Days 1 – 3: Wednesday 7th September

Totton to Christchurch via Bangkok & Sydney

I knew it was going to be a long five weeks when the people I was chauffeuring around New Zealand all turned up with their designer bags whereas I’d brought Michaels 10 year old Umbro rucksack, which was described as looking like a French schoolboys.

We were soon at Heathrow trying to have our last pint of real beer before our 28 hour journey to the other side of the world. Ray wouldn’t sit with us because of my rucksack so sat the other side of the plane with one of his villain mates. They spent the journey to Bangkok talking about porridge, Geordie thinking about the next round of food to be served and whether his chocolate supplies would last the journey, Judy watching the films and me asleep. This proved painful in the bladder region as I had the aisle seat.

In Bangkok we had the mother of all electric storms which put our flight back, this proving entertaining to Judy as it was all her worst nightmares in one. We were soon in the air and Sydney was a rush as we had 15 mins to get from arrivals to departure. All accomplished with the help of being rescued from Security and rushed through. Don’t know what happened to Thursday as we were soon in Christchurch on Friday lunchtime. The centre is quite an eye opener with the damage, thousands have already left not to return.

We picked up our trusty Ford Falcon (which if they get rowdy in the back you can shut them up with ‘sport’ mode) & rugby tickets.

We were soon sampling the local ale, a brew called Speight’s. As normal with anything to do with rugby added to a recipe of Dog’s & Geordie we celebrated our first night very well. The guy who ran the bar was ex All Black hooker Tane Norton, who'd toured the UK in the 70’s, hence the craic with the locals was good.

Day 4: Saturday 10th September

Christchurch to Dunedin via Moeraki Boulders, England v Argentina

In the morning we hit the road to Dunedin a five hour trip south. An hour in we stopped for breakfast in Ashburton at Robbie’s Diner where a couple of strange encounters took place, firstly have our photo taken with a framed pair of Colin Meads underpants and the second seeing my two mates having lambs liver for breakfast which is on the menu round here.

We stopped off at Moeraki Boulders on the way down, some gert big round stones in the sea and a quick photo shoot and then into town. It was match day so the place was mad with streets shut, live bands and throngs of fans. We soon found the Terrace Bar which actually had an indoor terrace with massive screen. After a couple of beers we then tried to find Barry the president of Paphos Tigers. We walked so far we should have brought a dog, gave up and went to the ground for its first match. And what a place, bit strange being at a match sober but hey ho. The ground is roofed in and packed so the atmosphere fantastic. We duly tied our England flag with Tottonians emblazoned on it to a rail and found our seat in front of some gloating Kiwi’s. You all know about the match no doubt however what you don’t know is that it wasn’t the whistling and cheering that put Johnny off it was Judy shouting "GO JOHNNY!" at the top of her voice.

Back to The Terrace till the early morning chatting with a variety of Kiwis and other nations about the finer points of our fantastic sport. Judy was in her prime of nicking other peoples clothes and hats and trying them on Geordie, Ray was talking all and sundry to death whilst me the Chauff & kitty man was constantly to the bar and back working up a hunger for a kebab before trying to negotiate our way back to Motel 97.

Day 5: Sunday 11th September.

With heads better than expected it was off for breakfast at The Craic where we were interviewed by Talk Sport. We were trying to catch our breath by this stage so took in a few sights on foot. It was soon time for the next round of matches so we joined in with local custom of having dinner whilst watching Ireland scrape through. Geordie went off for some of his chocolate stash back at the room whilst the older three went back to The Terrace for the first big clash of Wales vs South Africa which was one of the best matches all had seen for a long time (unless you were Welsh or a Yarpee of course). What could be better washing down dinner with a few Speight’s in a bar full of rugbyites watching a real exciting game.

Day 6: Monday 12th September

Dunedin to Invercargill via Nugget Point & Serat Bay

Up and off to Invercargill today a 250km trip down the coast to the southern end of South Island. With clear heads we had a quick brekkie (no lambs liver this time). We had decided to take the Scenic Route on the NZ tourist trail. We called into the tourist information place in Balclutha where Angela suggested a route which was based upon food, which appealed to the back seat boys. Bearing in mind Christchurch was 17° today was 9° when we left and soon got down to 6°. This was soon joined by the rain falling in bucket loads. We turned off the main road to continue our adventure with only us and camper vans on the trail. We soon got to Nugget Point where a 500m walk out to the lighthouse past a group of fur seals revealed great views of the coast.

Back in the motor, back down the 8km gravelled road to the sealed highway to Serat Bay where Angela had assured us there was a 99% chance of sea lions. We parked up with a light rain in the air. We followed a sand path out to the bay over the sand dunes and started our search along the sand. Judy & I had full wet weather gear on with the back seat boys in coats and jeans. Halfway along the beach the wind had picked up to force 7 – 8 behind us and the rain was pouring. With no wildlife in sight we decided to turn back. Yep . . . you got it . . . we hit the 1%! Turning round we realised how strong the wind was and our return journey resembled Lawrence of Arabia in a desert storm. Judy apparently thought she was going to die and at one stage sat in the sea, thankfully Geordie looked after her.

The back seat boys were soaked through to their underpants and we had half the beach blown into every crack and crevice so it was off to the bar in Owaka for a beer, lunch & reflection. The chowder soon put a smile back on our faces & the last two-thirds of the journey were done in one, bypassing all the sights in the pissing rain with the wipers on double speed and the choco boys in the back asleep.

Invercargill is different and very quiet, bit like the end of the world however the locals are all friendly and beer & food in the Speights Ale House hit the spot. As we whiled away the evening with a few beers by the fire, we reflected on an eventful and, at times, amusing day.

Day 7 Bluff - Tuesday 13th September.

Geordie was up early to plan the day. I recovered from driving in a monsoon by sleeping in till 8.00am. After brekkie the mobile phone was sorted and off to Bluff right on the tip of South Island and world famous for its oysters. After driving in the rain down to the point it was photo time in front of the global signpost. Eventually it dried up and after a stroll round the point the weather returned so, while the others enjoyed an afternoon of a few movies, Merlot and relaxation, I have been in blog mode. Oysters for tea, more movies and beer ready for tomorrow our catch up day complete.

Day 8 Invercargill to Te Anau - Wednesday 14th September

The boys were excited and up making breakfast early. I thought they were excited about the days adventure but it turned out it was the supermarket trip for more choccy for the back seat. We waved goodbye to Invercargill (not the first place to put on your visiting list if you ever come over). Today we travelled up the west coast on a scenic route all the way to Te Anau. And it lived up to its name it was beautiful and raw. We only passed 2 million sheep today but there were also herds of deer that are being bred for venison. First stop was Rotopura where you can look out over a rocky beach towards the Tasman Sea. Ray & I decided how far we could rock hop out. I was in front when we suddenly looked up to see a 3’ sea rush coming at us, even perched on top of a rock it came up to my knees. Back to the car to unpack, empty my shoes out of sea water, new shoes and on our way. Next call was Tuitapere which is the sausage capital of NZ and Judy was very keen to visit. The 99 Café had about as much atmosphere as an unheated public urinal however none of us had the bollocks to tell the female chef/waitress as I am sure she just saw us as sausage meat!

The rest of the journey lived up to its name as a scenic route, ending up at Lake Manapouri, which is 20km down the road from Te Anau, where we are stopping for 3 nights. After a walk of the town bordering the lake we called into a bar for a few beers and a spot of dinner, followed by a few more beers while taking in the dreadful Scotland v Georgia game after which it was back to the Radford and off to bed.

Day 9 Doubtful Sound - Thursday 15th September

Today was a big day as we were off to the fjords. Up early to catch the bus outside our hotel and a short 20 min drive to Lake Manapouri. Here we got on a big cat and took a 55min 23knot drive across it, yes these lakes are massive. This one is 428m deep and has 38 islands in it. Once at the other side we got on a coach to go up over a pass over 600m up and into the snow zone, 400m straight down the side of the gravel track and no crash barrier, it was great. Once at the other side onto another cat and out onto the Doubtful Sound. This has 1000m granite cliffs with snow covered tops coming straight down into the water, just spectacular. Sun was shining it was great. As we approached the Tasman it started raining. Still that brought out two things, a pod of bottle nose dolphins and the waterfalls which start bringing the mountains to life within minutes. It was snowing coming back over the pass however when you get back to the lake they take you 2km underground to show you the turbine room of the hydro-electric dam, what a place. A 55 minute trip back across the lake and into the The Moose at 6pm to end a memorable day. Met up with a couple of Brits, Rodders & Nick, who we are meant to see in Dunedin along with Barry (President) & Gary (vets skipper) from Paphos but we will see. The USA beat Russia but Russia did get their first World Cup points.

Day 10 Keplar Track - Friday 16th September.

The boys were up early even though I hadn’t booked the water taxi till 10am, might be something to do with Geordie's snoring! We had breakfast overlooking the lake, and as Steve was there, jumped on the boat to take us across Lake Te Anau so we could walk round and back to the town.

This lake is the second largest in NZ. It is over 70km long so about from Cadnam to just this side of Dorchester. Its shore length is 537km and is over 450m deep. It is surrounded by mountains with snow covered tops at this time of the year on two sides. Steve gave us the low down and said if it rains like it can the level of the lake can rise 2 inches per hour, given the size of the bloody thing that’s some going. When he gave us the low down he just cut the engine mid lake which cheered up Judy no end. It took us a few hours to walk back but it was great. We were on the end of the Keplar Track a 3- 4 day walk up through the mountains stopping in mountain huts which looked good but was told I would be on my own (any chance of you popping over Al & Biddy).

This afternoon we went up the Milford Sound road to Mistletoe Lake & the Mirror Lakes which as their name suggests reflects the mountains behind into them. They were so clear you could see brown trout and the ducks swimming down to feed on the bottom. Called back into a café near the motel for a late lunch where Ray has just had the biggest bit of carrot cake you have ever seen, so at least he has had one of his five a day now. We wish we had fuelled up to go all the way but, hey-ho, back to update the blog while my little Geordie mate is snoring on the couch and Judy's reading on the balcony in the sunshine overlooking the lake.

'Right, wake up you bastards, its 5.30!' Time for a beer and the All Blacks v Japan game (well its Friday night and normally in the Compass by now). We went to the Redcliff Café round the corner and had the best meal we have all had for ages, place run by a young Kiwi and his missus. Geordie had mutton bird, a local delicacy, while Ray & I had Stewart Island mussels, which are the 'Jacko' of the mussel world. Went to watch the rugby in The Moose and the biggest cheer of the night was for the Japanese interception try. Judy was on the Johnny Walkers Red label so we had to leave at midnight.

Day 11 Te Anau to Dunedin - Saturday 17th September.

We all slept soundly, Ray on the couch as Geordie was sleeping too soundly. Have to pack up today and leave this beautiful part of NZ to head back to Dunedin for tomorrow’s game vs Georgia. Fine & sunny today so a very pleasant 320km drive back from west to east. The roads over here are empty so we made good time after filling the Falcon up with go juice. I was also allowed to play with sport mode. The Falcon ding-dings at you when you go over 100km/hr the national speed limit so the game of the day was to see how many times I could do it, when I got over 50 I stopped counting as it was getting boring. On the way we passed through a town where the farmer had painted or flagged his sheep in the participating nations emblems so an emergency stop & photo shoot was called. We arrived at Gore the country & western capital of NZ by mid-day. I would love to bring Hursty back here in one of his flowery blouses as I am sure he would be violated.

By 2.30pm we were back in the 97 Motel Moray and decided to hand Mike the landlord of the Duke of Wellington a note from his cousin Jed who runs the Turfcutters in Boldre. Brian had been chatting to him a couple of weeks before our departure. He eventually arrived and is probably the most miserable Kiwi we have met and didn’t show us any of the southern hospitality Jed had requested. So it was back to the Octagon where Judy decided to set a fierce pace and lead us on a pub crawl round the bars. Reminiscent of Michael in Dublin, she crashed and burnt midway through the Ireland v Australia game only to recover and make the end of the match with a bit of dancing afterwards. We left the two northerners in the bar and headed home as Sunday beckoned, a good night has by all with the Paddy’s winning.

Day 12 Baldwin Street, England v Georgia - Sunday 18th September.

Clear blue skies with the sun shining, a slow start with the men going round the corner for brekkie (fantastic omelettes) and giving the laundry a hammering as we have few clothes left to wear. Early kick off for us today, 6pm, so pacing ourselves is going to be tricky. We decided to walk to the ‘Worlds Steepest Street’ which was on the other side of town. A pleasant walk down past the Alhambra Union Rugby Club and through the botanical gardens (very cultural) taking about 75 minutes with Ray like a kid for the last half an hour, ‘Are we nearly there yet’ or ‘where is this fucking street?’ was probably more the truth. Baldwin Street was found and it was definitely uphill at a gradient of 1 in 2.86 and there were quite a few houses of it. We all walked up in the sunshine sweating out the last of the beers from the previous night and sat at the top admiring the view. Back to Alhambra Union Rugby Club which was advertising a jug of beer for $9 and Sunday lunch. It was packed with ex-pats and the food and beer was warmly received, pity about the three young Welsh lads nearly seeing their team beaten by Samoa. It was only 10 mins to the ground so we joined the mass of red and white with the Kiwis supporting the underdogs as a matter of course. Although he game only came to life in the second half the crowd kept it alive with singing, Mexican waves and chanting. We were happy with the result, we had done better than the Jocks against them, so off into town for a few more beers to watch the France Canada game. Earlier night than Saturday and a couple of young Kiwi students gave us the low down on the next days journey & Queenstown. One lasting memory of the day was the English lad with a pair of false tits on with ‘Tindall Was Here’ emblazoned across them.

Day 13 Dunedin to Queenstown via Lawrence - Monday 19th September.

Off to Queenstown to get Ray into the Altitude Club so he could get into trouble before Nicky arrives. Tell you more in person so as not to incriminate but I have asked her to the wedding. On a mixed day a 280km drive. The girls from the night before told us to have brunch in Lawrence their home town so we duly obliged. In Dunedin the temp was 12°, by the time we got to Lawrence it was 5 deg with a howling wind, still a great brunch and with 180km to go the sightseeing started. First was the dam, hydro-electric power stations at Roxburgh & Clyde, awesome sight which provide 10% of the Kiwi’s power. Next was Roaring Meg another smaller one sited in a gorge. Next was watching the Bungy Jumping from a suspension bridge over a gorge and a young lad in a kilt. The views got better and better the closer we got to Queenstown eventually arriving about 4.00pm. Unpacked we decided to see what the town had to offer. We ended up in the wharf and array of bars and restaurants and frequented the Pub in Wharf with Macs being the brew and fresh Bluff oysters available. We had got half way down the first pint when Coochy (ex Bath & England prop Gareth Chilcott) sat down beside us and chatted about the England team and rugby in general for an hour or so. After dinner it was a pub crawl back to the motel in the early hours under a starry sky. It nearly took your breath away getting between the sheets.

Day 14 Coronet Peak - Tuesday 20th September.

Absolutely clear blue skies but on with the heating in the apartment. The mountains were crystal clear and it was off up to Coronet Peak for a fantastic days skiing in 17° and not a cloud in the sky. Had to scrape the frost off the Falcon first though. We have all caught the sun and after a bit of a relax sat on the terrace overlooking the lake in the sunshine it’s off to town for dinner and a couple of liveners to watch Italy vs Russia.

Day 15: Wednesday 21st September

Coronet Peak

The weather was better than yesterday so it was back off to the slopes for the boys and a girls day for Judy looking round the vast array of shops in Queenstown. We were soon at the slopes and having got used to their check in system out on the snow. It must have been touching 20° as we just had jacket & t shirts on. We decided to try, what looked like, a gentle slope round the edge of the piste area to warm up on, big mistake! It was just about OK for the board but total crap for the skiers and it wasn't long before Geordie came a cropper. Down for coffee break where Geordie decided to stick to the runs we'd done yesterday but Ray decided to cross to the other side & join me caning the slopes. You may know Ray has had a bad back recently but now he's back leading his normal life & being looked after properly he isn’t even taking any tablets. I have never seen him ski like it and he had the best day skiing he has had for ages, he is still grinning now the next morning. This of course has nothing to do with my two large ass plants shifting quite a few ton of snow on each occasion. Still at least I didn’t split the crutch out on my ski trousers where some fat northern twat had put on a few pounds.

Ray’s back is obviously better because I am making sure it is constantly lubricated and he comes out every night just like to old days before he had a bad back & a ring on his finger. After celebrating a good day, Geordie getting his skiing back together, we had a beer up the mountain then a catnap back in the apartment before off to town for a few to watch the Japan v Tonga game. We visited a few new bars and ended up in one called the Lone Star with pitchers of beer. Quite surreal watching what was quite an entertaining match to country & western music. Into the Buffalo Club where if we’d taken a ginger we’d have had half price beer and off for a Fergburger which had been recommended by Mikey the previous night, bloody lovely.

Ray & Judy went next door to the Fergburger pastry shop where upon return to the apartment Judy did her best to demolish all three selections much to Ray’s dismay.

We all slept very well last night and have fully recharged the batteries for the next onslaught.

Day 16 Glenorchy - Thursday 22nd September.

Unbelievable, we all sleep in till 9.00am. We had a chat with a barman from Shropshire who recommended going up to Glenorchy where Lord of the Rings, X men and a few other movies were filmed. The drive up beside Lake Wakatipu was spectacular the road running directly beside the lake all the way. Glenorchy itself was at the top of the lake and it is from here a lot of the walking trails set off from. We did do a 1½ hour walk round the lagoon which was great but I was yearning for Biddy & Al again as some of the 3 & 4 day trails looked amazing. Lunch in Glenorchy where they certainly like to feed you up and back to Queenstown so Ray & Geordie could do some shopping, yes you are reading this correctly, so Judy & I took a stroll round the lake and through the gardens where they play Frisbee golf on an 18 hole course. Having our first beer sat outside a small bar at 5.00pm was great. Met up with Ray & Geordie at 5.30pm, where all they had managed to buy was more Maltesers and M & M’s, and off for another pub crawl round town ending up in the Pig & Whistle till the early hours after watching South Africa thrash Namibia. The barmaid from Germany called Laura kept the boys entertained with the best arse wiggle ever whilst walking round the bar clearing glasses. There is a real steep hill to get back up to the apartment and I was being sworn at for not catching a taxi. Still no trouble sleeping for me & Geordie but according to the other two the new arrivals next door partied all night then straight out on the slopes.

Day 17 Queenstown to Dunedin via Shotover River - Friday 23rd September.

We had to vacate the apartment so it was up and pack early. We are saving our adventure trips for when Nicki joins us however couldn’t leave Queenstown without doing something so it was up to the Shotover River to do some jet boating. What a brilliant experience apart form I did need ear plugs as I had Judy one side and an Australian the other testing their vocal chords to the max. Nick our driver had been doing it for 5 years and missed the rocks by inches whilst careering along at 40 – 50 mph. That woke us up for the journey back to Dunedin. As we had done the sightseeing on the way down we came straight back across and were soon in Lawrence for a late lunch and back in the Dunedin Holiday Park by the beach for 4.30pm. A quick unpack and a taxi up to town to meet Barry & Gary plus wives Kailash & Lyndsey from Paphos Tigers. A few beers with them and get settled for the Australia v USA match, the biggest cheer coming when the USA got their single try of course. Also in the bar were two sisters from Norwich who we had met a few times before. Directly after the match a live band started up so it was dancing and singing till the early hours plus Judy & her two new friends trying to take over the instruments at the half time break, nothing new here then.

A kebab & taxi back to base, which is near the old Carisbrooke stadium which apparently is due to be demolished. Top night out but why before an England game again?

Day 18 The Otago Peninsula & Larnach Castle, England v Romania - Saturday 24th September

All getting up feeling the effects of the night before a plan was needed to keep us off the sauce till match time. We had been told by last night's taxi driver that the peninsula was one of NZ’s best kept secrets. He suggested going along the top road with the views and coming back along the low road. It was stunning with the road winding its way along and up & down with steep drops either side. Trying to negotiate the Falcon round this assault course was entertaining after the night before however achieved brilliantly of course.

At the end, Harrington Point, there was a 70mph wind and the temperature had dropped to 7°. We saw the Spotted Shags nesting on ledges on the cliffs and about twenty fur seals on the rocks below. We ventured into the Royal Albatross visitor centre but the thought of a 45 minute guided tour did not appeal in our state so into the café for a bit of nosh. Whilst sat there the Albatrosses decided to put on a show for us which fulfilled our needs. Blinking impressive of course as they have a 3m wingspan.

The low road back was much easier as it sticks right by the sea all the way, should' ve done the journey the other way round. We went up to Larnach Castle which, although not a true castle, was impressive with views to die for. The tour of the house was highlighted with the exhibition in the ladies dressing room where a beaver muff was on display for sliding your hands into to warm them (see photo below). We finished the tour giggling like four naughty school kids, a quick breeze round the garden with even more impressive views and back to base for a change and off to Alhambra Rugby Club for a roast dinner and a few more beers with Barry & Gary.

It had started raining and was bloody freezing but only 10 mins brisk walk to the ground, Geordie & Ray managed to get the flag in place and we took our seats up level with the dead ball line. This stadium is fantastic so a good view of the match which England dominated for 80 minutes.

Back to Alhambra Rugby Club for the New Zealand match, which we watched backwards as the only room was behind the large projector screen. The place was packed and the Kiwi’s a bit tentative as they were playing their Achilles heel. Still, although the frogs started well, piss poor tackling ended with the Blacks winning fairly easily but looking beatable. After that it was back into town where it absolutely heaving so, after fighting the masses to get a pint, we decided on a 'Velvet' burger then picked up some cheese & bikkies to enjoy with a nice cup of tea back at the holiday park.

Day 19 Sunday 25th September

I am sat here writing this with Geordie & Ray still getting their beauty sleep at 11am. That’s what they told me however I know that Geordie wants to get the most out of Ray in his last couple of nights before Nicky arrives tomorrow. We have missed the train up to the Middlemarsh Sevens so as the site is now devoid of any camper vans a good day to catch up on the washing, etc so there is plenty of ironing for Nicky to do when she arrives. We have noticed there are three games on today ending of course with Argentina Scotland at 8.30pm.

After Geordie explaining how he loves refreshing his hands in Rosemary’s bush in the morning (just ask him) we need to discuss tactics of how to handle the day. Top of the list is a spot of decent grub with proper vegetables.

Day 20 Dunedin to Auckland - Monday 26th September.

Early up this morning as we are flying up to Auckland in the North Island and leaving the South Island. A 30 min drive up to Dunedin airport which is smaller than Bournemouth and we said goodbye to the trusty Falcon. Ray was excited as Nicky was turning up today. Geordie & Judy spotted some bargain UGG boots whilst Ray & I had breakfast. It’s a 1½ hour flight up so we landed at 11.30am and as we walked through to collect our bags we spotted Troy, who came over to England in the early 90's and ended up staying & working with Ray for 3 years while also playing for the Club.

We picked up our new transport, an eight seater Previa, not as quick as a Falcon but perfect for picking up Nicky’s luggage from the airport. Bit weird entering this vast city after being in the country and small towns for three weeks. Quick trek across town & arrived at our abode for the next two weeks, with Sue, our hostess, waving from the balcony. Great abode although we have had to separate Geordie & Ray. Ray & I were soon on our way back to the airport for the arrival of his beloved. Looking a bit tired Nicky hadn’t slept for the whole trip for fear of missing her stop! Back to the house, meantime Geordie & Judy had stocked up and then over to Troy’s 35mins outside of town overlooking the golf course where he's head green keeper. Few beers and fish & chips whilst watching the gutsy Japan v Canada game and back across town for a nights kip in the most comfy beds since we arrived

Day 21 Sky Tower & Mt Eden - Tuesday 27th September.

Up and a full cooked breakfast for the troops. Hurray Skype works so a chat with Sami & Ski, Judy having to make do with a look at Ruby asleep in her cot. Troy, our trusty guide for the week we are in Auckland, arrived and off to the Sky Tower which gives fantastic views over the City. You can go down a 192 zip wire to the bottom however we all pussied out and took the lift. We met Andrew Merthens up the tower and the lads had a chat with him, Troy reminding of a night they had on the piss in South Africa after the Blacks won their first series over there.

We then went to Fanzone a temporary village they have set up down on the harbour quay just for the world cup which houses the biggest bar I have ever seen with over fifty large screen TV’s plus two giant size ones. Back to the house and parted company with Troy.

The sun was out so we walked up to Mt Eden which is only a ten minute walk away from base camp and has fantastic 360 deg. views over the city. Up there we met Andy from Surrey whose intention is to cycle the coast of both north & south island. He has already done the UK and going by the way he came up the hill shouldn’t have any problem, still he has to find work first to fund it. We then went out on a pub crawl explore round the area. After a number of pubs and a look at the Italy USA game it was food time, Geordie fancied Vietnamese however this proved elusive so we settled on a Chinese Buffet. Not what we expected though. The owner could not talk much English but did ask us whether we wanted spicy or clear soup. We got one of each which he brought to the table in a big double tureen. Up to the buffet and it was mainly raw which we had to cook in the soup. Most of the stuff we didn’t recognise however Nicky didn’t join in when we found out one of the dishes contained pigs ear. We kept the wholly Chinese clientele amused with our exploits, especially Geordie choking on a chilli and left to wash it down with a beer in the Irish opposite.

Off for another good night’s sleep except for Nicky who was up at 5.00am still coming to terms with the time zone with no sympathy shown from us seasoned travellers.

Day 22 Orewa, Wenderholm & Muriwai - Wednesday 28th September

Troy wanted to show us round his local area so it was off for a quick 28k down the motorway to Silverdale. First up was Orewa a 3km long sandy beach 5 mins from his house, lovely. Next was Wenderholm (meaning winter home) a park which was fantastic. It has a gorgeous sandy beach and walks up over a headland looking out over the bay with small islands dotted around. We took an hours walk up over the hill taking time to look at the views from various vantage points one looking over the estuary which Troy ends his cross island race at on Sunday with a 8km kayak run. This place is so stunning you could spend all day there with the wildlife, sea, hills and estuary but hey ho so much more to see.

Across the island to the west coast with a lunch stop at the Country Café. We were soon at there and the contrast to the east coast is vast. Here the sand is dark brown/black from the volcanic action and the coast quite rugged. The beach was vast with a few surfers giving it a go however we were there to have a look at a colony of Gannets. They nest on the mainland and you can get within 5m of them from various vantage points. As it was nesting/mating season there was plenty of action with neck rubbing and shagging going on. The best bits was when one landed in the wrong place to feed or take over the nest from his/her mate and landed in the wrong place, they were so close together that the others pecked the hell out of the intruder and he had to scrabble between the other nests being pecked by all and sundry till he got to the cliff edge and take off again.

It was then back to the east coast to Troy’s place for a couple of beers and a few holes of golf to see the course before heading back across town to base. Daniel, Troy’s seven year old, outdrove us on the first shot so I made sure I trod his ball into the turf from thereon and Will his three year old had the occasional good swipe as well. Troy the bandit hasn’t lost it though so don’t play him for money. Judy & Geordie thought they would try a different route home which ended up with us getting lost and asking directions in a takeaway. Back on track we were soon back in The Dominion for a good steak & a beer before heading home for a nightcap of NZ red and a good day had by all.

Ray’s back is playing up again however I have been keeping it lubricated to an acceptable standard. However I have another theory that it may be due to him having one arm out all the time whether sitting or walking doing something called holding hands. This is not to be recommended unless you are a soft northern twat of course and if you do partake you must suffer the consequences.

Day 23 Waiheke Island - Thursday 29th September.

As the weather was still being very kind to us and, following Ambers suggestion, we went to Waiheke Island. We were a bit lazy getting up but caught the bus down to the city centre and managed to get on the 12pm from the pier. As the sun was out we sat on the top deck & two rows behind us was Rob Andrew who informed us that it was his first day out of the hotel for five days and was obvious he didn’t want to converse (miserable twat). The trip took 40 mins and included a guided bus trip round the island with Royce our trusty driver in the price. This island is beautiful (thanks Amber) and the every corner you go round is a WOW! with boutique vineyards littered throughout. Halfway round we stopped at Charley Farley’s on Onetangi Beach for a beer. Sat out on a deck in the sun with a beer overlooking a long sandy beach what could be better. Nicky tried out the old Massey outside then back on the coach for the rest of the 1½ hour trip.

We got dropped back in Oneroa the main town for a late lunch and found Vino Vino which ahd a raised deck overlooking the bay surrounded by hills. The food and wind matched the scenery and we eventually decided to walk back across the island to the ferry. The Sweaty in the i-site was as you would expect any Jock, useless and the map he gave us matched. We ended up a little out of our way but as always happens over here a kind lady driver stopped and got us out the poo. We ended up at Blackpool Beach and found a path up the hill. I was fine however looking back down the very steep hill at the other four coming up after a winey lunch could feel a bit of stick coming on. Luckily for me as we came out onto the road and turned the corner into Nick Johnson Drive there was the beautiful Cable Bay Vineyard and it was open. In for a quick bottle of $80 red and my credibility was fully restored lovely walk down a path to the ferry terminal to see the 6.15pm pulling out so into the bar for a quick beer. This turned out to be a right result as the sunset on the trip home was fantastic (nearly matched the beer & M & M’s). Once back in Auckland we followed the start of the Fans Trail which leads from the Fanzone on the quay up to Eden Park. This turned into a bit of a pub crawl and in one Irish bar chatted to a Scotsman sergeant police officer who had been assigned to the Scotland squad. By this stage the latecomer in our group could not match the seasoned campaigners pace so we decided to get the bus back up nearer home. Beside the bus stop was another bar and as the girls wanted a pee and there was a bit of live music with the lovely Emma singing who had fantastic lungs we snuck in and stayed for a few more. The latecomer lost her intake of wine and was put on water which is free so a bonus for the rest of us. Onto the bus and the Wendy’s opposite our bungalow looked great as we got back through our beer goggles so we walked through the drive through as the restaurant was shut and all but one had a lovely supper. A great day.

Day 24 Auckland Museum & Silverdale - Friday 30th September.

Up early as Troy had booked us into a Maori presentation at the Auckland Museum, a beautiful building sat on top of a hill overlooking the city. Everyone had clear heads with no effects of the previous night so happy days. The presentation did not live up to expectations so we are looking forward to giving the little Kiwi some stick in front of his brothers Brett & Lane & Mum tonight at his bar-b-que.

The rest of the museum was good although did not have enough time to do everything as we only had 180mins on the meter. We had a bit of sorting to do as no day off for the last week or so, so back to base to stock up the larder and England regalia, washing etc for the big match tomorrow. Sue & Mitchell the house owners popped in for a chat & cuppa and now everyone except me is relaxing before the expected onslaught tonight. Off to Troy & Sarah’s house for a barbie with his two brothers Brett & Laine turning up with their respective wives Ange and Andrea plus Troy’s mate Troy and his wife Catherine. It was easy to differentiate between Troy and his mate as his mate became known as Shitface after an hour or so as he was totalled. Sarah put on a fantastic spread and the match between South Africa & Samoa a belter. Troy proved how good a pool player he was with Sarah not far behind him and could not beat them even with Judy cheating. Shitface proved he was as good at DJ’ing as drinking by playing the first 20 – 30 seconds of each track and was last seen stumbling across the golf course home. I was thankful for Nicky & Geordie’s help to negotiate the multitude of traffic lights on the journey home in the early hours.

Day 25 One Tree Hill, England v Scotland - Saturday 1st October.

The Big Day, England vs Scotland. Ray & I prepared a big cooked breakfast to set us up for the day. To stop us going on the piss all day we drove up to Ponsonby the café/bistro centre of Auckland to have a look round and duly had a coffee & cake, seemed rude not to. It started drizzling which we hoped was not set in for the day. Back to the house where we met Troy, Sarah, Daniel & Will who led us up One Tree Hill which has an obelisk set on the top dedicated to the Maori’s. We drove up as Troy is a bit unfit these days or it could be Sarah getting a bit jumpy near the edge. Again fantastic views over the city from the old volcano the land of which was a mixture of rough pasture and formal gardens with sports fields on the lower slopes. Back down & Paddy, Geordie’s mate from V came round with family however the pub was calling so the two couples went off to the Dominion & Geordie to The Viaduct in town with Paddy to meet Paddy’s brother & co. We met up with Nick (Jones) & Vicky in The Dominion and had a few beers and get into the atmosphere which we certainly did. I ended up in a red wig and crosses on the cheeks & Judy with her flags all written up in case she got on the telly.

The Tonga v France game was fantastic with the roof coming off every time the Tongan’s scored and everybody jumping up & down to the final whistle. It was then a quick ten minutes’ walk to Eden Park which had been fitted out with a load of temporary stands. Great seats about ten from the front right on the twenty two metre line. Marshalling our stand was (Police Sergeant!) Sue, our landlady, so a few picks with her and settle in amongst the very mixed crowd. There were all nations in there but fair play to the Jocks they equalled the English. I ended up next to an older Kiwi guy and his missus who was half-Scottish so I only spoke to her other half. Talk about a small world, it turned out his father was on the same 2nd World War POW march up into Poland where many perished his Dad being in Stalag 47 & ours in 67A. It was so loud it was unbelievable with either sides fans endeavouring to outdo the others. The Jocks of course were in fine fettle as they went ahead and rubbed salt in when Johnny kept missing his kicks. There were four of them quite a few rows behind us being typical rude uncouth Sweatys’ who even pissed of the Kiwi’s, Aussies & Yarpies. Ray & I had faith all the way through but the girls were getting damp knickers and as we emerged in the second half and took control it was our turn to go mad. When the try went in we turned to give the four Sweaties maximum but they had gone, to catch a plane presumably. There were three girls crying but that maybe because two of them were ginger anyway. Most however were gracious and one couple even gave us homemade biscuits with England and Scotland flags iced onto them. Back to the pub for a raucous night, first in a marquee out back with a live band and a bit of a sing along where Brett joined us and then inside with Geordie, Paddy & co till about 3am we think.

A sad wee man (stop smirking Nicky), he was sat like that for ages!

Skyped Sami, Andy & Ruby when we got in as it was the first time Nana had seen Ruby since our departure so she went to bed very happy. Also top marks to Geordie for getting the flag on the big screen again.

Day 26 Sunday 2nd October.

Woke up at around 11am and by the time coffees were made and an attempt at breakfast it was 1.30pm. Enthusiasm to do anything was marred by the foul weather outside with strong winds and rain showers so we went down The Dominion to cheer on the second best team in the world who wear black as their primary colour & who beat the Canadians fairly comfortably. The meat platter & pizzas went down well and then settled in to watch another big game for the Kiwi’s the final of the Rugby League with Manly (Aussie) playing the Warriors (Auckland). The pub really filled up for this and another great atmosphere evolved. Unfortunately the Warriors lost and the pub emptied but as our couple of hours had turned into six a Thai takeaway and bed was the order of the day. All the other games went as expected with the Argie’s beating Romania, Wales Fiji & Ireland Italy it became apparent that the final will definitely be Northern vs. Southern hemisphere. We did all have the feeling though that if one of us had mentioned retiring early the rest would have followed easily.

Day 27 Auckland to Whitianga - Monday 3rd October.

Time to leave the city & get out into the country again. We had packed the bags the night before so it was up early and out the house before 9am. We travelled down to Whitianga through the Coromandel mountain range. We left in wet conditions with weather warnings and on the way down it lashed it in some places. A stop for brunch along the coast and the weather looked like it was clearing up with the hills on the opposite side of the massive bay coming into view. The road ran along the coast to the town of Coromandel itself where we called into the i-site to find out the craic. There were some stunning view points along the coast, Nicky welcoming the stops so she could keep her brunch down due the winding hilly road.

From Coromandel it was up over the range to Whitianga. It was not long before we were up in the cloud and any view point was masked by a thick grey blanket. Down the other side and we were soon booking in to the superb Crows Nest apartments.

Activity was the key of the day after a couple of days inaction so we were soon aboard the ferry across the estuary and a two hour walk up to Whitianga Rock with great views over the harbour and estuary and then the steep up and down over the Maramatotarata Track to Flaxmill Bay. It was blowing a hooly so the the three girls decided to call it a day and head back while Ray & I marched on regardless out to Shakespeare Cliff, around to Lonely Bay and then Cooks Beach which was named by James Cook, a well-known Commander in the RN on the Endeavour in 1769. Back round to Flaxmill Bay & across the ferry where I promised Ray a piece of cake & a cuppa for accompanying me. We walked round town for 30 mins and nowhere was open so into the shop and we bought banana cake to go with a cuppa back at the apartment. Whilst buying the cake Lynda who served us told us there was a severe weather warning out caused by a couple of tornados out at sea.

A rest and update of the blog, then off for a decent meal at Salt, which was superb, washed down with some local red. After the meal we retired to the fireplace for a few large nightcaps when, while chatting to a couple of Aussies, the father and mother of a thunder storm broke out with torrential rain. Lynda was right! Hilariously a tableload of sweaties were halfway across the harbour aboard the ferry at the time. Luckily I'd brought the trusty Previa out so we avoided the elements going back to the apartment & were soon sleeping to the sound of the waves lapping on the sandy shore.

Day 28 Whitianga to Tauranga - Tuesday 4th October.

After a couple of dodgy days it was great to wake up to the sun streaming through the windows so Judy & I got up and were walking down the beach before 8am. It's onward to Tauranga in the Bay of Islands today with the road running along the other side of the Coromandel Peninsula from yesterday. We reluctantly left Whitianga and soon called in to the Hot Water Beach. Unfortunately the tide was up so there was no access to the hot water, for which you have to dig holes in the sand at low water. We came across a poorly young fur seal pup on a rock which we reported to one of the locals, the beach & breakers were fantastic. After a few more miles and a more scenic stops, mainly involving deserted white sand beaches, none of us can believe how empty everywhere is. The roads were up, down and windy and we only encountered the occasional log lorry before arriving in Waihi for lunch at about mid-day, the beach here is stunning and one of the original surf beaches in NZ. Strangely there weren't any beachside cafes so we had to head into the town for food, the great thing being the weather's so good we could eat outside under a cloudless sky, not what had been forecast at all.

We decided to put the hammer down and get straight to Tauranga where we arrived at Harbour City Motel at about 2.15pm. A quick unpack and down to the i-site to see what’s about, Nicky wanted to see dolphins but unfortunately it’s the wrong time of year for that so we booked up white-water rafting and sulphur pools for tomorrow.

The sun was still shining so it was onto the bus to Mauao (Mt Maunganui), a 232m high dormant volcano that dominates the harbour. Mauao means 'caught by the morning sun'. The bus stops right at the base and looking up at it the two girls and their chaperone decided to walk round the base whereas Ray & I hit the summit. Loads of people jog or run up it, one woman we passed twice taking a different route up the second time. We did wonder how Hursty & Sharon might get on but we decided after their efforts on bastard hill they would be better with the girls. Anyway both Ray & I agree that the scenery going up & down the hill and the views were great. We were happy getting up to the top without a stop and the views over the Bay of Islands fantastic. There were a couple and blokes on hang gliders riding the thermals and uplift which was amazing, one of them was dropping down out of sight then coming back up and dropping himself straight onto a bench. Back down at the bottom we met up with the others for a beer before getting the bus back to the motel for a shower before heading into town to abuse the body a bit more. First into the Rubba Dub Dub London Pub then into another where there were four poker tables going on. We decided to go to the curry house we'd passed earlier called India Today and, I don’t know if it was because we were sober, but the food was the best I've tasted since Egypt in the 2003 World Cup. In bed by 11pm but whether Nicky sleeps thinking about the rafting is anybody’s guess.

Day 29 Kaituana River & Hells Gate - Wednesday 5th October.

The realisation of less than a week to go struck us we got up. By this time next week we will be home so got to pack in as much as possible. We booked up white water rafting for the day. There are various grades from 2 – 5 so as I booked it we did the ultimate grade 5 which included a 7m waterfall plus a couple of other small ones. It was an hours drive down there through more forest . We were soon at River Rats with the girls looking nervously at the tv screen with previous rafters encounters. It was then on with the wet suits and boots and time for our talk. Up until this stage they thought they would sit in the raft and the boys would paddle. By the time the bloke had told them they were sitting on the edge paddling and to curl up into a ball if they fell out in any of the three waterfalls they were looking more than a little nervous. A quick trip down the road and we loaded our raft onto the water with our skipper Brad an ex NZ kayaker. More instructions going over what we had done before and off down the river with the first two falls encountered with no trouble. Next up was the 7m fall, well this was good but ask Nicky & Judy what they think or have a look at the photo’s. We paddled as instructed and 1m from the lip the call of sit goes up so we all tuck ourselves in to the bottom of the boat and hang on to a grip in the bottom and a rope on the outside which we had practiced before. The good news is that Geordie & I complied & the others did not. It did not help that the boat folded in half when we hit the bottom and then sprung flat again flicking Ray out, judy took Rays place, Brad nearly came out the back and Nicky flicked round the other way. Her face looked like she had been taken up the arse by King Canute & Judy like she had just given oral sex for the first time for 32 years four months and 8 days (but who’s counting).

We soon had Ray back in the raft and it was not until you saw the video & photo’s later that you realised exactly what had happened. As you can imagine the male element loved it and the female element could not wait to get out.

A few more rapids and then going backwards up the river for Ray & I to get wet going head first into a drop then back to base. After it was over everyone was laughing however I got the feeling that any other extreme sports may be off the agenda for a few days & I have just about been forgiven for giving it up.

In the afternoon we went to a place called Hells Gate, a range of geothermal sulphur pools. We only went because we did a deal with the rafting ticket however we were all amazed at the spectacle with water coming out the ground at 122° and steam out of the path. It resembled something from outer space rather than in this world. We spent over an hour walking round but then those nasty rain showers came back so we returned back to base for a well-earned steak and a few beers.

The girls did not last long as the thought of a nice hot Jacuzzi bath was too much of a draw, although I'd have thought they'd had enough white water for one day!

Day 30 Tauranga to Rotorua - Thursday 6th October.

We were meant to get up early and were not too far out. We packed up and drove down to Rotorua today which is meant to be the activity centre of North Island. It is not until you are there you realise it is all miles apart and some of the more extreme stuff is in Taupo bloody miles away. We visited the i-site and the girls were still anti anything more than another Jacuzzi so we booked up a 1½ hour trip in a WW2 Duck. It involved a trip round town where you had to quack at anyone with our plastic ‘quackers’ which were free of charge and then off into the hills and a trip round a couple of lakes. A couple of young Aussies sat by one lake couldn’t believe their eyes when this bright yellow thing loaded with adults making quack noises drove straight into the lake without stopping. Trip was OK and after Ray & Nicky took a stroll up to the Sky Line (to practice holding hands), a restaurant accessed by cable car and us other three fancied losing some energy so back up into the hills for a walk round the Blue Lake and views over the sacred Green Lake both of which were beautiful. Back to base and a walk through the park which is real weird as all these sections are fenced off with geo-thermal springs and bubbling emanating from them all producing rising steam. A few beers and bit to eat then a few more beers in Scotty’s a real rugby bar then off to bed as the town was dead and we hoped to be off before 8am in the morning

Day 31 Rotorua to Auckland via Waitomo Caves - Friday 7th October.

Up by 7am and away just after 8am as we were visiting the Waitomo Caves, which was a 2½ hour trip. The roads were really good and clear so managed it in time including a great brekkie at the Dam Café in the middle of lumber land.

The choice at the caves was quite large so we opted for a look down the Glowworm caves with a little boat trip down the underground river (girls getting used to water again). Quite an experience and the number of glow worms shocked us all. It was then 5km down the road to the Aranui caves which were natural limestone. These were incredible with hundreds of stalactites & stalagmites of all shapes and sizes. It again was incredible and when you consider that it takes one hundred years to form 1 cubic cm and some are over 3m long the caves are millions of years old. The latter one was not found until 1910 by a Maori out hunting with his dog which chased a wild pig into it. On leaving this we took a walk up the river with viewing platforms positioned along the way and the path going in & out of caves. We all felt that we could have done with longer at the place as there is over 300 caves with black water rafting, abseiling down 200 caves looking at more glow worms etc etc. However we were due back in Auckland so it was back in the trusty Previa for a 200km + trip back up north which took us three hours, well worth the travelling though. It is now just gone 7pm & Biddy’s cousin Dene has just text me to say he cannot make tonight but I'm gagging for a beer after 6 hours driving so off for a couple of Originals. Well it is Friday you know!

Day 32 England v France - Saturday 8th October.

That was a bad idea! Geordie led us on a bar crawl around The Viaduct last night, which is down on the quayside. It was wall to wall loud & lively bars so we ended up having a late one as we tried doing as many as possible. All was good excepting one bar where we had a beer called 'Epic' but I can assure you it was anything but that! We were chatting to a couple of locals and even they said what the hell are you drinking that stuff for. The bars are dotted around the marina so very pleasant.

Hence Saturday morning was a bit grey with all of us in slow mode. After all the travelling of the week before we decided to leave the day clear as it was quarter-final day and a late night was likely. We got painted up and went down the Dom only to find no food on so it was across the road to the café for steak & chips to get a bit of ballast onboard. Ray had been suffering with bad guts so he went back to the house to see if could stem the flow. We had arranged to meet up with Dene, Biddy’s cousin for a couple of pre-match drinks, only thing is he didn’t know what we looked like and vice versa. Telling him I had a red rose didn’t help too much either. We eventually found each other and had a chat over the Ireland v Wales game in which Wales looked very good and spanked the Paddy’s. It was then on with the wig and down to the ground to see what the English could do, which was not a lot. It was the worst display I can remember, our seats were on the 22m line and you could see from the expression on the player’s faces that they didn’t know what to do with the ball. Fair play to the Frogs they got more and more vocal and were very gracious in winning, better than the pissed up obnoxious Kiwis behind us who reminded us of football supporters, still I suppose in five weeks half a dozen pricks did not alter our overall impression that the Kiwis are great.

After we and many thousand more fans had supported the England team around both North & South Islands they couldn’t even be bothered to acknowledge our support & went straight off the park without a backward glance, in Chippy’s words "the mark of this team of self-praising, deluded set of twats!" We collected the flag from the halfway line and folded it up for the last time and went back the The Dominion for a couple of beers. No-one was that lively, it'd been a pretty long day, so it was back home just after midnight for some cheese on toast before hitting the sack.

Day 33 New Zealand v Argentina - Sunday 9th October.

Waking up without feeling we'd had a beer last night was novel. It's our last day in NZ as we fly out tomorrow morning so it's pack up, tidy up & say goodbye day. We had to duct tape up the suitcase which had been bashed around a bit and lots of missing leads, etc have been returned to their rightful owners.

Troy has become mobile after crocking on his race yesterday so he came over with Sarah, Daniel & Will and a spot of lunch down at The Dominion. Back home to let the kids kick off a bit of steam in the garden and Sue & Mitchell turned up to say goodbye. It was then rest time before the All Blacks game. We wore black; a) because we were in mourning and b) to support the AB’s. As the Dominion was packed we went to another pub further down the road which was massive. Brett came in with Ange to introduce his lad Jake then at half-time Judy & Nicky left to soak up the atmosphere down at the ground. Watched the Aussies scrape home against the Springboks (good to see those supercilious bastards are going home as well) and then it was down to the ground for the match. We were high up in one of the scaffold stand built at each end of Eden Park to add a few more thousand cheap seats, it was a big climb up. It took a while to find our seats as I'd got out my ticket from yesterday first, which really impressed Ray! There was little atmosphere as all the supporters were so intense, especially when the Pumas went in front with the try. Troy texted at half-time to say he was in the pub with Laine so we decided to beat a hasty retreat to join them there for the second half, good decision as we had a blinding night and the craic was so much better. After being virtually the last out of the pub we picked up a Wendy’s walk-through burger and headed back home, Troy & Laine departed at about 2am after Laine had been contacted by his missus wondering what those naughty English had done with her husband. A cracking night though probably not the best idea given the early start tomorrow.

Day 34 Auckland to Totton via Singapore & Heathrow - Monday 10th October.

The day had arrived, we were going back home & cannot believe we have been away for five weeks (though I bet Chippy can). Although we never got to bed until 2am, we had to be up and out by 9.30pm. That was easily achieved and dropped the trusty Previa back to Ace. Troy, Sarah and the boys came down to the airport to say goodbye (or maybe to make sure we left the country, we’re not sure). From the time we left the accommodation in Auckland to when we get home we will have been travelling for 35 hours, losing 12 hours on the way. All went trouble free with Singapore Airport being the best airport any of us had been to and the flight in the new double decker Airbus 380 amazing. We are all a little heavier as we've had one night in, in thirty-three days, cooked breakfast just twice, the rest of the time eating out.

Finally a massive thanks to Geordie for organising everything, Ray & Nicky for their company, Troy, Sarah, Daniel & Will for looking after us on the Auckland leg and all the Kiwi’s who make their great country complete. Everyone has been so helpful & friendly, it was 'Sweet As!' A truly once in a lifetime trip which was absolutely fantastic.

. . . . . . here's the video of us blasting down the Shotover River on a jetboat in Queenstown, then whitewater rafting down the Kaituna River near Rotorua