North Of North Island.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Where I stayed
Beachside Holiday Park Bay of Islands
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of New Zealand  , Northland,
Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Zealanders are so much like Aussies. If it wasn't for a few distinctly different pronunciations of words, we would swear we had found ourselves back in Australia. Six is somewhere between  "Sux" and "sex" and Fish is somewhere between “Fush” and "Fesh". I love listening to the slight differences in language. There is a marked like minded joviality and chattiness about Kiwis that puts us at immediate ease.

Auckland is pretty and stylish with sparkling high-rise buildings above sparkling blue water. It is also charmingly predictable. The main shopping street could be Perth’s Hay Street Mall or Adelaide’s Rundle Mall. The shopping Franchises are mostly all the same. Starbucks, Cotton On, Portmans, Billabong, Dick Smiths - you get the idea. Because we like travelling to places where there are no franchises, it is quite a shock (a pleasant one!) to see shop names we recognise. On the corner we turn to go to our hotel there is a Kathmandu Shop, which is of some excitement for me for three reasons – (1) our travel clothes are in dire (make that REALLY dire!) need of replacing (2) they have a huge sale on and (3) the NZ $ to ours is about 75c however the prices are as if they were Aussie Dollars! There are also plenty of hairdressers near our hotel so we both get much needed, and overdue, haircuts.

In Dick Smiths we purchased a GPS – finally! We have hired out cars and campers with GPS all around the world, but had been reluctant to buy one for ourselves, overseas. Now using the favourable exchange rated NZ Dollar and being able to buy with all Australian and NZ maps loaded, we decided this was the perfect time and place.

What has been a bit of a rude shock in NZ is that internet time has to be paid for (just like Australia!) and it is expensive. Just about worldwide, accommodation providers have free wifi but  Australia and New Zealand seem to be a bit out of sync on this benefit for guests.

A visit to the main Auckland Government tourist office though, proved to be, for us as long term travellers, a slice of heaven. We are rather used to not having tourism help, so we just relaxed into letting the lovely Sarah sort everything out for us. First she asked for our itinerary and time frame and our ideas. We told her that we had already emailed to various camper van and car hire companies for prices and availability but had not committed. We wanted inexpensive and probably a one way hire for around 2 weeks. We had booked a 5 day trip to the Cook Islands over the internet but had 3 days before we flew out to sightsee then the 2 week hire would be when we got back..

Sarah immediately set to work on the first priority as she saw it, to get our two week camper van hire sorted. Her suggestion was to fly to Christchurch and bring the camper back, with our available 2 weeks, to Auckland. After phoning around, she soon came up with suitable prices and availability for flight and hire. Next was a plan for a “cheapie” car hire for our 3 days before flying out. Taking this car to do North of Auckland would mean we wouldn’t have to include this area in our campervan days and would make best use of our spare days. This was arranged with the bonus of being able to drop off at the airport for no extra cost.       

So we set off to discover the Northern parts of the north island. Beautiful coast line and pretty beaches, dairy farms and small towns were the sights. The north is not highly populated but lays claim to the gorgeous Bay of Islands.

We had a sumptuous lunch ofNZ fish and chips in the village of Kawakawa where their tourist attraction is, wait for it -  a set of toilets! Truly. Called the Hundertwasser toilets after the architect, the story goes that this former Austrian adopted Kawakana as his home and when asked to create something special in the way of toilets for the town, he gave it his all! Take a look at our pics.

On our way back to the airport on day 3 we detoured a little to the South and West to a gorgeous coastal surfing town, Piha, we had heard about. It WAS gorgeous with big craggy rocks in the bay, the largest being Lion Rock which we climbed up almost to the top. 

Next adventure is to the Cook Islands a destination that has been on our “to see” list for a long time.     

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