Kia Ora (Hello) New Zealand!

After an early start in Sydney, we arrived at Auckland Airport on the afternoon of Saturday 15th January. The two hour time difference meant that it was nearly 3 O’clock by the time we disembarked and once we’d survived the rigorous security checks we were ready to collect our camper van!

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It wasn’t exactly what we’d ordered and looked pretty ‘used’ but it sounded smooth enough so after naming him ‘Fred’ we crossed our fingers that he’d last the month and set off towards Auckland city centre.

We spent most of the afternoon getting used to Fred and working out how we could fit our luggage into all of his cubby holes, then turned our attention to where we would park up for the night. Now the name of the game in New Zealand is to save as much cash as possible by ‘free camping’ and not have to fork out for camping ground fees every day.

We headed towards Auckland’s North Shore, across the impressive Harbour Bridge with its fantastic views of the city and harbours, and drove towards Takapuna Beach.

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Once we’d had a peek at the beach we set about looking for a spot nearby to park. Most of the streets we drove past were covered in parking restrictions so we didn’t really want to risk parking there. Instead we found a fantastic spot by a beautiful lake with no parking signs whatsoever, an awesome view of the water, wildlife and… a portaloo!

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This is great! We couldn’t believe how lucky we had been to find this spot and raced off to the supermarket for supplies before we settled in for the night. Of course, it wouldn’t be us if things ran this smoothly and when we got back to the lake, the gate to the car park was locked! We’d missed our chance by about ten minutes and now had nowhere to stay!

By this time it was pitch black, which made it even harder to navigate around a strange city so we drove towards a nearby holiday park and looked for somewhere close to it where we could park up the van relatively unnoticed. After trying out a kid’s playground, the Shell garage and the back yard of a butcher shop we settled on a liquor store car park near the motorway!

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Obviously this wasn’t the most glamorous of locations but it did the job! The car park was empty and the next day being a Sunday, we knew that we were unlikely to be disturbed at stupid o’clock in the morning. We broke in the on-board gas cooker and had ourselves some noodles and sausages for dinner before transforming our sofas into a bed. That night we had a quiet, comfy night’s sleep, despite keeping one ear open for any car park attendants or security guards who may have kicked us out. From the sounds of Richard’s snoring, I’d say he had the best night’s sleep for weeks!

The next morning we drove back to the nearby holiday park and paid $10 NZ (about five quid) to use their toilets, shower and kitchen. Once we were suitably refreshed we got back into the camper van and drove to Auckland city centre. We drove to Westhaven Marina, under the shadows of the harbour bridge and got some great pics of the city skyline.

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After seeing this famous Tower from the distance we wanted to get up close and see just how impressive the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere was.

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Inside ‘Sky City’ we visited the information centre and watched a short film about the Tower and the formation of Auckland. It was really interesting – we didn’t realise the entire city was formed by lava from volcanic eruptions and that practically every hill you see here is a volcano!

Another one of Auckland’s famous waterside locations is Viaduct Harbour so we decided to take a walk there to see what all the fuss was about. It’s renowned for its superyachts and fancy bars and is a really pretty area. There were loads of bars with live music playing as we walked past so we decided to go to one and treat ourselves to a drink and portion of chips whilst we soaked up the chilled our atmosphere.

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From the harbour we took a long detour on our way back to the car park where Fred was waiting and walked through the pretty Albert Park. This is right in the heart of the city and whilst small, is a great place to go and chill out on a warm, sunny day.

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Satisfied with our taste of Auckland we called it a day and drove to our ‘campsite’ for the night – Westhaven Marina! Whilst we were there, earlier that day, Richard had the inspired idea to ask one of the security guards whether we could park up for the night in the visitor’s car park. To our surprise and delight, he said yes! Tony (the security guard) even arranged to give us the key code for all night access to the toilets and shower there – what a great bloke!

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We were so happy to get possibly the best overnight spot in Auckland for free and couldn’t stop smiling as we watched the sun go down over the city. Now, that’s living the life of Riley!…

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