Sunday, 19 October 2008
23rd-24th September - Auckland and the environs (part I)
NB All Maps displayed are from Google Maps, and remain their copyright. I am using them purely to illustrate where we have travelled for those who are unfamiliar with the geography of New Zealand
After visiting the local airport supermarket, and discovering their very cheap sushi, we got on the road to try to find the campsite. Here, I discovered a small flaw in the road map which I had bought - even though it gave a reasonably good impression of the Auckland area, until we got into the Central Business District (CBD), it did not name, or even show all of the roads. Nor did it distinguish between roads which actually joined and those which went over the top on a bridge. This led to an interesting ten minutes or so when we sailed over the main road we were trying to get on, and ended up in a slightly unsavoury area of the city (though, interestingly, although I wouldn't have liked to get out and walk around for any length of time in the area, I didn't feel overly intimidated at any point, unlike if I'd ended up in the wrong area of Bristol, for example). Fortunately, we managed to find our way onto the main road, which was to take us most of the way up to the campervan park, the one which our Lonely Planet book said was "the best in Auckland".
After a surprisingly quick journey through the Auckland's CBD, we went over the bridge to the North Shore area. There was just one snag. We couldn't find the North Shore Campervan Park. We knew where it should be, but, without a street address, couldn't find it easily, and, as John was still unfamiliar with driving the campervan, we did not fancy driving up and down suburban streets (most of which had traffic lights which necessitated hill starts). Also, the area was very built up, which wasn't our idea of where a campervan park should be. So, I took a look at the map, and found the next campervan park symbol, up in a town called Orewa.
As the campervan park symbol was directly on the main road, I thought that it might be a bit easier to find. And that was how we ended up at Orewa Beach Holiday Park.
The campsite was exactly how I imagined it should be - plenty of trees and grass, picnic benches to eat out on, and a barbeque area. Plus, it had this view from the campervan:
This is the view at 6.30 in the morning:
The beach whilst we were on it:
The campsite from the beach (our van is the one directly in the centre, facing away from the camera):
The receptionist at the campsite was lovely - she explained that the campsite we had been aiming for was no longer part of the Top10 franchise: all campsites affiliated to the chain have to reach a certain standard, and it had failed to meet that standard. So, we were very lucky to have missed it! I had been recommended to look at Top10 from a forum - if you paid $40 (approximately £16) for their membership card, you not only got 10% discount for every night you stayed, but each site (and there are 49 through NZ) has negotiated local discounts at restaurants, cafes and leisure sites. Plus, there was a 10% discount on the ferry between North and South Island, which nearly saved us the cost of the card straight away!
We took the rest of the day very easily, barbequeing the sausages we had bought at the supermarket, and then turning in for an early night.
The next day, we had a leisurely start, and set out to look for the local art centre, which had a Top10 dicount on coffee (we were both feeling the need for something a bit stronger than instant!) Unfortunately, we turned the wrong way out of the park, and ended up taking a stroll right into Orewa town (about 15 minutes walk). Whilst this meant that we had to walk a little further for our coffee than we had anticipated, it did give us a chance to explore the town and scout out possible places for eating out. The art centre itself was lovely; the coffee was very good, as were the brunch options (even if there wasn't a fry up on the menu!), and they had a couple of very interesting exhibitions on display. We also took the opportunity to pop into the local tourist centre, where we were able to buy more detailed street maps of Auckland. After calling my great aunt and cousin (who both live in Auckland) and arranging to meet the next day, we set out on a cliff top walk. Unfortunately, we hadn't got into the scale of New Zealand maps, and what looked like it would be a pleasant stroll to the end of the peninsula (even from looking at it from the beach) was a little bit further than we anticipated! The round trip took over two hours, with a mixture of walking along the cliff, and through housing estates. We even got to see our first native New Zealand wildlife, the Pukeko:
This is not my picture, but from http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/photos/new_zealand/pages/pukeko.htm - we were unable to get a good picture of a pukeko, despite the numerous ones we saw throughout the islands.
Dinner that evening was at the Ship and Anchor, a fantastic pub, with an amazing seafood chowder. It was here that I was introduced to the practicalities of the "doggy bag." Whilst I was aware of the practice, it wasn't something that I'd really come across in UK pubs and restaurants - whenever I'd said that I was too full to finish my plate, the attitude was one of "never mind, we'll throw it away." Whereas, here, when I explained to the waitress that the food had been delicious, but I just didn't have room for another drop, she brought it back in a takeaway tub! It made a great starter for supper the next evening...