Thursday, July 21, 2011

Auckland, New Zealand

Our flight to Auckland was scheduled to arrive at 11pm but because Air New Zealand was flying under the ash cloud (while other companies were not flying at all – Quantas and Jet Star grounded all their flights for almost 3 days) they had to fly at a lower altitude and therefore couldn’t travel as fast as they normally would as the air at a lower altitude is much thicker. So although all scheduled flights were operating, there were delays as it took longer for the flights to arrive. We were the last flight out to Auckland that day and we experience an hour and a half delay. Unfortunately we had no more credit left on our phone and we couldn’t call Tara and let her know our flight would be delayed. When we finally arrived in Auckland it was 1am. I was just glad to have made it to New Zealand (NZ) finally. We cleared customs very quickly and went to get our luggage.

It had been a year since I had seen Tara. The last time we saw each other was right before she left Canada to go to NZ. She had spent a year in NZ a few years back, and after her visa expired she returned to Canada and that’s when we met at work. We hit it off right away as we both have a passion for travelling. During Christmas 2 years ago she went back to NZ for a friend’s wedding and fell back in love with the country and decided to pursue a residency visa. At the same time Andrew and I were starting to plan this trip, so we had a great time over the next month discussing our plans and sharing our fears and doubts about our plans. Although we had spoken via skype on numerous occasions over the past year, I couldn’t wait to see her so we could chat about how the past year had unfolded and whether it had met our expectations.

We walked out and I was worried I wouldn’t recognize Tara, but very soon I saw her waving to us. I was so happy to see her! We went to the car and met her boyfriend Ben, who was waiting in the car keeping it warm for us. That night we didn’t have a lot of time to catch up since it was late, so we checked into our hostel and went to sleep. But before they left, Ben was kind enough to inform us our hostel was in the Auckland red light district. Who knew Auckland had a red light district? The area is that bad but it is loud as we found out that night. The clubs were playing music up until 4am and since our room was facing the street we could hear everything!

The next morning we woke up and went looking for food. Since this area is known more for its night life, there wasn’t too much to pick from and we had forgotten to exchange money before we left Sydney so we had to look for a place that took credit cards. During the half hour of searching for food we very quickly realize NZ was cheaper than Australia. The prices were the same but they were in NZ dollars so right away we were saving a ¼ off the price. Tara came to pick us up and we started off our tour of Auckland on top of a volcano. A dormant volcano but a volcano nonetheless. The volcano is called Mt. Eden and it offered us spectacular views of the city. It was definitely much cooler here than in Australia but the sun was shining so it wasn’t too bad. We spent the day with Tara driving us around and showing us various landmarks in Auckland. There’s a 2 hour difference between Sydney and Auckland and we were feeling a little jet lagged so we agreed to meet up for dinner at Tara & Ben’s place. During that time we relaxed in our (new) room. We had asked if they had a different room available and they did so we had switched into a larger, quieter room. Although this hostel wasn’t in the best part of town, we had free wi-fi, free breakfast and very friendly staff so we were quite happy with it. We would recommend K Road Travelers to anyone who is looking for budget accommodation in Auckland. Other hostels might be nicer but everything else is extra. And the staff there couldn’t have been more helpful. When Andrew was looking for something to eat at 2am (which is almost impossible to do because things close early) the guy at reception told him he had some bread and eggs and offered to make it for him. We didn’t take him up on the offer but I was surprised anyone would go out of their way to offer their food to us at 2am.

We had bought a SIM card so we finally had a way to communicate with Tara and the outside world. That night Ben came to pick us up and we had dinner at their place. After dinner and a few drinks we took a taxi and headed to a bar. The first one was dead so we went to the next one. And that’s where we stayed for the remainder of the night. I’m not sure what time we decided to leave but I know Andrew and I decided to walk back to our hostel and after stopping to eat a kebab on our street we arrived back at our hostel at 4am. The next morning I felt like death. I was so sick that I didn’t get out of bed, except to run to the toilet, all day. I’m convinced I had food poisoning from the Kebab the night before and it had nothing to do with the alcohol I consumed. Unfortunately the following day was Monday and Tara had to go to work so Andrew and I spent the day sightseeing around Auckland. We had switched hostels that morning, thinking we were getting a better deal, and we booked a free tour of the city. It was more of a sales pitch about the tour company than a tour of Auckland but we still had a good time. We then met up with Tara and Ben for dinner at their place again.

It turned out the new hostel we were staying at had a lot of charm as it was an old Victorian building, but the walls were paper thin and you could hear everything going on in the next room (in our case, a bathroom). And we didn’t actually get to sleep in the Victorian house, but in the shed out in the back yard that had been converted to rooms. We were in a twin room with bunk beds and since I was on the top, anytime I moved the bed squeaked so loud that Andrew would wake up. And anytime someone went to use the bathroom I could hear them on the other side of the wall and I would wake up. We didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. This would prove to be a common theme throughout NZ. On Tuesday we walked around all of Auckland looking for a good deal for a rental car. We wanted to take a ferry to one of the small neighboring islands and do a hike but it was constantly raining so we decided to rent a car, head north for a few days and on the way back down to the hike. We arranged to pick up the car the following day and that night Tara and I went out for coffee for some girl time. We had a great time catching up and too soon the night was over. It was great to spend some time catching up with her without the guys around.

We had grown quite fond of Auckland as it’s the perfect little city. It’s big enough to have everything you would need (big buildings, shopping malls, great restaurants, a red light district ) but it’s still small enough that you can walk around the whole city in about an hour. It also has a lot of charm with the different architecture that’s incorporated. This is definitely a city we could see ourselves living in. If only it wasn’t so far from the rest of the world! We picked up the car the next day and were off to the top of North Island. For those of you who don’t know, NZ has 3 main islands; the North Island, the South Island and Stewart Island (south of the South Island). Other small islands are scattered around the three main islands.

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