Kia ora - welcome to the Middle Earth! / by Marek Charytonowicz

At 5:45 am we jumped in a cab and got to the airport to fly to Auckland. The New Zealand adventure was beginning and we were excited and very sleepy. Three hours of beautiful ocean views later we landed in the land of mountains, Maori, Kiwis and Hobbits. It was already afternoon - three hours ahead of Brisbane time and we immediately jumped from 9 to 12-hour time difference from home. 

New Zealand welcomed us with long customs control. Bringing any food or plants to the islands is not allowed to avoid contaminating the local flora and for us that means giving up all the matchbox seeds found on the beach in Port Douglas. Apparently they bring luck when found so it seemed like we gave away around 8 pieces of it. When we finally managed to convince the officers that we don't have any more biological weapons that may threaten New Zealand in our bags, we were greeted by a three meter stone statue of a Dwarf Warrior - a movie prop from The Lord Of The Rings - temporarily residing at the airport and welcoming travellers to Middle Earth. I couldn't wait to see the locations used in the trilogy by Peter Jackson - it was like a child's dream coming true at least!

An hour later we were making ourselves comfortable in Quality Hotel Purnell. A place that needs 'quality' in its name immediately sounds suspicious - especially when a day earlier we watched John Oliver ridiculing Donald Trump (read Drumpf) and using our hotels' golden logo as a ironic example of bad branding. The hotel wasn't too bad though and at least the area was nice and a walk away from the city centre. 

We didn't plan to stay long in Auckland. We only had one evening to have a sneak peek at the city and grab a bite - in a strange place called Woodpecker which was an unexpected fusion between Canadian axe man grill bar and Thai restaurant - but served good food nonetheless. We did a short walk to see the harbour and have a drink. It was much colder than in Brisbane and now we appreciated the long sleeved shirts and jumpers that used to be a dead weight in Australia.

The next day we were about to pick up our camper van. With no prior experience in driving one that itself was looking like an adventure...