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We caught the midnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney. For reasons that must have been abundantly clear to us at the time we chose to fly Air Asia. That meant we had to disembark in Sydney, pick up our luggage, exit through customs and enter in again through security. That took three hours. Jetstar from Singapore would have cost the same and we could have gone through the transit lounge. Lesson learned.

Air New Zealand has to have the best entertainment system for Economy in the skies. The screen was as big as our TV at home (in joke, folks!) and the choice of movies was amazing. I choose the The Return of the King to kind of get oriented to New Zealand. Love that battle scene and really enjoyed the short hop to Auckland. Here we parted company with my colleague, Shelley, who was staying with family. We got the shuttle to Jet Park Hotel, your standard business traveller’s hotel; nice room at a reasonable rate. Except for breakfast: $25 Kiwi bucks for powdered eggs and hash browns. Each!

About New Zealand, the car rental company with the best rate on the island, picked me up with their shuttle bus and twenty minutes later I was fixed up with an old Nissan stationwagon that will double as our bed if the weather turns nasty. It was nasty for the first part of the day; hurricane Evan terrorizing the island of Fiji to the north and bringing some cloud and drizzle our way. But it brightened up as we drove, and so did we as we made our way south past the airport and took the exit by the Botanical Gardens that promised to be a scenic coastal road.

We had rented a GPS navigator and – don’t laugh! – because we had never used one before had a dickens of a time convincing this thing that we did not want to take the expressway to where we wanted to go. The further we got away from the highway, the seemingly more frantic the calls from the GPS saying ‘please do a U-turn at the first available opportunity.’ I finally just shut the poor thing off before it blew a gasket and followed my instinct. Once we were some distance down the road to the coast (from the Botanical Gardens just keep tracking south and east), we plugged in directions to the coastal town of Thames, and Ginger – that’s what Pam took to calling our GPS – got herself straightened out and began to become useful.

Maps are wonderful things out on the roads, but in the city you have to rely on roadsigns, which are notoriously absent in cities. Ginger paid for herself in the towns and cities we went through, invariably choosing the quickest route and saving us both time and headache. Of course she earned herself another ‘time out’ when we hit Papamoa, as I was determined to see the funky little mountain at the end of the strip and take the coast road all the way back to the campsite. Bad Ginger; shut up!

The Top Ten campsite at Papamoa ranks as one of the three best we have ever stayed at (the one at Albany overlooking the Southern Ocean in Australia being number one, the campsite in Interlaken in Switzerland being number two. The vast Pacific Ocean is rolling in barely fifty metres from our tent; the kitchen is forty square metres of stainless steel heaven; the showers are Swiss-clean and gushing with hot water. The early morning sum coming up over the beach was amazing. A great start to what promises to be an epic road trip!

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