Big signs in the arrivals concourse indicated heavy restrictions in goods being brought into New Zealand. At immigration, and several opportunities thereafter, the authorities asked and gave the chance to unload any fruit, veg, meats etc.

The penalty for ignoring restrictions was a 200 dollar on the spot fine plus further bureaucratic hassles. None of this worried us as we trundled on through the rigmarole of arriving in another airport with the knowledge we weren’t carrying anything.

It was only at the very last x-ray machine, and just as Knox was about to place his nap-sack on the conveyer belt, that Miko piped up after seeing another fruit sign.

“Shit, Knox, there’s an apple in the bag!”

“What do you mean, you said there was nothing in there!” a confused Knox answered with a frown on his brow.

“I know I forgot, I packed it this morning when we were in a rush”, Miko said, realizing her boob.

Knox rolled his eyes and looked up at the customs officer to plead their mistake.

“It’s fortunate for you to remember now because you were two seconds away from a fine’, said the officer in a fairly relaxed manner.

We handed over the offending Granny Smith and breathed a sigh of relief.

We expected the miserable weather so the welcome of the drizzly rain and blanket cloud cover that painted the whole town grey didn’t bother us.

This was a new place to be discovered in a weekend fling. Grabbing a shuttle bus we joined three men who were already waiting. They turned out to be the archetypal ‘ugly Americans’. One would hardly budge for Miko to get past.

“So we don’t get this to ourselves?” the voice grumbled to the driver.

Miko gave him the evil eye as she pushed on past, declaring out loud how rude he was. The trio were oblivious to the atmosphere they created.

“When are we getting going?” another snapped.

“If they wanted there own transport, they should have got a taxi!” Miko said to Knox, clear enough for the three ignoramuses to hear.

“You’re letting more in, that’s incredible”, one huffed, looking at his watch, as two more seats were filled.

“Where are you going?” they demanded off one girl as they blocked her way before letting her on the bus. 

The looks of other passengers were one of incredulity at the behaviour being shown. It certainly did nothing for the image of their homeland unlike the local woman who squeezed in beside us on the back seat. She was an excellent representative for New Zealand, down to earth and humorous.

We chatted easily about travels and hotels. It turned out she had stayed in the ‘New president’, the Best Western Hotel we were on our way to.

“All newly renovated”, she told them. “So you should have no problems there”. 

This eased out minds after the Metropole fiasco. The lady whispered jokingly about the three cranky Americans.

“They’re very rude eh?!” she laughed exasperated, while raising her eyebrows.

We giggled with her, at the brutish antics.

Right in the heart of Auckland, the ‘New President, looked promising from the outside, and we had a more positive attitude after the lady’s review was rewarded with a fresh, bright, large clean room.

The dry comedy of the professional desk clerk gave us a chuckle, starting the weekend off in a light mood. Even though it was pissing down, Auckland still emanated that something special, maybe it was the fact that we found out we had just rolled into a belly full of laughter that was ‘The Odd-fellows, NZ, International Comedy Festival’.

We wasted no time in booking tickets to see ‘DOD, David O’Doherty, Grown-Up’, for a Saturday night of Irish stand-up.  Saturday night/Sunday morning also threw in the mouth watering promise of the FA Cup final between Liverpool and West Ham, only for an aghast Knox to discover the hotels cable package didn’t include the channel needed. AAGGHH!  Miko shook her head but Knox had to keep faith that things would work out just fine!

Drizzled, cold and wet clothed, was a by product of an afternoon spent stocking up on needfuls around the city’s shops, but our spirits maintained a good vibe.

We ducked into a corner café for a warm bite to eat and a hot cuppa, just what the doctor ordered. Afterwards we dried outselves off back at the hotel and enjoyed relaxation before the nightly entertainment got under way.

The hot-blooded Italian owner offered Miko his arm while escorting her to the table for two, leaving Knox to follow behind laughing at his jesting. It was a wonderful intimate little restaurant with the full Italian flavour and romantically we got into the mood by passionately downing the flowing vino while appreciating every mouthful of the divine cuisine. On leaving, we spoke a happy “Ciao”.

Miko with rose in hand, complimentary from Roberto, we skipped high on gusto to the expectant laughter of the Herald Theatre.

The Herald was a petite self contained playhouse, which seated 186, and was a vital home for small independent theatre companies. It was part of the Aotea Centre Complex; Aotea in Maori had several meanings but the most common was ‘white cloud’. The foyer was buzzing when we arrived as patrons milled about crowding the bright open bar.

It was a surprise and appreciated when we found they could enter the tight auditorium with a chilled beer, negating the need to rush it down. We took our plush aisle seats, handy for Miko ‘slack bladder’, as the lights dimmed on the stage.

  David O’Doherty appeared to applause and anticipation fell on the initial silence as all ears waited. This hot off the press comedian swung into action with his hilarious tales and gags, while using his only prop, a Casio organ, to sing mirth provoking witticisms that had the audience in fits. The hour whizzed by as bellies ached in this delighted theatre and the joy strings were tugged time and time again.

O’Doherty took his bow after leaving the customers with a large dose of wise cracks and a lot of satisfaction that pulsed through the soul bringing rosy faces and streaming eyes. This had exceeded all expectations. 

We finished this part of the evening with a relaxing drink at a Belgium style blues bar where a local band beat a few tunes to death as we chatted between ourselves about the day’s events.

Back at the hotel, Knox knew the night wasn’t over for him at least. Being the other side of the world meant a live match had an early morning kick-off in New Zealand, which Miko wasn’t reaching as she slipped into slumber after a fantastic night. A quick bit of research by Knox had him find a 24 hour bar two blocks away with a large screen showing the match. He found a ring side seat at the bar and dived into 3 hours of football mayhem. West Ham shocked by going two goals up with their powerful play but Liverpool fought back only to find themselves trailing 3-2 as they entered the last minute. The stage was set for a thrilling finale when Steven Gerard, Liverpool’s talisman, thrashed home a 35 yard pile driver to level the scores. In the end after 30 minutes of a goal-less extra time, the teams and supporters entered the topsey turvey nail-biting world of penalties. On the edge of his seat, Knox jumped into the air singing and dancing as Liverpool sealed victory. Happy he arrived back to the hotel at 5 am. Oh, he’d be tired in the morning and Miko would have no sympathy.

We had read about Mount Eden being the remains of an ancient volcano and had planned to take a walk in the area on Sunday to work off the indulgence from the night before.

Reception offered us advice though and unfortunately it didn’t appear up to much for walking, it was mainly now residential streets.  The exerts of the day before had drained a lot of energy so we idled in the room and sweated out the curse of drink while preparing for the flight the next day to Tonga, that had butterflies fluttering in their tummies.

It was a shame we couldn’t see more of New Zealand this time around as the beauty we’d saw in pictures captivated us and the people had that certain likable quality about them.

It would definitely be a place on their next itinerary, although during the countries summer. We weren’t sure about travelling in a camper, though, as we would hate to go through the hassles like we had with Wicked.

Maori land had enticed us though and our hearts sang, ‘We will be back!’