In my last post about our travels around New Zealand, I left off with a real cliff-hanger. We had just scraped in to make our flight to Palmerston North. But there’s more.

Bevin, from GetNet Website Design, had kindly offered to pick us up from the airport and drop us off at our hotel. Top bloke. We stayed at the Kingsgate and while that sounds posh it really was a b-grade motel with a fancy name but it would suffice for one night. Me and Bevin had a chat about all things web, and then me and Crystal headed into town for dinner. It was time to really get to the heart of what Palmy was like on an ordinary Wednesday night.

I felt like I was part of the Target team, a mystery visitor, secretly taking notes of the good, the bad and the boring. Admittedly it was quiet. A lot of NZ towns are mid-week. The square was actually pretty fascinating with a pleasant light show accompanied by classical music to scare away any wasted youth that might be lurking in the area.

I find myself back in the 80s

Palmys outdoor nightclub

Banner proud

Its a street

Its a sign

It looks bigger from the air

We enjoyed some wholesome winter fare at the local Speights Ale House (always a favourite) and headed back to the Kingsgate to watch Bucket List and get crumbs in the bed. The next day we had a few hours to kill before our flight home so we wandered the main street, graced with silver-haired retirees and mums with strollers, eventually tracking down where all the villagers were hiding – The Plaza. Palmerston North’s shopping Mecca. And that’s where I tracked down my purchase of the trip – a super Pac Man hoodie. Thanks Jay Jays. Flying out we were robbed of $5 by the airport, which is claiming to use this money to upgrade the place, but they’ve been doing that for almost 20 years now, and with over half a million passengers passing through every year, that’s roughly 10 million dollars. With all that moolah you think they could update that cringe-worthy neon sign out the front! Misappropriated funds anyone?

Auckland

Last on the list was the sprawling metropolis and largest city in New Zealand – Auckland. This time I was prepared with a GPS, which made driving around a whole lot easier (not quicker, just easier). Mike and Magda kindly let us use their car so we headed to where it gets wild, real wild. No, not the Viaduct but Auckland Zoo. The weather started to clear, in fact we even got a bit of sun. I’m not going to complain at all about the weather – it was noticeably warmer than our point of origin. Sure I’ve seen zebras and lions before but I never got tired of communing with nature and talking to the flamingos. I just feel like animals have got it sorted in a lot of ways we could learn from. Maybe that’s why deep down I really want to be a park ranger and have a grizzly bear for a working partner, or maybe dolphin called Flipper.

Sunday we enjoyed a taste of why they call Auckland the city of four seasons. Started out sunny, then half sun half rain, then all rain, and then rain with a double dose of rain. Being an unprepared Canterbarian I got caught out without an umbrella – round one to you Auckland, round one to you. We did the traditional South Auckland thing, stopping for KFC in Manukau then hit the modern-looking Auckland Botanic Gardens finishing up with a coffee at the cafe. Our Auckland adventure finished up with Lamb Saag and Butter Chicken from Sahal Sweets in Papatoetoe, the heart of the Indian community in Auckland. Great Butter Chicken but the Saag wasn’t up to scratch.

Sumatran Tigers
Last of the chimps finding comfort in a tub of icecream
An Emu checks out a herd of humans

We finished up in true Auckland style by driving up to the top of One Tree Hill (now No Tree Hill) and got a fantastic view of Auckland city under the glow of a full moon. A nice note to finish on before we flew out and winged our way back to Christchurch. Thanks to Mike and Magda for putting us up, Ebony for looking after the dogs and Christchurch airport for still offering free parking.

Travelling is always fun but the last few weeks have proved to me that fun is sometimes a lot closer than you think. Thanks New Zealand for being a great place to explore. Kia kaha.

Getting around NZ on a shoestring budget
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