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Dublin: 8°C Friday 16 April 2021

The Happy Camper: we're on the road again...

Our heroes have reached Auckland and taken delivery of their home-on-wheels. But there’s already been an unfortunate accident on a roundabout.

Image: Barkaw via flickr/creative commons

HAVING NARROWLY AVOIDED some excess baggage costs on the bags under our eyes we have made it, lock stock and two bottles of ‘Jemmy’ to Auckland.

We thought it would never happen but yes, over 12 months after the plan was conceived and over 30 hours since we took off from Irish soil, we have been released from captivity into the big adventure playground that is New Zealand 2011.

First stop in our soon-to-be-christened campervan is Takapuna, a suburb north of Auckland which we picked out because of its beach, which must be around here somewhere but we have no interest in finding it today.

You’ll notice this is a more Zen, upbeat Happy Camper than the one you encountered yesterday.

Well getting here at last helped, but so too did the journey to Sydney which was possibly the most enjoyable flight we’ve ever taken – and getting a couple of hours shut-eye didn’t harm its case.

Sydney Airport felt like a return to the rat-race of day-to-day air travel. Well, apart from the serenity of long-haul, these short jumps are more pressurised with more room for delays, so the stress began to mount as we had a 4pm cut off to collect the camper. It all worked out in the end though.

The rental company sent a minibus to collect us and Royce, a middle-aged Brisbane-based Kiwi with an awesome moustache. Royce has been exiled to the unbearable heat of Australia’s north for 25 years and says that these pilgrimages back home are becoming increasingly rare. He’s rented a campervan for his fortnight and he’ll follow the silver fern to Hamilton and Wellington.

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‘The smell of whiskey filled the air, ‘man down!’ Such a tragedy’

A typical rugby loving Kiwi, Royce is far from a one-eyed fan. His trip will take in at least three games not involving the All Blacks, including Tonga versus Japan and Ireland’s clash with Australia. When we ask him who he’ll cheer for he quips, “Well, I’m a Kiwi living in Australia for 25 years so I’ll cheer for anyone who can beat the Wallabies.”

Once Royce pulls away in his two-man home from home, we’re showed the ropes on our machine. With limited sleep I can only assume that I didn’t take in half the information given out but we set off with the cold spring sun still shining. First stop is a U-turn back to the airport to collect Del who just about cleared customs with enough cigarettes to keep France’s entire travelling support happy during next week’s match against the hosts.

As with driving any new vehicle, this van takes some acclimatisation. It’s the little things: you shift to top left for reverse, and pull the indicator down to signal a left turn. They also tell us that vehicles turning right at a junction have the right of way, which sounds like nasty practical joke to me.

What isn’t one bit funny is that we had a very serious accident on our first roundabout. In our haste to get going, we landed all the bags inside in no particular order, so when that last exit arrived: SMASH, the duty free bag skated right off the kitchen worktop and took and almighty whack on the floor. The smell of whiskey filled the air, ‘man down!’ Such a tragedy, that bottle had so much left to give but now, his twin must fill the void.

Given that its spring, the sun had set by the time we arrived in Takapuna at six and my brain is telling me that now must be the time for sleep, I tell it to shut up and let me do the driving.

The site is spacious with friendly staff and (inevitably) we have only encountered Irish and Australians within the hedges so far, there is only one show in town this weekend.

So it’s time to stretch these legs and venture out of our confined spaces to see what else this place might have to offer.

Read the rest of Sean’s postcards from the edge here>

Check out our Rugby World Cup mini-site here>

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