The Happy Camper: 'it feels like a one horse town when the horse is out to lunch'

It’s back behind the wheel for the lads after the weekend’s heartbreak before the flight home this week.

Irish fans dejected in Wellington on Saturday.
Irish fans dejected in Wellington on Saturday.
Image: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

AFTER AN EPIC few days in Wellington it is time to get back in the saddle and get some miles behind us ahead of the flight home.

New Zealand has a peculiar road network, especially when you are used to taking a motorway on every journey in Ireland.

But for a few exceptions leading into major cities like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch there are no dual carriageways.

State Highway 1 will take you all the way from the most northerly Capo Reinga (via a ferry) to Bluff at the Southern end.

Bar the aforementioned high-volume areas, two lanes are as good as it gets. All vehicles, be they rugby-chasing campervans, everyday saloons and jeeps or massive American style big-rig trucks, share the same space and importance.

It can make for some hairy and frustrating moments on the winding mountain passes, but it works.

It works because of the country’s sparse population, because there are regular overtaking lanes, but most of all it works because drivers here are competent and courteous. I’d hazard a guess that my patience would be tested if the normally quiet road I use to go about my daily business was suddenly clogged by one wide white campervan after another. Kiwis though, have somehow resisted the urge to blow their horns and shake a fist in our direction.

Today, the convoy of rented motorhomes pulled out of Wellington, four nations each with their own personal gripes or gratitude toward their national team. The previous night was another late one in the capital and we picked up a straggler looking for a bed along the way. Tim is a friend of ours who is taking in the World Cup before joining the Irish invasion of Melbourne and Sydney.

Broken man

Last night, he arrived into the bar complete with the kitchen sink. A rucksack on his back and a smaller bag strapped to his front, he cut quite an awkward silhouette. Today, with the facepaint he coated himself with on Saturday morning slowly fading in harsh midday sun, he looked a broken man.

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After a full day burning diesel on State Highway 3 we’re not far off him. Even if we had been in the mood for sightseeing, this was a day for staying dry inside the cabin.

We plan to spend our last full day in the country surfing in Raglan (south west of Auckland) after getting a tip from a Kiwi surf instructor in Sligo. We shot up the east coast, leaving the sunshine behind and continued through the provinces of Manawatu and Taranaki. Major towns like Palmerstown North and New Plymouth were left as mere signposts along the route as we reviewed the weekend’s events and non-events.

This evening, the road ends after 440 kilometres in a town seemingly eager to rebrand itself ‘Meadesville’ after Sir Colin Meades – the most revered All Black alive today. A name change though should be well down the list of their priorities.

On the map, Te Kuiti promises to be a mini-metropolis but (thanks in part to the sign welcoming us to Meadesville) we almost drove clean past. It doesn’t help that the rain is steadily pumping down on Cian’s snare drum roof, but Te Kuiti feels like a one horse town when the horse is out to lunch.

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