So it was a bit bigger than I thought (not New Zealand, the aeroplane, and yes, I happen to like pictures of aeroplanes), one of Air NZ's jumbos on the first leg of a flight to LA. We were stuffed down the back on the inside seats with no window views but, at three hours, it's a short enough flight. We arrived in Auckland at 17.40, cleared customs and picked up the rental car from Ezi-Rent a 5 or 6 years old Mazda with 120,000 on the clock but it went like a charm and came at quite a discount to some of the rates on offer from the global companies.
We spent the first night at a motel at Papakura, just off the highway and not far south of Manukau. We could easily have got through to our first destination, Thames, at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula but it had been a busy day and we'd travelled far enough - our memories of driving around the South Island like lunatics and trying to do too much in too short a time are still very fresh ! I was personally very grateful to stop there and take a break. Four hours in the car the day before and three hours in the jumbo had been more than enough for my back by that stage.
That evening we headed off to the supermarket to buy some supplies and hit the local Pak-n-Save where they don't pack the bags for you (so you supposedly save money) but you can buy plastic bags and pack it yourself. At 10 cents a bag it works out at about 1 or 2 cents an item so probably OK for the very budget conscious. Since our last visit the Kiwis have changed their coins so we had to get used to them being completely different to the old ones (which used to be very similar to the Aussie coins). This is probably a deliberate policy to confuse Australian tourists and is definitely not part of the ANZCER, a grand concept which many had high hopes for but seems to have withered on the vine.
Of course, the other thing the Kiwis have done (especially to annoy Queenslanders) is adopt daylight saving so they're now three hours ahead which is more than enough to seriously disrupt your sleep pattern and dining schedule.
Some photos and the travelogue to come - meanwhile Happy New Year !