4.5.17 Homeward bound

Warning! The following article was written with SEVERE jetlag. All grammar errors, words and opinions are not ours.

Walk, Ferry, Shuttle Bus, Airport bus. 

Hour queue for check in. 

Enjoy 5 movies, two meals, one snack box and one unidentified vegetarian warm food item on 17 hour flight leaving Auckland at 15.30 to Doha. Arrive into Doha at midnight (on the same day?!?) and hang out at the sixth airport to be awarded five stars.

At 2am Doha time we eat a burger in a food court as we are both starving (Stomach’s revenge for red wine overload?). I think I see a giant teddy bear but my mind is sleep deprived and confused. 

I think I meet George Cloony but my mind is sleep deprived and confused. 

Turns out we use the same hair products.

At 4.30am we check in for our 7 hour flight to sunny Blighty. We consume 3 movies, one meal and a veggie pasty thing.

At 11am we land on the damp rock in the north east Atlantic that is home. I think this means it has taken thirty and a half hours to get from Auckland to London but my brain is tired.

We embrace the balmy English weather

Al wins carousel rucksack roulette taking the final trip score to Al 4-2 Guy. She wins the casting vote in our flat hunt.

Alison’s wonderful parents and our new landlords meet us at the airport.

Bus, Bus, Train, Car and within five hours of being in the country we are in Waitrose perusing the Kiwi wine selection. 

We have swollen ankles.

For those of you who have been writing in, demanding to know Al’s fitbit totals for the whole eight months, here are the final scores on the doors:

3,570,330 steps

1,514.81 miles walked (which is equivalent to walking from London to Ivalo, in the north of Finland)

646,995 calories burnt (mostly replaced by dumplings)

1,791 hours slept

Thankfully Fitbit don’t record alcohol units consumed.

We go to bed at 7pm in full daylight.

Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home.

THANKS FOR READING!

1.5.17 Hastings to Waiheke Island

Today we make our penultimate journey of this trip, it will be a mixed bag of transport, taxi, teeny plane, bus, ferry, bus. 

We have booked an internal flight with Air New Zealand as it was cheaper than the bus and it saved us an overnight in Auckland.

Propeller driven plane….gulp….

So, on our last Monday away, as everyone at home was having a bank holiday lie in we were up early. We packed and left our glamping tent, which had been battered by wind and rain the night before, and got on our way to the small but beautiful Napier airport. 

View from Hawkes Bay airport

We checked in our bags, as they had bottles of wine carefully packed throughout we asked that they have the fragile tags put on. They were duly tagged.

Look at the fragile label, this means do not throw it around the plane

Breakfast was pastry based with Hawthorne coffee to wash it down. We watched as the baggage handlers threw our bags into the baggage hold on our plane. Fragile tags duly ignored.

Gourmet sausage roll

The wind had really picked up so it was with trepidation that we boarded the small, propeller driven plane. It was bumpy on the way up but once up it was a breeze.

55 mins later we are in Auckland and on our way into town for the ferry to the beautiful island of Waiheke, where we had booked a bit of luxury for our last 3 nights of the trip. 

Auckland CBD from Waiheke ferry

The 35 min ferry journey was stunning, many photos were taken.

Landing on the tiny island we got a bus the 2km into Oneroa, luxury, and got into our Air BnB to see what we have for the last time. Washing machine and dryer are the essentials as I don’t want to go back to Mum and Dad’s with a bag full of washing. Mum never did my washing when I was a student so I doubt it will be gratefully received on Friday!!! 

Our place has views front and back to the seaside. How ace?

Harbour in Waiheke 

We got some fancy items from the posh Island Grocer and essentials from Four Square and went back to the flat to do washing and cook up some lamb merguez sausages for a late lunch.

Guy cooked a stunning evening meal of lamb meatballs, couscous and adds green leaves for health. 

It was accompanied by 2 very fine Pinot Noirs for which we were grateful to be drinking due to Guy’s diligent packing and not the Air NZ baggage handlers. We watch The Bachelor and MKR. 

Pinot Noir taste test

14.4.2017 16th Wedding anniversary….. Auckland to Wellington

We had packed and vacated the room early as a jet lagged English couple had landed after an overnight flight from Japan so needed the room more than us!!

We have really enjoyed staying at Mt Eden and Richard’s house, and today when we went for coffee and the sprightly Italian owner said ‘the usual’ we were dead chuffed. Coffee was swigged along with a small shot of amaretto as a ‘happy anniversary’ present from my wonderful husband. 

Amaretto, the slightly more obscure 16th anniversary gift

We sauntered up and down Mt Eden one​ last time. As it was Good Friday there were many more people that the previous few days and Cyclone Cook was a distant memory, the views were fab.

Just to prove I did make it to the top

We finished all our food off in one massive brunch style dish and decided we didn’t need to eat ever again after that.

We had picked up a horned melon from the local fruit and veg shop, $3.99 each, and all of us who tried the fruit agreed it was a one off experience, not to be repeated. Fresh, green tasting with lots of seeds, not sure you would sprinkle it on a pork chop….

Spikey little fruit
Green pips inside…..from the cucumber family

Our final overnight bus journey of the trip is tonight, so we have another day of killing time. We dropped bags off at Britomart station and wandered down Auckland downtown with the intention of having a leisurely pint or glass of vino to celebrate 16 wonderful years of marriage. However we had not taken into account the stringent public holiday drinking laws here. Unless we had a full main course meal each then we cannot be served any wine. Wow! What do you do on a bank holiday weekend if it isn’t meeting your mates in the pub for a sesh? 

We couldn’t face any more food so wandered, chatted, wandered some more.

The overnight journey was quick, with food stops at 11.30pm and 3am. People got off and ate on the 3am stop!!! 

13.4.2017 Auckland and Cyclone Cook

Everyone was being warned about an incoming Cyclone, named Cook. Businesses were shutting early, although as it coincided with the Easter break this could have been an excuse to get off early??

As the rain had been pretty appocolyptic the last couple of days we were dreading more rain and more wind. Still, the weather was ok in the morning for the ritual of caffeine and volcano walking. 

Caffeine was courtesy of a new cafe over the road, run by a friendly Italian. The coffee was strong and got us up and down Mt Eden at a fast pace.

We got back home, did some chores and sat around, waiting. The sun came out. Guy decided that his jeans didn’t fit, so we had to take them back. This attracted howls of derision from myself, along with taunts of ‘maybe you should have tried more jeans on!’.

Train ride later and we were in Newmarket and Guy was buying Birkonstocks, can you tell we are on our way home??? Jeans changed and we got a bus to Mt Eden and had a Japanese meal at Coen, with a free miso soup as they were closing for the Easter weekend. 

We were out of wine, and if a cyclone was forcasted we needed wine to see us through. Sensibly we bought just one bottle, yep, One, 1. 

Walk home in fine drizzle and we sat around the house, blogging, writing diary and chatting to Michelle, our house mate, who was also catching up on her diary.

Frustrated with technology, I suggested a glass of wine at 5pm.


Our host Richard came home from work at 5.30. Cyclone Cook never appeared.

We ran out of wine at 6pm, why did we only buy one bottle? Guy and Michelle got more wine and we chatted through the evening and had sausage butties for tea. 

We got a great Air BnB review from Richard!!!

12.4.2017 Rainy Auckland

With the time difference between here and home we are getting used to catching up with family and (usually alcohol happy) friends early in the morning. It is an entertaining start to the day whilst lazing around. We are now used to our phones not pinging, bleeping, ringing throughout the day which will no doubt change when we get home. I do like it this way though 😁

Rain, and lots of it, was forecast for today, so we decide that as we have experience of inclement weather in the UK and that sheltering in a pub is the best way to deal with this, we plan to stick to what we know.

Kiwi adverts….. LOL

Before that can happen we need to do the caffeined run up and down the extinct volcano, less views than before, same amount of Chinese tourists. 

Atmospheric views

Washing, food shopping and book buying later and we were looking out on our normally sunny patio wondering what on earth had happened to the weather. I know they said rain, but this was Asian appocolyptic rain. 

Rain on the patio. Serious rain

When it slacked off we walked to Brothers Brewery​, drank beer, wrote blogs and diaries and ate some flipping amazing food. 

Demonstrating use of umbrella outside the brewery

The brisket of beef and the pastrami were amazing. The sides of beans and cabbage will no doubt make a reappearance later in the form of noxious gases. 

Note​ to self: must remember to leave a window open tonight.

A short walk to Galbraith’s and we sampled award winning beer and carried on with blogging and diary writing. Tough day eh?

An English (kiwi) award winning bar

11.4.2017 Auckland Domain and Dumplings

So the healthy caffeinated run up and down an extinct volcano exercise routine is in full swing. We did it again and see yet more Chinese tourists checking out the views.

Rangitoto volcanic island

We walk over to the Domain, a huge expanse of green grass in the centre of Auckland, it also has a hothouse and fernery. Ace. 

Check out these roots….

Over the otherside of the Domain is Newmarket, which we head to as we are starving and spot a few Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese and dumpling restaurants. Dumplings win, along with a glass of kiwi white wine each. 

Seafood, beef and carrot, pork and shrimp, shrimp types of dumplings

A spot of jeans shopping later and we were sorted. Guy tried on 3 pairs, I tried on slightly more.

Piles of disgarded jeans

I threw together a tuna nicoise salad back at home.

Check out those soft poached eggs

 and we did a double header on the movies and wine. Mad Max Fury Road, followed by The secret life of Walter Mitty. 

Wines tasted:

Coopers Creek Chardonnay

Lawson Dry Hills Gerwurtztraminer Marlborough

Wycroft Pinot Noir 2014 Wairarapa

Kahurangi Estate Pinot Noir 2015 Nelson

10.4.2017 Auckland

We are determined to get home being able to fit into our clothes in storage so are embarking on an exercise regime which involves getting caffeined up to the eyeballs then running up and down an extinct volcano every day, we will write a self help book about it when we get home and make a fortune.

The massive volcano that is Mt Eden

Day One and we did an 11 min walk to Rad for Guy to have their famous flat white. I stuck with a reliable long black (as opposed to a short black which is an espresso). Guy liked the flat white as it was less milky and more coffee than the usual frothy, milky coffee concoctions.

Wow, what a cool flat white

We had a light jog up aforementioned volcano and were greeted with even more Chinese tourists than yesterday. 

Guy looking relaxed after jogging up Mount

Back down the volcano and Guy cooked up a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros which we demolished in seconds.

We had a wander down Dominion Road nearby and checked out the Chinese quarter, it was too early for dumplings so we carried onto Mt Eden shops which are varied and include an allotment, the likes of which I have never seen before. 

How beautiful is this???

We then carried on past a small kids playground with a bucket contraption in it. Like Aquarama in Bennicassim, if anyone has been there.

Memories of Spain

Back in Mt Eden and we chance upon an independent wine shop. What are the chances of that?  We chatted to the chap in the shop for sometime, purchased 2 bottles of wine and went home to plan and book much of the remaining time we have left accompanied by a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Dinner was leftovers salad.

We watched Hateful Eight on our 42″ TV in our room and drank Pinot Noir.

Wines tasted:

Waiheke Island Sauvignon Blanc Man O’ War 2015

Marlborough Pinot Nior Giesen 2015

9.4.2017 Auckland suburbia

We awoke late, very late, thanks to a wonderfully comfy bed.  Fruit for breakfast in the garden admiring the avocado, manderin, lemon and lime trees growing all around us. Amazing.  I want to live on an extinct volcano, everything grows so well here.

Arvo already on a tree, won’t be ripe until November

We make a cup of green tea. Richard’s kettle is amazing. 

Just look at those tea settings

His toaster is just as impressive.

How many settings on this toaster

We walk to Kingsland which is another suburb of Auckland nearby.  It was nice, and had a bar serving Mac beer, which although it looked like a small brewer was actually owned by the massive Lion Beers whose owner had died the previous day. We toasted him with a small ale and a comfy seat.

Sunday’s were made for drinking

It was imperative that we moved on, a Sunday afternoon could quite easily have slipped by in that position. 

We walked into Ponsonby, where last time we enjoyed a Ponsonby Pie, the bakery was not to be found though, so we had 2 pies in the Ponsonby area anyway. 

Ponsonby steak and mushroom pie

We managed not to buy t-shirts from this area, at $85 each it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. In fact Guy even said that if there was a t-shirt with Stevie Bull on the front and Led Zepplin and Stone Roses in a big group selfie on the back he still wouldn’t pay that amount of money, thankfully this challenge wasn’t tested.

More up and down hill walking later and we were at the waterfront, drinking wine at The Conservatory, a Wither Hills Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc 2016 to be precise, and relaxing in comfy leather chairs with the wind and drizzle starting up outside the bar.

Kiwi sauvignon blanc

A quick dash along the waterfront and we were in Wynyard area, at an Irish pub. No, we didn’t have Guinness, not wanting to mix our drinks we had a Russian Jack Pinot Noir 2014 Martinborough. This means we have been in an Irish pub in each country we have stayed in. Result! Dedication and tenacity get results like that.

Kiwi Pinot Noir

We got the bus home, Guy threw together some nachos together in our kitchen, without looking too pissed, and we returned to our room, with its 42″ TV and watched Rogue One, I asked lots of questions throughout 🤣. 

8.4.2017 Auckland

We are staying in Mt Eden, which as the name suggests has a slight incline to the area. Our host, Richard is full of NZ and Auckland facts and has told us that Auckland is built on 46 volcanos, not all of them​ still active and not many of them still looking like volcanos. Mt Eden is dead as far as volcanic activity is concerned, but still a small hike uphill. 

Crater at top of Mt Eden

We had a short 15 minute, slightly breathless, walk up the Mount and were welcomed at the top by many Chinese tourists and stunning views over the city and bays of Auckland.

View of downtown Auckland

Having got our bearings at the summit, spotted about 10 volcanos still left around the area and viewed Eden Park, we had a walk down the other side of Mt Eden and onto Downtown Auckland. 

Eden park, home of Kiwi rugby

Fortunately we were passing through some dumpling restaurants, one was called Love Dumpling, and you can guess what happened next??? Pork and fennel dumplings, not the best we have had, but we still have to find a dumpling we don’t like.

Off centre dumplings on a plate

A wander down Queen Street and a few memories were coming back to us from 17 years ago, Real Groovy records was one of them.

Massive tower, and no, we didn’t go up it….vertigo!!!

Much more walking later, and a couple of magnums were devoured, red velvet and the ubiquitous hokey pokey flavour.

Soon we were in Newmarket and visiting a Countdown supermarket and getting a bus home laden with salad and dips. Dips are particularly good here, current ones we are sampling are Aubergine and cashew nut, also Kumara and coconut.  

Lisa knows her dips

Dinner was a healthy bacon and arvo salad, and an early night watching Force Awakens (Guy) & Kingpin (Al).

7.4.2017 Australia to New Zealand

So, second flight of the trip and we had a breakfast to line the stomachs. 

B.L.A.T. (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Tomato) for me, and I did actually say BLAT when ordering it, in a slightly English, ‘I feel a numpty saying this’ kinda way.

Guy’s usual of eggs, toast, arvo and bacon

A film crew were also filming in the tiny cafe, we kept out of the way.

Using up the last of our Aussie dollars we showed our age by buying boiled sweets to help with the ear pressure on planes, and to put in our car when we get home and have a Sunday drive out.

On checking into the flight we were told we needed to book flights out of New Zealand otherwise we can’t go there. We attempt to book flights home using my credit card, the only one we have left, which is declined before being approved. If nothing else, we need to get home to get our driving licences and new credit cards, Guy’s card having been cloned whilst in Australia and a new one sent to my Mum who is having a ball with it. 

Our panic bought flight is booked to leave on Star Wars Day (yes, Guy did tell me that) and arrive on 5th May which involves the longest flight you can take in the world…  17 hours. See Guardian article. Bring it on! 

We hope to see all our readers welcoming us back at Heathrow on the 5th May…..😂 (Blog will have intermittent service after this date as our lives will be dull and boring, again).

We are now able to check in and our flight to Auckland was short and noisy with families containing small kids all vying to see who could scream the loudest.   

Touchdown in NZ felt like home with the green fields covering the landscape but the stringent quarantine laws quickly confirmed it wasn’t when they needed to check the shells we had picked up in Hawks Nest. They passed, and we were allowed in. Our last visit had involved indepth questioning from quarentine officials over a box of Bisto gravy powder and whether it had BSE in it. Like a box of Bisto had seen any cow….. let alone a mad one?

Our Air BnB place was 2 min walk from the SkyBus, and it was 17 degrees outside….. what??? It felt cold, very cold.

Anyway soon we were in the loveliest home ever, chatting with Richard, our host, and eating excellent fish n chips from the local chippy he had recommended.

Kumara chips, delicious

UPDATE: For those of you wondering what we are doing on our return to Blighty, we are planning on renting a small flat in Birmingham, getting jobs and saving for our next adventure. We will of course be in touch with friends to sort out catch ups, but flat and jobs will be our focus to get us back into society again. We are also going to try and do without a car!!! Using public transport and bikes…… we will see how that dream goes though.