A long weekend in… Auckland

Paris? Check. New York for the shopping? Done that. Edinburgh for the rugby? Come on! Cape Town Sevens? It’s been done. Then Auckland? Surely not. You’re mad. It’s a 24,000-mile round trip. You’d need months to recover.
Following the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad we received a surge of requests for our 1st test package which leaves London on Tuesday, arrives in Auckland on Thursday and then has you back home the following Monday. It gives you 3 full days and a couple of half days either side. And what price on being there for the most eagerly awaited Test Match for years. A little exhaustion – pah!
With that in mind we at Living With The Lions Sports Travel have decided to put together the fantasy three and half days. It comes with a health warning. They’ll be partying, pampering, adrenaline, a winery visit, links golf, a boat trip (possibly some sea sickness), culture, a rugby match and even a few hours’ sleep. Well maybe not the last bit. You can do that on the plane.
The following are a given: The weather will be sunny. The participants will be up for anything and not allowed to say no. You have a driver for day 2. Everything will run smoothly and your sense of humour will just about remain intact. It’ll go like this…
You’ll arrive around midday at Auckland International airport and transfer directly to your hotel for a very speedy check-in and freshen up before reporting for duty. It’ll be straight down to the Viaduct Harbour to blow away those cobwebs. You’ll board a sailing boat for a 2.5-hour cruise of the Hauraki Gulf. As the home of the America’s Cup team you’ll have a good chance to perfect your sailing skills or try it out for the first time. You’ll sit down if you want or stand and keep an eye out for dolphins. Drinks and enlightening Kiwi sailing conversation will be on hand.
A long weekend in… Auckland skytower3Once your sea legs have returned, or you’ve been sick, you’ll be deposited back at the harbour. From there it is a short walk up Hobson Street to the Sky Tower for the extra adrenaline part of your stay. Remember, say no to saying no! Simply bypass the casino and the bar and take the lift 192m up. Walk out onto the roof, get clipped in to your wire. And jump. Or get pushed by the not very sympathetic New Zealander. Fall at around 85km/h to earth and come to a very soft landing in the Sky City Plaza. Time for a break? Not yet…
Your hair will be a mess. You’ve been at sea and now jumped off the tallest building in New Zealand. Jump in a cab and head to the suburb of Posonby. I lived there for a while and found the hairdressers to be most excellent. Find a salon, enjoy a scalp massage, a hair wash and light trim. We need you looking your best. You’re representing the whole of the British Isles firstly and, at a distant second, yourself.
Exit feeling renewed. Find the nearest eatery. And sit. Neither you or your travel companion will know where, or who, you are. After a bottle of Otago Pinot Noir and juicy rack of lamb you’ll feel a bit better. Don’t worry, after a couple of extra drinks to wash down the large pudding you swore you wouldn’t have and following coffee you’ll be back to feeling like you’re having an out of body experience.
Stumble outside. It’s 8pm. Return to your hotel bar. The temptation to stop for another drink with the gathering fans will overwhelm you. So, you do. It is suddenly 1am and time to sleep. You pass out.
Good morning. At 7am. It feels like it should be yesterday. Quick breakfast and then into your car for a trip West. And a quick 18 holes. 45 minutes west of the city is the wild Tasman Sea and the West Coast beaches. Travel through the township of Kumeu and out to the 50km beach at Muriwai.
After a quick drive onto the beach it’s straight to the clubhouse of the famous links course. Naturally, it’ll be blowing a gale so the round will be tricky. You’ll go out in 48 and at the turn you’ll both feel a touch grumpy and start berating the other for this stupid idea. As you take a backswing on the 10th tee the sun emerges and the wind drops. You play like you’ve never played before and shoot the inward 9 in 36, narrowly missing an 18-inch putt on the last. Justifiably proud, it is into clubhouse for a light shandy and a pie. Humour restored. You’re starting to really enjoy this now. Walk off the lunch to Otakamiro point and observe the huge gannet colony.
Time for wine and a trip to the world famous Kumeu River Winery. Proudly producing world class wines for a long time now, it is an ideal place to have a peak into the New Zealand wine industry. At the cellar door, you’ll have your pick from Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. It is the latter for which they are justifiably famous and compared, often favourably, to their illustrious cousins in Burgundy. Once you’ve had your fill it’ll be back into the car and a return to the beach.
A long weekend in… Auckland karekare1Karekare was recently voted no. 38 in the best beaches of the world. By CNN. So, it’s probably in the top 10. Used as a location for The Piano, Karekare is a stunning black sand beach. You’ll walk to a waterfall and then take a stroll through the forest and out onto the sand and down to the ocean. Have a pause, a sit down and enjoy that sandwich you forgot to eat on the plane. And probably a bottle of wine you just purchased from the winery. Then since you’re out that way it is back to the car for the quick drive to PIha Beach and Lion Rock. Watch the surfers make it look easy and think about having a go but then remember what you had for lunch and decide to stay warm instead. The sun is starting to set and it’s time to return to base.
You can have the evening to do as you please. Remember what tomorrow brings….
Over half-way through now. And the morning of the test match. You know, the reason you are there? After breakfast, it is time for culture. Spend a bit of time looking at the exhibits in the Auckland War Memorial Museum and you’ll start to understand what makes the country so special and the people tick. By the time, you leave you might be starting to think about transferring allegiance. But then you remember who you are. And why you are there.
After lunch, it is time to join the rest of the fans. As you travel to the supporters’ village you’ll listen to others talk about their journey and what they’ve done since they arrived. With a shrug of your shoulders you’ll recount your last 36 hours. Nobody believes you. And nor they should; you sound daft. The rest of the day passes in a blur of singing, shouting and laughter. At 1935hrs local time the test series starts. At 1952 Stuart Hogg crosses for a try in the corner following a very patient 57 phases. It is all easy from then on in. The British & Irish Lions emerge victorious 27-9.
The rest my friend is a total blur but you make it to your flight on Sunday and are back at home on Monday. You really did just go to Auckland for a weekend. You’ve got the haircut to prove it. Just don’t mention the kiwi tattoo on your calf.
See, it can be done. Take a look here at the First Test package. You know you want to…

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