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October 17th 2010
Published: October 21st 2010
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Sunday 17th October:

After a good flight, we arrived in Auckland at 04:30am where the hire car was ready and waiting. "Satnav Dave" with his in-built compass found the hotel with ease and we were granted early check-in at no extra cost and with a smile. So far, New Zealand is ticking all the boxes. We slept until 1pm but there are places to see and adventures to be had, so we dragged ourselves out of the very comfy beds and went to explore Auckland city. We headed for the Skytower as the most obvious landmark - Dave is scared of heights but very bravely stood on the reinforced glass floor 270m up(proud of you babe). However, we then watched a couple of people take a tower jump and Dave decided this was a step too far. It was a bit too cloudy and rainy to get the full benefit of the views from the tower, but it was still worth the visit.

Next, we headed to the harbour and the Quay (and saw very big boats). We went into a bar called Minus 5. Everything, from the seats and tables to the glasses is made from ice. In reception, we were suited up in duffle coats and gloves and warned not to pick up the ice glasses with one hand as they will go sliding out of your grasp....ok duly noted!! However, once we got inside, I was so excited by all the ice sculpures that I picked up my freshly poured cocktail (yes you've guessed it) with one hand. A lovely frozen Pina Colada stain now sits on the front of the beautifully crafted ice bar - oops.

In the evening, we went to a few bars, then headed back to the Quay front to an Irish bar called Danny Doolans. It had a log fire, good beer, ambient lighting and a band. It also served the heartiest, most homely food I've tasted, with portion sizes that would even make Connor and Ryan happy. Very good first day in New Zealand!

Monday 18th October (am): We arranged to meet another of our Couch surfing contacts this morning - Jay Sausee (cool name) is an actress who has been in Xena Warrior Princess and in a flora butter advert - see we mix with celebs! Jay came to the hotel then took us on a guided mini-tour of Auckland and the surrounding areas. The first stop was Muruwai beach which was ruggedly beautiful. We took a walk up the cliffs to see gannets nesting (and I quite liked the smell of the gannet poo which is a bit strange). We then headed for a bracing stroll along the beach and watched some people kite surfing.

Next, we went to Mount Eden which is an active volcano and crater. The vantage point gives you a 360 degree view of Auckland so we got to see everything we should have seen from the Sky Tower if it had been clearer when we were there.

We've been so lucky with the people we have met on Couchsurfing as Jay was really funny and competed with Han on the chatterbox front.

We dropped Jay back in the city and headed out to Oratia to see Dave's step brother, Tim, and his wife, Sheena who have been in New Zealand for 15 years. Talk about making us feel welcome...we were plied with copious amounts of alcohol, fed home made curry and invited to stay overnight. We met their daughter, Emma and her partner Dave, and their 9 week old little girl, Mishka (Hazel and Don - she's gorgeous). We also met the head of the family - pug dog Malibu. She's quite ugly (sorry Tim), but she really grows on you and she took a real shine to Dave. The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur as Sheena is a nutter who seemed to have lost the cork for the wine bottle and she and I ended up dancing around a bit worse for wear.Excellent night and a bit of a taste of home.

Tuesday 19th October: Sheena did a brilliant job of blagging a day off and she and Tim (and Malibu) took us to Piha Beach. Again, it was absolutely breathtaking and I'm not sure the pictures will do it justice. We took a long walk on the volcanic beach but Malibu's little legs got tired after an hour or so, so we headed back to the car and went for coffee in Titirangi.

Just want to say a huge thanks to Tim and Sheena as we had a great few days and they were such good fun!! We'll see you guys next year when you come to the UK.

Additional photos below
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21st October 2010

can you bring me back some gannet pooh...i'd like a whiff to x
28th October 2010

You did it!! Summat Ade didn't. Actually we didn't visit gannets and smell their poo either but what I mean is the Tower. No way scaredy Ade was going up there, and to be truthful, I think some of his fear has rubbed off on me cos I didn't dare either - what a pair of wusses eh? I love New Zealand and I'm glad you seem to be too. This couch surfing thingy is a fab idea.

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