Today was quite unexpected in  many ways. It started early in the morning when we left the Kauri Park Motel, heading for the Kerikeri weekly farmer’s market.

We expected it to be open by 7:30, but the sign said 8:30. Not to worry though, most of the stalls had already been set up, except for a few vineyards who were just arriving. The market sold a variety of goods, from fresh produce, plants, flowers to honey, lemon liqueur, freshly squeezed juice and wine. We picked up a bag of tomatoes and a bag of mandarins.

From there we set off down towards Whangarei (pronounced Fang-a-ray) then on to Wellsford, where we switched to the scenic route towards Helensville and  Titirangi. It was a nice change from the crazy traffic on Route 1, but NosyNeighbour really had to concentrate because of all the hills and twists and turns. We even spotted a few cyclists in the middle of nowhere, and lots and lots of motorcycles.

We arrived in Hamilton about 1:30, and shared a pre-made sandwich of peanut butter and banana. Remember, I had to buy the peanut butter to get rid of the gum on day one in Auckland.

From there, we strolled towards the town centre, stopping first at bivouac/outdoors, and then to Kathmandu check out the sales. I got two more merino wool tops at bivouac, and NosyNeighbour finally got his trekking poles at Kathmandu on sale for 50 percent off! They didn’t have enough stock for me to get mine but the manager was really helpful and checked the computer for stock at other stores.

Indeed at another store close by there were two more in stock. So instead of finishing our walk downtown, we headed back to the motel to pick up the car. Turns out the other larger Kathmandu was located in the same shopping centre as the DressSmart Outlet Mall. We picked up my poles there and a few other tops for really cheap.

But really, there is more to Hamilton than almost end of summer deals in the shops. They have a wonderful Botanical Garden adjacent to a river that’s amazing. The best part … it’s totally free. It’s well laid out so that we didn’t need a map and we didn’t have enough time to finish it all. We’ll come back again some day to see the rest.

From there we were going to stop in the town centre for supper at one of the many patios along the street. But,we couldn’t find parking so we continued on, with the goal of finding the Cock and Bull pub. I had seen a sign on the way into Hamilton saying “New Zealand’s best British Pub” and then seen the pub just off a roundabout. But leaving town we couldn’t find it.

We drove for a while, and decided to turn around and find the Hell Pizza in town. And then I saw it. It was a large pub, and a brew pub at that. And the best part: it had real ale for NosyNeighbour. Our meals and two pints about C$45, tax and tip included. My breaded chicken fillets, with tangy sauce and fries and salad were tasty and more than enough. Nosyneighbour thought he had ordered bangers and mash (no surprise there!) but in fact it was (as indicated in the menu) vienna sausages and mash.

Something unexpected happened while we were eating our meals on the huge covered patio. A suped up old hearse arrived in the parking lot, license plate: MORG. It parks beside us, and we notice the lettering across the top of the windshield: BACK IN BLACK. Then people start getting out.  At first I only see two couples, in the early twenties. Then finally the driver comes into view: a middle-aged man wearing an AC/DC t-shirt. Too funny… rock on dude!

So that was our six hours in Hamilton. Definitely will be coming back. There’s Hobbitown (used for filming Lord of the Rings), a zoo and the rest of the Botanical Gardens.

See Flickr for the pics.

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