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Published: February 27th 2011
coming in to land at Auckland Airport
Thursday 24th – today we are off on our special ‘holiday’ so Graham was up at about 6.15 to prepare Sweetie for her “rest period”. I followed as soon as the alarm went off at 6.30am. There were a few other people about but generally most people were still asleep so we had to be as quiet as possible although when you are “putting a caravan away” it’s practically impossible not to make some noise. Legs have to be raised, the awning put away, the elevating roof put down, water hoses dis-connected and all the additional camping paraphernalia stored inside. Anyway, we were ready to go at 7.40, ten minutes later than planned. So we said a sad farewell to Sweetie hoping she would be alright for the next 11 days. We were flying to New Zealand to spend time exploring a corner of the North Island that we hadn’t visited before.
It was only about 14 kms to the airport and most of that was along one straight road – the only snag was that we were heading towards the city in rush-hour traffic. But it wasn’t too bad until we got within 4 kms of the airport and
Bye bye Aus for now
we'd just taken off from Adelaide Airport
then it was a pitiful crawl. We still got there at about 20 past 8, parked in a long-term area and, just as we were making our way out of the car park with all our luggage, Graham spotted a courtesy bus just pulling up at the bus stop. So, with the help of a very courteous driver who loaded the bags, we made it to the terminal building by 8.45. As we had left our big suitcases at my sister’s house in Melbourne we had bought two cheap holdalls – one was very, very cheap and now we could see why. Just as Graham lifted it on to the carousel to be weighed I spotted a small rip in the base. We couldn’t think how that had happened but the friendly checking in lady covered it with tape and off the bags went with us keeping our fingers crossed that the tear wouldn’t get any worse. By now it was 9.15ish so we had a cup of tea to calm ourselves down.
Having already gone through a security check we waited for a gate number to appear on the departure screen but nothing happened. Graham went off to
enquire and found out that we had to go through to the International Departure Lounge. This involved another security check so the bottled water I’d bought after the first check had to be dumped! We made it through the second check without any drama and settled down to while-away the next hour. After yet another security check we made it on to the plane and, wonderfully, it took off on time! We both laughed as we watched the ‘serious’ safety video – the ‘actors’ were members of the All Blacks Rugby Team and it certainly made us sit up and take notice – it was brilliant! We had some lunch, watched a film, read a bit and after 4 ½ hours we landed in Auckland, again spot on time. We were very relieved to pick up the bags and to find that both were still in one piece. The small tear was no worse but the tape that had been put on in Adelaide was missing.
In Auckland we breezed through all the security and customs checks and then went to the information centre to sort out the hire car. After a slightly irritating process duplicating what we had
already done in Adelaide we found the car - a tiny white Daihatsu Sirion. As she was to be PIE’s substitute for the next 10 days we immediately named her ‘TART’!! We’d asked the travel agent for something cheap and cheerful” and this certainly fitted the bill. But it was tidy, had five doors and four tyres, so we crammed our bags in the back and headed off to find our hotel in Auckland city centre. We tootled along quietly and soon covered the 20kms into the city and, even without sat nav, found the hotel without any hassle. I had pre-booked a parking space and it was fortuitous that I had as the hotel was fully booked and every parking space was being used. It was a good thing that TART was so small as Graham had to squeeze her between the wall and a huge 4WD which was over-lapping our space. The hotel room was very spacious and comfortable and after settling in we went for a short stroll. We were amazed to see the Auckland Tower stretching high into the sky from just across the road from the hotel. We remembered going up the tower eight years
before – what a view there was from the top! Later on we went out again, had a bite to eat in a nearby café and then we walked to the harbour where a large Japanese cruise ship was in port. Auckland night-life was buzzing and as we walked back closer to the hotel we could see the Tower was now lit up bright red.
On Friday morning we set off on our journey to Whakatane which was over 300 kms away. We left the city behind us at about 9.15 and headed back towards the airport and Hamilton. We got on the southbound motorway very easily and didn’t stop until we got to Cambridge, a small town just south of Hamilton. We had lunch in a café that was a converted chapel and picked up a few leaflets and a map that we thought would be useful. Not far after Cambridge we had a choice of roads to take: we could go through Rotorua or towards the coast and go through Tauranga. We plumped for Tauranga as it was a route we had not travelled before and it was a good road. We thought we might have a
quick look at the city but when we got to the outskirts we decided we would rather keep going. Tauranga is a big city with a very large population and probably deserves a larger chunk of our time. We stopped for a tea break (we had brought our thermos flask with us from Aus) by the beach at a nice little place called Pukehena. Disappointingly, all through the village there were houses right on the beach front with only occasional gaps for public access. Eventually we found a small park by the beach with a picnic table which was perfect for us. Suitably refreshed, we travelled on and arrived in Whakatane (pronounced Fakatane) at about 4pm. The motel, White Island Rendezvous, was near the river front and was easy to find. The lady on reception was very helpful and showed us to our room which, again, was very spacious. The only odd thing was that there was no wardrobe or even any drawers – there was just a very short hanging rail with 3 hangers but that was no real problem (we are campers after all!). There was a small kitchen area with a microwave.
Amongst other things, Whakatane
is famous for its nearby active volcano called White Island – the only one in NZ – and, as the motel name suggests, it is the centre for boat trips to visit and walk on the island. We were anxious to go on the trip despite the expensive price tag ($185 each) and went to arrange bookings. Alas, Saturday’s trips were fully booked but we put our names down “on standby” and also registered an interest for Sunday in case there was nothing doing for Saturday. They simply take names initially in case weather conditions prevent the trip from taking place. As it happens, when the team rang round for Saturday confirmations there were a couple of vacancies for the 8:00am trip which we were offered and accepted. Little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for but we will explain all in the next blog! Meanwhile, we went across the road to the chippy on the wharf and finished the day with grilled fish and chips followed by an early night in readiness for our early start on Saturday.
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