weeks' time. If his partner had no objections, he was planning on calling it "All Black World Cup Victory Celebration Baby 2011". Or if she did, Amanda.
Everywhere, at the end of driveways, firewood sat in rows against country houses. Ute doors slammed and tracksuit pants tucked into gumboots climbed out of them. At one of those giant supermarkets where the food is stacked above you like globalised Jenga, two little Maori girls watched me fill a bag of giant Jaffas.
"Dat's heaps," one said.
The other nodded thoughtfully. "I hope you're gonna share those with your family, mister," she said.
You were home. Heaps was a noun again.
It wasn't all smoothness and light. A letter from DoC warned that I was approaching the maximum amount of times a person in a Kea campervan is allowed to turn their underwear inside-out. Fines would soon be applicable. And the Graham Henry GPS was playing up.
The guy I'd brought it from on Queen St for $20 had said the maps on it were a little out of date. What he hadn't said was that the North and South Islands were still stuck together. Whenever I typed in Wellington, footage came of a T-Rex eating a caveman.
I got lost. Tried to relax by listening to the radio. The All Black doctor came on, urging people not to panic. Paranoia set in. By Puhoi, I was feeling up people's calf-muscle ligaments in the street. Even then, New Zealand opened its doors to me.
They slammed shut again in the mighty Waikato. Hamilton was full. Chokka. I kept knocking, but Hamilton had left a note on its door telling us to come back later. Until Jill and Charlene, encountered mid-way down the T-shirt rack of the local St Vincent de Paul, offered us a berth in Empire St.
You could see the stadium lights from their house. In Aisle 38, row G, I got assaulted by sporting cliches. Metaphor GBH: There was a sea of black faces. The haka sent a shiver up your spine. That kind of stuff. Say what you want about cliches, they still bring Kiwis together.
The Japanese were slow to come out after halftime. But the crowd was behind them. We had forgotten about all those Pokemon cards they'd made us buy our disgruntled children. It wasn't sympathy, either. It was our love of the underdog - something we rarely are in the game we love the most.
We might want to fry the big fish but are happy to throw the minnows back.
Afterwards, the adrenalin almost drove the van by itself. Which was lucky, because I was having a shower.
On we went, into the New Zealand night. Tirau. Putaruru. Tokoroa. Towards whatever was next.
I turned on the radio, hit nothing but static. The All Black doctor was sleeping like a baby. Dreaming of healthy knees.
Follow him across New Zealand at his RWC Road Trip blog or on twitter @KeaKaharoadtrip.
* And bid for an (almost) romantic night for 2 in the Kea Kaha-Mobile... check out our Trade Me Herald On Sunday Charity auction Herald on Sunday Charity auction online.