Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Road to Auckland

A Change of Plans

Research for our trip had barely begun after buying tickets to Melbourne, when Jon, who I would be travelling with, achieved a qualifying time in a race in the UK to represent Great Britain in his age group category at the World International Triathlon Championship.  These were scheduled to be held in Auckland, New Zealand, the week after our flights to Australia, so rather than change the flights we bought tickets from Melbourne to Auckland leaving 24 hours after our arrival.

The flight to Melbourne was better than I expected, as the relatively cheap tickets with Royal Brunei Airways proved to hold great in-flight movies on demand, as well as a constant supply of soft drinks and food. After a long flight with two changes, and not very much sleep on my part, we finally arrived in Melbourne, where we were greeted by the friendly face of Rhys Neild, who had thankfully been able to decipher several scrappy emails detailing our arrival time. Rhys drove us back to his flat in Richmond, a suburb of Melbourne, where we would be staying the night and following day as his guests, for which we were most grateful after the past day of sitting on a plane.

After a painfully early morning, due to jetlag, Jon and I decided to see some of the city, so we headed into the centre and wandered around China Town and Federation Square. I instantly liked the atmosphere, and was reassured at my decision to commit to living in the city for a considerable time upon our return from New Zealand.

Later that evening, taking only hand luggage after leaving my main bag at the flat, Rhys dropped us again at the airport where we would see him again six weeks later. We had decided that rather than just go for the triathlon, we would make the most of our tickets and do a quick tour of the country, especially with the twelve month clock on our Australian visas already ticking.

Arriving in Auckland in the early morning, it became clear that it was going to be colder than expected. Though we had left the beginning of winter in the UK, it was still spring in New Zealand, despite my visions of a tropical paradise, and while the days were to be warm in the sun, the nights still gave a surprising chill. The Airport is a way out from the city, and it took a shuttle about an hour to drive us over to the other side.
We would be staying in a twin room at a hostel called The Brown Kiwi about a twenty minute walk from the city centre.

Although we would usually save money and stay in a dorm room, Jon needed to get sleep well in preparation for the race. The hostel had a really friendly environment, and was a great place to ask questions about where to go on our trip, as well as meeting lots of great people. With various triathlon events spread throughout the week, the city was a hive of activity, and while the jetlag lasted for a couple of days, it didn't stop us having a great time. We explored in and around the city during the next few days, and after going up a dormant volcano on the outskirts got a real sense of the landscape that we would be experiencing over our time in the country.

The view from Mount Eden - Auckland's highest natural viewpoint and a dormant volcano

Jon’s race was about a week after we arrived and, despite bad weather conditions and an extremely early start he did very well in his event, for which I have huge respect having traveled the same distance myself and still not fully acclimatised. It was an inspiration to watch, even though I only saw the final running leg, and would like to congratulate him for doing his country proud.

While Jon had been training, I had organised the car rental, so after a couple of days where Jon enjoyed some well deserved beers we said our goodbyes to our friends in the hostel and headed to the outskirts of the city where we picked up a white Nissan Sunny. This would be the car which would be our partner in crime across the two islands over the next six weeks, and which we soon became accustomed to driving, both being on the insurance. 

Our Car - The Sunny

We headed north, with a rough plan mapped out on a route from Tourist information.

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