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I’ll be honest, I’ve had mixed feelings about moving on from Auckland as it’s been great being here. I really like the feel of the place and staying at KKs AirBnB has been a pleasure. On the plus side, we’re both feeling much better physically and we’re looking forward to exploring.

Getting from Mt Roskill to the Sky City bus terminal was pretty painless. The 25L bus stops almost outside KKs gate, so for $11 we got dropped by the Civic theatre, five minute walk from the terminal. Admittedly, it’s a fun 5 minwutes as you’re dragging suitcases uphill as Auckland is anything but flat!

This is my first bus trip here since 1999 and my, has the quality changed!

This double-deck beastie has Wi-Fi, plug sockets, table seats in bays of four and many other mod cons. What hasn’t changed is the fact the drivers are still comedians (something I remember vividly from my last visit). There’s no seat reservations, so I asked the driver if we could sit where we liked. His reply was “sure, just leave me the one with the steering wheel”!

We’re departing Auckland now (09:30) for the 4 hour journey. I’ll keep you posted on the trip…

09:47.

On highway 1 heading South. Lane discipline here is somewhat on the liberal side…

09:56.

Our first stop’s been at Manukau on the outskirts of Auckland. The whole area appears to have sprung up in recent years and the bus terminal appears almost new. Dozens of passengers have joined us and the coach is now 90% full with a mix of young European backpackers, senior travellers (I suppose that’s me now!) and Kiwis from all communities.

10:20

Next stop: Papakura, a small town on the railway with a real mix of buildings (some colonial) and a wide variety of shops. I’m struck by how much food’s improved in NZ in the past 20 years thanks to the Asian influx. Sushi’s a staple nowadays and spice shops are common. It’s all a far cry from how I remember it! The top deck of our coach gives grandstand views into the suburban gardens we pass and the tally of children’s trampolines makes me realise just how homogenous the world’s becoming.

11:11.

Lovely! We’ve just passed the yard of a house relocator near Hampton Downs who does exactly what he claims. His yard contains a couple of dozen wooden bungalows of all shapes and sizes that’s he’s picked up from elsewhere and put up for sale!

11:26

We’re South of Huntley now and it’s easy to see from the landscape why the Scots felt so at home here.

The road parallels the railway for long stretches at this point. There’d be some great photo opportunities along here – but nothing’s running!
12:00

We’ve arrived at Hamilton, where there’s a melee as we exchange passengers. I’ve lost count of the numbers rushing to the top deck front seats only to find them occupied! On the way in we passed the local locomotive depot which was full of stabled electrics due to the holidays.

12:33.

Our penultimate stop: Cambridge. There’s not a University in sight and the oldest building’s less than 200 years, but it’s a well-kept little place that’s provided more churn to our numbers.

17:30.

We’ve settled into our backpackers and enjoyed an afternoon enjoying the sights (and smells) of Rotorua, which is pretty much tourist central nowadays. There’s a lot of modern development combined with some lovely old touches, such as this former Spa (latterly a museum) which is being restored following damage suffered in the 2016 earthquake.

Our day ended by sampling a local craft beer establishment as well as a former police station that’s been converted into a pub and named the Pig and Whistle, after which, we ended up at the Thursday night market and sampled some stunning food. Here’s a sample of what was on offer.

We ended up eating at Johnny’s dumpling house, a stall so popular that the queues were massive. When you sampled his wares it was easy to see why. The portions were huge and the dumplings divine! dg315474crop

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