. After meeting Michelle and freshening up, we were treated to dinner out in Auckland, they took us to a place where you can cook your own steak on a sizzling hot stone – the boys were in their element (must be the caveman instinct) and we enjoyed some drinks and got to know our new and very hospitable friends, it was a great welcome to New Zealand.
The next morning we woke up – it was actually the afternoon as we had slept so long, Paul and Michelle were at work and left us to help ourselves to anything we needed, it was a rainy day and a stark contrast the glorious sunshine that we were welcomed with but we had plenty of boring things to do like washing, looking for a hotel in LA and trying to sort out a campervan for the next two weeks so we did our admin jobs and eventually managed to get ready to go out about 3ish. Michelle had come back from work by now so dropped us off at their local station so we could take a trip on the train into Auckland, the train station was just a wooden shack and you just jump on and tell the conductor where you want to go and pay, so different from the busy stations in the UK, like something out of a movie! We got off in Newmarket, the stop before the city centre, Michelle had recommended it to see a few shops so we wandered about in the rain for a while before taking cover in the shopping mall, we were still a bit worn out from travelling so didn't plan to do too much. The persistent rain meant that it was pretty cold, so cold in fact that I had to buy a jumper just to wander about in but it meant as well that we met some friendly shop assistants who noticed my accent and Robs T-Shirt stating 'I Love Philippines’ and a conversation struck up about travel, the UK and the Philippines; one shop assistant was half Fijian, half Filipino, the other half Japanese, half English – what a multicultural world we live in
! After that we made our way on the train back to Glen Eden station, the rain was so persistent and we were told it was because of Cyclone Wilma and that she wouldn’t be gone until Sunday, it was Friday now so we had a while to wait before the sunshine would return. When we got back to the station, we all suggested a barbie for dinner; Paul like most men loving to BBQ and having it under a shelter so he can barbie in any weather – we enjoyed a great dinner and relaxed the evening away chatting and watching TV.
We had decided that we wanted to see NZ by campervan, New Zealand is so well equipped for camping with over 400 sites and great facilities so we wanted to get out on the open road and do another road trip but this time with the added bonus of camping under the stars or with the sound of the sea as we sleep. We had found that the campers were a lot more expensive than we had envisaged but booked what we thought was a good deal with Escape and would pick up the van Monday – not just any van either but one with spray painted graphics each side - who wants to blend in with the crowd! Anyway, we had gotten to the stage when you think what’s a little more money when you’re having the time of your life?
So we had a weekend still to spend in Auckland, Michelle’s Mum and Dad own a beach house or ‘batch’ in a place called Whiritoa about a 2 and a half hour drive Southeast of Auckland so suggested we might like to spend a night there, the house it about a 2 minute walk from a glorious, sandy, quiet beach so we took no hesitation saying a great big YES
! By the morning, the worst of Wilma had hit and luckily the flooding wouldn’t affect our trip to the beach to we set of in the car with enough clothes for one night and to laze around in the sun and were treated to yet more Kiwi hospitality. We stopped along the way in a few places here and there where Paul and Michelle knew some nice things we might like to see, our first stop was at Karangahake at an old coal mining area. We walked over a bridge over the river which was suspended and made of wooden slats with a sign ‘no more than 10 persons’, it swung back and forth when you were on it and if you know me at all, will know that it was my sort of nemesis! We took a few snaps and then carried on driving, the next stop was Waihi, which is also a gold mining area and still has an open mine, we stood and looked at the vast mine, the sun was now shining replacing the rain with intense heat as we looked at the huge expanse of missing landscape in front of our eyes and the old mining buildings now desolate but still standing. About half an hour later, driving through the fields and hills e all of a sudden could see the sea and we knew we were nearly there. When we got to Whiritoa, we drove along the beach road and saw the beautiful quiet beach and knew we were in for a treat, Paul then took us to show us their ‘batch’ which would soon have a beach house of their very own on – alright for some hey! We got to Michelle’s family’s house, her mum Sue was there for the weekend, just her and the dog having a relaxing time, in much the same way as Paul and Michelle she made us feel at home and ‘help ourselves’ to anything we wanted. That night we enjoyed another Barbie sitting out on the deck made by Michelle’s Dad, still warm outside at 8 o’clock. After dinner we all took a walk to the beach, the sun nearly gone now and the temperature dropped, we all grabbed a jumper and walked less than a minute before getting to the beach
. Such a beautiful beach and many summer holidays spent here by Michelle and her family and you can see why, Whiritoa must only have about 50 houses and the beach would house hundreds! We took a walk barefoot through the water which was still warm before walking back to the house to go to bed; it’s true what they say about the sea air tiring you out, we were all ready for a good sleep by then.
The next morning we woke up and went out for breakfast in a nearby town, the town was busy, it was the weekend and Wilma had been and gone so people were enjoying what was left of their summer holidays. We had a mammoth breakfast and then headed back to Whiritoa to make the most of that idyllic beach before heading back to Auckland. The sun in New Zealand is very strong, Michelle tells us because there is a massive hole in the ozone layer so we slapped on the sun block before walking to the beach for a dip in the sea. The waves were quite high and the current strong so we swam between the flags, well when I say ‘swam’ I mean we bobbed up and down, the current was too strong for swimming but it was enough just to be in the cool water of the sea. We stayed for a while chatting to Paul about familiar things back in the UK whilst Michelle relaxed on the beach, Rob had a go at body boarding – I think he thought he had become a ‘dude’ but I’m sure a bit more practice is needed yet
! So after getting back to the house, we packed up and made our way back to Auckland, in the morning Paul and Michelle took us to collect our van. We were lucky enough to end up with Escape’s newest van – it’s called ‘Hula girl’ so you can guess how it is painted on the side. We said goodbye to or new friends and would see them again before w left NZ for good, we were so thankful for their hospitality and kindness making our first few days a lot more enjoyable.
So now we are out on the open road – in fact as I write we are on the sea to the South Island.
We have watched the stars at night, slept by the lake, beach and wine valleys on our first few days; we are having the time of our lives and you’ll hear all about it in a week or so when I come out of my daze.....
We took the 3 hour flight from Sydney to Auckland, our few days back in Sydney we had spent visiting a convict museum, going to the aquarium, enjoying the hot weather on sandy Bondi beach and watching the Australia day celebrations at Darling Harbour. We had enjoyed our last few days but were ready to move on, there was no miraculous love story between us and Sydney when we re-visited but we made the most of our last few days in Oz and left as friends. Our first few days in New Zealand, we would be staying with the son and wife of my friend Glynis back in the UK, I had never met Paul or Michelle but had heard so much about them, seen the wedding photos and chatted away across desks with Glynis about what they were up to many times so felt like I knew them already. Paul picked us up from the airport and left us to wander around the city, we were slightly jet lagged after a 3am start so we went for a nice lunch in a cafe (Rob of course choosing a Kiwi burger) and whiled away the afternoon before Paul picked us up after work to take us back to their house