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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 24 February 2021
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The Happy Camper: It’s time to move on from Eden Park

Sean and company head south to the thermal spas of Taupo in their newly-christened campervan.

"In Tirau, we stopped off to see a man about a dog."
Image: Sean Farrell

HAVING SUCH AN unbelievable climax to our five days of travel makes it difficult to visualise anything beyond. While it was great to spend an extra day in Auckland, basking in the glory of Saturday night, there comes a time when you just have to move on.

We woke before dawn to text messages coming from Irish numbers — I’m not sure what it was all about but I think the words “Sam” “Dubs” and “Coppers” were in there somewhere. The early start gave us plenty of time to raise the anchor and point this ship south.

Due to its adaptability, weight and all-round tankishness, we have finally found a worthy name to christen our home: Cian Healy. Yes, Cian the Campervan put in a man of the match performance as it trundled down along Route 1, bypassing Hamilton and Rotorua (where Ireland play this weekend) to reach Taupo – and it turns out that the team has also moved camp here for a few days.

On the drive, some of the country’s sprawling landscape was unveiled to us, much of it was familiar. Craggy green hills were speckled with dirty brown mud. There were cows, sheep… that sort of thing. The weather report spoke of thunderstorms moving north towards Auckland; all we encountered were bleak grey skies.

“An exception to prove a rule”

Cian turned off the road to Rotorua and the grey clouds began to descend lower and lower turning into a midday mist to hide the volcanic hills in the distance. When we got closer, we could see that the vapour clouds were coming from the ground.

Black hills wafted steam upwards like smoke from a smouldering rubbish tip; it came thicker still from fissures within spitting distance of the roadside. On arrival at our stop on the outskirts of the lakeside town, we find a thermal spa behind the campsite – just the ticket after a hectic weekend.

In the simmering pot we meet John, a bald middle aged man who is an exception to prove a rule. John is from New Zealand but his knowledge of the beautiful game is demonstrated when offers his World Cup analysis to us in deadly assertive tones:
“Ireland has a good chance of beating Russia now.” We laugh and say thanks very much, but he continues to give reason to his hypothesis, “We seen Russia last week and they weren’t very good.”

On the plus side, the healing power of the hot spring was displayed by providing some much needed relief from the dose of flu I picked up on arrival. In Taupo we have a launch pad, a lakeside retreat in which to recharge the battery and plot our route around this daunting set of islands.

It’s time to move on from Eden Park.

View from the Frontline: Simon Hick’s World Cup dispatches, Part 3

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