Our next major stint of travel began with a journey to the Ambury Regional Park. This area of farmland is council owned and is importantly close to the airport, at which we were due to meet Ellie at some ungodly hour in the morning. Rather than take a hefty commute at 4am, we opted to nap in a beautiful space that (as it turns out) is almost entirely occupied by chickens. For a relatively nominal fee it is possible to stay in your van and have perfect access to the airport. As a result, the place has a kind of "God's waiting room" vibe about it, with people anxiously awaiting the death of their holiday. This is a scroungers paradise however! So many people are giving away food and I scored some fancy peanut butter and some very expensive cheese that almost tastes like actual cheese!
The following day, we were woken up by a number of cockerels and chickens running around the van. This was a much needed alarm as Ellie's flight had already landed. We packed the van up in a hasty manner and journeyed down to Auckland International Terminal for our first visitor of the trip*.
I ran in to meet Ellie in the terminal, whilst Jane guarded our van from somewhat militant airport parking operatives. We then careered out of arrivals in search of food. Ellie had been on a plane for some 12923 hours and the in-flight staff hadn't quite grasped veganism. Man cannot live on crisps and peanuts alone, so we called in at the nearest services. Turns out, they didn't have much either so we settled for bread and jam in the van. This represented our first chance to catch up and an opportunity to flesh out our plans for the next few days. Our first stop would be Raglan, the surf capital, where we had booked an Airbnb with plenty of space to get our new guest through the jet-lag.
En route, we pointed out the "Windmill Viewpoint" which is something of a tragic attempt at making an attraction out of an old church carpark. You can see some windmills, they are miles away (5-star reviews all round).
Raglan on the other hand, really is beautiful and certainly worthy of a stop. The preserves and toast had worn off so after a wander around town we called in at the Shack for some food. It's always delicious and rammed. They even had vegan cake for Ellie - this place might be hipster enough for her to survive! We then checked into our rooms after having a good look out at the bays from the balcony, and made hot-tub related plans that would never eventuate. Once it got to an acceptable time for Ellie to sleep, we switched the music from Red Hot Chili Peppers to lullaby versions of Red Hot Chili Peppers courtesy of "Rockabye Baby!" and she drifted off. Jane and I spent the majority of our evening talking to our hosts - an English couple who have been in New Zealand for nearly 25 years. Steve is an Elvis impersonator, which I'm beginning to think is one of the most popular jobs out here! The number plate of their caravan is 3lvis which suddenly made a lot of sense. He's won numerous competitions and we had a good chat about being not very good at playing guitar.
*aside from my Mum, who we met on "neutral ground"