NEW ZEALAND

For those of you used to the "red dot" systems previously used - and you know who you are !! This is a change - it seems entirely pointless to use it now so we will just have loads of NZ pages in the order in which we are in places.

So we start with our arrival by aeroplane into Auckland on the North Island. After our manic bike cleaning session in Singapore we could not have been more pleased when the Ministry of Agriculture of NZ simply took a quick look at the bikes and said - fine they can come in no problems - no fumigation ..... nothing. They even charged us for inspection of one bike only on the grounds that the government get too

Our first task on arriving in NZ was to work on the bikes. The usual servicing plus another few items : new indicator for Jenny's bike, regulator to Cliff's bike. The dealer in Auckland was more than helpful and were not in the slightest bit worried by the fact that Cliff drank every cup of coffee that was offered ! Valve clearances were checked on Jenny's bike and found to be out on both inlet and exhaust. At the time one of the top notches at BMW Zealand was doing his rounds of the dealers - before we new it he was engrossed in checking the valves also and spent an hour or so checking them himself ( probably much to the annoyance of the "real" BMW mechanic ! ). Experience BMW were very helpful so Many Thanks to them for putting up with us, if you live in the Auckland area then you are very lucky to have them there to look after your BMW.

Jenny's bike under the knife.

With pampered bikes we had a couple a days or so to look around Auckland. On our arrival we realised that we had literally just missed seeing the America's Cup 2003 - a huge sailing event. We arrived on the final day of the event as it turned out. The Americas cup is a best of nine races contest but as New Zealand had lost all the first four races proir to our arrival it was not going to last much longer, and on the day Team NZ had yet more failures and made a bad start , so Alingui (the winning yacht fron Switzaland) disapeared into the distance and the Kiwi were left to lick their wounds. Still many of the were to be found in the bars around the harbour, they still had something to celibrate as the Skipper and several crew were Kiwis anyway. We just caught the final celebrations at the harbour that evening but saw none of the boats - they apparently are swiftly removed from the water and hidden away (we missed them by about ten minutes).

Auckland is an cosmopolitan style city full of life and excitement. But it was wasted on us this time ( we will be back later ). After the Middle East we just are unable to find the interest in the country - apart from the lack of people here and subsequently the amount of space. The only one thing that we can both say we have decided about NZ is that it is just too far from anywhere (except Oz) - no weekends away out of the country. However, I suppose a trip to the other island would suffice.

Around Auckland we noticed several statues (mainly of Cows) that were both amusing and artful - not sure whether they were there all the time or just for the Cup but they provided amusement to many a tourist - including us. I think our favourite was "Elvis Cow".

Perhaps some of these in Sudbury (home) would be good - just think of the grafitti that could follow......

We found real beer here !!!!!!!!!! At Galbraiths pub and micro-brewery - and it was the real thing. Needless to say that once we had found it we went there two nights running. Our first night turned out to be rather late. We chatted to a Kiwi (the human form not the little furry thing) who had recently moved to Auckland for work - although not the capital it is most definately the place to be for work etc. In fact, there are around 4.5 million people here and 1 million of them are in Auckland (more people live in Auckland than in the whole of the South Island). Anyway, enough of the statistics. Once the pub closed we wandered over the road with our new friend and had a couple more at a wine bar.

We left Auckland for the Waitomo Caves. We had decided that we would head for the South Island taking in a couple of places on the way, We figured that as winter is coming soon it would be best to get the coldest bit done first.

We left Auckland with the Idea that we would avoid the main routes and take the back roads to Waitomo, this plan worked well for the first 130 kms then the road turned to a loose gravel track for the next 20 kms, this had Jenny cursing and swearing, mainly because the gravel was a couple of inches thick, and as a result was worse than riding on sand, but you also have to cope with the oncoming traffic (traffic-well 4 or 5 cars in 20 kms). Now Kiwi's are not generally fast drivers but give them a dirt track and they drive like their butt is on fire, this means a shower of stones as they pass, After 20 kms of this we were glad to get back onto tarmac. At this point we checked the map to see if it showed any more of gravel track on our planned route, as we looked at the map a Kiwi stopped to ask if we were lost, she explained that the route we were planning was a good one, but when we asked if any of it was gravel she explained that yes part of it was, she helpfully explained that it was only about 25 kms of track but that it was a nice track but not as good as the one we had just come down. We decided to head back to the main road and do it the quick and easy way. We arrived at Waitomo a bit earlier than expected, pitched our tent and had a little look around the place, this took all of 10 minutes, as we were to find out, in NZ a small place is not very big at all and if there is 10 or more houses then they call it a town, anyway we went into the information office and booked a tour of the Gloworm caves for the next morning.

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