Like Australia, New Zealand is pretty strict about food that you can take in and out, as we had some food with us we went throught the red channel, where a very polite customs girl gave us the all clear after she had checked our shoes for any unwanted foregin soil (seriously).
Our first day in Aukland was glorious, 29°and not a clound in the sky, but the thing with the sun in New Zealand is that it is much more dangerous than the sun at home (or even in Northern Australia), partly because the earth is at it’s closest to the sun in the New Zealand Summer, but mostly because the ozone is almost completly depleted in this part of the world. So factor 50 is a must virtually all the time!
Aukland is a very nice city, it has a very cosmopolitan vibe and is quite multicultural, with a huge number of tourists from all over the world. The city centre was compact enought for us to do on foot (just). Our hotel was just up from Queen street, the main shopping road that led down to the ferry port. We spent our first day wandering around the harbour area checking out the fancy yachts and massive cruiseliners that were in. There is a nice regenerated dock area called silo park, and we ended our day eating alfresco in the sunshine!
Next day, on our airport taxi drivers advice, we got the ferry from Devonport, just 30 minutes from Aukland itself, this suburb is one of the cities oldest, with a lot of art deco buildings and fantastic view from Mt Victoria back over the city itself.
Next day it was time to pick up our car. We walked from our hotel, through Albert park and into the university district, a lovely walk, and very like oxbridge, but with steep hills.
We picked up our shiny 2008 toyota Corrola (with only 170,000 km on the clock) and started on our 5 week journey across New Zealand.
We had an overnight on the Coromandel peninsula, just outside coromandel town. The traffic getting out of Aukland was the same as anywhere in the world really, but an hour out, the roads completely changed and the traffic rapidly thinned. Outside the major cities there are no motorways, so route 1 (the main road out of Aukland) becomes a single lane, with a speed limit of 100kmh (about 60mph), so getting anywhere always takes longer than you think.
We stopped in Thames at the start of the peninsula and picked up some shopping at the local Pack n Save, and it was more expensive than Australia. What is it with countries where they grow so much, but it costs a fortune. Anyway, it had a very interesting wooden church, but we still had a long way to go, so we headed on up the cost. What an amazing coastal drive, literally so much to see that I had to drive slowly to take it all in, but that wasn’t a problem as there was hardly any traffic. It took much longer than we thought because I was driving so slowly, and we kept stopping to have a look.
Due to nearly everything being booked up in New Zealand, the only place we could book was a “cabin” in somebodies back garden. Looking for it up a hill outside town, the sat nav gave up, we nearly fell off a gravel road, eventually finding it at the end of a track. We drove through the gate and met up with Nicole and drove on to her back yard to the cabin with the most amazing view down to the sea, the cabin was really nice, with a deck and a bbq area, and she left us some amazing food, some delicious bread, and Manuka honey, never had it before but it was very nice.
We had planned to do a 2 hour walk that afternoon, but after finding the cabin we thought screw that, and hung out the rest of the day. I did a barbie, where we were joined by the dog (milly) who had taken a shine to Dawn, and some chickens. We drunk a bottle of Pinot Gris and watched the sund go down (at 8:45 in the evening), and when it was really dark, went out and looked at the millions of stars you could see in the sky. We only wish we had known, we would have spent more time there!
Next morning, being awoken by the dawn chorus (she’s a terrible singer), we packed up our bags and set on our way again. We drove from west to east across the top of the peninsula with some fantastic views, to Hahei where parking was a nightmare, so we paid $10 to park on someones drive so we could take the 45 minute walk to cathedral cove. This is an amazing beach with a fantastic vaulted tunnel leading from one beach to another, the sea looked amazing, crystal clear, but unfortunately freezing cold, though this didn’t seem to be detering people.
From here we drove to Hot Water Beach about 15 minutes away, this has the distinction of having a small area, where hot water comes up in a small part of the beach, and you can dig your own bath, the shops here will rent you a spade for a small fee so you dig to your hearts delight, wwe just stuck our feet in, it was very very hot, so you could burn the bottom of your foot, but freeze the top of it as a wave went over.
We had a late lunch at Whangamata, a big surfer spot, and the drove on to our next stop Tokoroai, for 3 nights in a very basic motel, but got us close enought to Roturoa, and all the sights of this lovely part of the North Island.