Start of our New Zealand Adventure

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, September 30, 2011

We land into Auckland, New Zealand and all the madness that goes along with a rugby world cup. Bit gutted that I didn't think of planning some fancy dress as the effort that fans of all countries went to was impressive – a lot of stereotypical props and heavy face paints were the basics combined with anything else they could get their hands on.  We stayed at Base Hostel which is a big, central hostel which was a bit chaotic trying to deal with such a high level of people but did the job for the rugby weekends.  Our first weekend in rugby is spent wandering around the waterfront of Auckland.  There was a large fanzone set up on Queens Wharf, plenty of bars on the waterfront and plenty of places to eat off Queen Street – we took advantage of the amount of Asian food on offer.  We also meet up with my friends Susan and Jai who are over on a trip from Australia – they were a bit more adventurous than us and did the Auckland Bridge bungee jump.  Watching the games were our main activities in Auckland, and we went to the Scotland-England game, so we arrived just in time to see Scotland leave the tournament.  The build up was the best part – plenty of Scotland-England banter, every Scot in town wearing a rugby top and kilt, one guy wandering around town playing bagpipes and plenty of fancy dress.  The game was good to watch as well (for the most part anyway) and entertaining when the England fans turned on Johnny Wilkinson for missing a few vital kicks.  For the entire tournament the England team were the laughing stocks for all their antics (especially when NZ commentators were commentating on their matches) while the fans were received warmly.  Lucky for us Ireland stayed in a bit longer so we still had a team to follow – we watched the game in the fanzone with a small Irish contingent that hadn’t gone south for the game.  The after match drinks were mainly spent in an Irish bar on the waterfront where we played guess the rugby player – one good thing about Scotland being out early was that they were out drinking and so we spotted a few including Jacobsen and another player we couldn’t quite work who he was but we never let on.

Apart from rugby dominating our time in Auckland, we did manage to visit a nice residential area of Auckland called Ponsoby – where there seems to be more coffee shops than anything else.  We also stumbled across the Auckland Art Museum, recently re-opened after a massive renovation, so we managed a couple of cultural activities as well.

Monday morning we pick up our campervan, or as we find out, our bright green and purple, highly branded converted people carrier that made plenty people smile when we drove past – I like to think we brightened up their day.  And so we start our road trip around the north island.  First day is a drive up the coast where we make several stops at beautiful isolated beaches with turquoise water – very idyllic.  We stop at Whangarei Falls for the night (pronounced Fangarei Falls – who knew it would be more difficult to pronounce place names here than South America). Our first campsite had a kitchen, tv lounge and hot tub which we took full advantage of – so looks like we won’t be slumming it too much in this style of camping.  Plus the campervan (I named him Walter) turned out to be more spacious than expected with a small stove, sink and electric cool box.

Next day was a drive around the Tutukaka coast – again our day consisted of driving, stopping off a nice beaches and walks around the coast for more spectacular views.  Despite the weather, the water always looks inviting due to its turquoise colour.  Finally we stop off at Whangarei Falls beside the campsite, the falls are pretty but what is unusual is the volcanic rock formation around the falls which reminds Jonny of Giant’s Causeway back home

Our road trip takes us further north to the Bay of Islands.  This is where we start to get a little more isolated – we have since been told that this is where celebrities have holiday homes and you can get work as the caretaker so we’re still looking out for any job opportunities.  Again we pass many beach settlements and the beach houses are impressive – all built for a perfect view.  Another thing we have begun to notice in New Zealand is that shoes seem optional – whether it’s kids walking to school or adults popping to the shops, there is a fair chance that they will be in bare feet.  Not sure why but I suppose New Zealand has appeared quite clean so far....We stop at Russel which is a small, picturesque town at the Bay of Islands that has plenty of cafes and restaurants.  We stop for an ice cream and a walk before taking Walter on the ferry across to Pahia.  Pahia is a bit more touristy but is the starting point for most tours so decided to stay there next to Haruru Falls where we had a bit more basic campsite and as it started raining we spent most the time in the van.  So we learnt our first lesson – at this time of the year always look for a campsite with indoor space.  A good thing about New Zealand holding the world cup is that once you’re away from the cities where matches are held it really quietens down and everyone spreads out so we didn’t have to worry about booking our campsites or planning ahead.

The next day would have been some sort of boat tour of the Bay of Islands which is meant to be picturesque but the weather didn’t play ball and so given the lack of visibility due to heavy rain we drove across the island to the west coast where it was still sunny.  Here the site to see is large ancient trees of around 2,000 years old called Kauri trees.  These were really impressive size in terms of their width, they weren’t tall but had a great presence in the forest.  The rest of the day is spend dodging the rain and where we start our routine of coffee & a snack for Jonny (he has discovered his favourite coffee... a Long Black!) each day as he is doing most of the driving.  I only tend to drive if there aren’t many other vehicles on the road, not so keen on the automatic and the fact it’s the biggest car I’ve driven.  Now as it’s been raining all day we decide to see how far south we can get as the Irish game is in Wellington at the weekend.  After driving for five hours and still not past half way we decide to abort and go to Taupo for a relaxing weekend – turns out New Zealand isn’t that small!   
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