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Our Travels in New Zealand Part 1

Author: Mal Part (More Trip Reviews by Mal Part)
Date of Trip: March 2007

Day 1: 1st February - Arrival in New Zealand

By the time we arrive in Auckland, we have been flying for almost 24 hours, and its about 36 hours since we left home on 30th January. Although we’re pretty much exhausted, there are things to do!

First job – get the car. I ring AA Car Rental using the 0800 number they’d given me and within 15 minutes we’re picked up and on our way to get our hire car. I’ve not told Chris, but I’ve gone for the “rent a wreck” option – it turned out to be about £10/day and over £200 cheaper than any other quote I received. I’ve been told to expect a Nissan Pulsar which, looking on the Internet, looks to be a pretty good car. When we get to the car rental office, I find we have a Nissan Sunny Super Saloon, but it starts well and has four good tyres! It won’t win a beauty contest, but the car’s okay.

New Zealander’s drive on the left hand side so I feel pretty much at home straight away. Since the car’s empty, the next job is to get some fuel. I’m immediately surprised to find out that petrol is only NZ$1.47 / litre (about 54p per litre).

The next job is to find our first motel. I’d pre-booked this from the UK – it’s the Aarangi Beach Motel in Mission Bay; it’s on the coast, just outside the centre of Auckland. We arrive at 10am so our room’s not ready and we have a long wait. Tired and unwashed (and unshaven in my case), we drive the short distance to the beach area, find a café and while away the time drinking coffee.

After a shower and short sleep, we make our way to the beach and find the Il Piccolo Restaurant. Chris has chicken and crème bruleé for dessert, and I have Red Snapper and Tira Misu. We get chatting to Malcolm – the owner (came from Surrey many years ago) – who tells us that the beach is man-made. Apparently, the local (Mission Bay) council paid for 6 million tons of sand to create it. After 36 hours of travel, it looks natural enough for me!

Day 2 – Auckland

Public transport within Auckland is very good, and since there’s a bus to the city from close to our motel, we use it. We have limited time here, so we decide to do the city tour. The tour bus is $7.50, and the ticket is good for other buses for a small ($1.20) flat fee. See Note below.

We have a ‘thing’ about tall buildings so, after the city tour, we head for the Sky Tower, NZ’s tallest building (and the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere we’re told). There are great views over the whole city, including the rather picturesque harbour area, and right out to the airport.

====================== Note: The exchange rate when we travelled was 2.7 NZ$ / £, so each NZ$ was worth about 37p. For simple conversions, use a rate of NZ$ 2.5 / £, so each NZ$ = 40p. Thus, $7.50 = £3; $1.20 is about 50p.

We take a walk around the harbour area to see if we can book a tour to one of Auckland’s many offshore islands for the next day – most guidebooks recommend it, and we have selected Tiri Island. Its real name is Tiritiri Matangi Island, but Kiwis shorten many of the original Maori place names to something that’s easier to say! Try as we might, we find that all the trips to Tiri are booked and instead we book a trip plus barbecue to Kawau Island.

We return to Mission Bay and seek out a restaurant called Ruan Thai – a man I’d met on the plane from LA to Auckland recommended it. He lived only a few 100 yards from our motel, and used this restaurant regularly! We dine and sleep well that night.

Day 3 – Kawau Island (Auckland)

Kawau Island is a whole day trip (2½ hours each way on the boat), with time on the island for a 1-hour walk through the woods.

The boat trip helps blow our cobwebs away and the walk certainly puts the life back in our legs. A former HM Governor of NZ once owned the island, and he built a fine mansion at the side of the bay. The land that he had cleared of forest has been put to lawn and gardens, and is preserved pretty much as it was in the late 1800s.

The walk was good, the island was ‘okay’, but what was special was the barbecue. We’d been given the, “Will you have the barbecue?” option when we’d booked and, since it meant we didn’t have to buy or create our own packed lunch and since it was only $18 each, we had said, “Yes please”. In truth, we didn’t have high expectations, and we’d no reason to change this thought when we saw a young lad trying to cook about 20 large steaks on barbecue that was far too small for the task, on the back of the boat.

Anyway, soon after we got underway for our return trip, a large steak with green salad and some trimmings was duly served. And, amazingly, the steak was brilliant – well cooked, tender and very tasty. We’d built up a bit of an appetite, but by any standard, this was a very, very good steak lunch. We ate every bit with relish.

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