Auckland and Hahei, New Zealand
I’m walking through customs with a jar of Vegemite in my hand that says “Christine” on it, a birthday present from Sharon. I walk up to the customs officer, who is amazed by the fact that it says my name instead of Vegemite on the jar. He pronounces it veegeemite. After a stamp and an X-Ray scan I am officially in New Zealand. I made it!
Coming from Australia, with whom I have an emotional connection, it’s hard not to compare these two countries, which I think is a shame. While Auckland in many ways resemble Australia, the vibe sets it apart. It just seems so… quiet. There’s a silence I haven’t heard in years, and it’s both calming and unsettling. You can buy alcohol in supermarkets though, which is a huge plus.
Craig and I get a taxi to Grafton House, where we share a dorm with a bunch of German guys who never seem to leave their beds. We drop our stuff and explore Queen Street, where the Auckland Arts Festival is happening. We’re poor and unbothered, so instead we walk up and down the street until we get hungry and end up at Nando’s.
Because the night is young and we don’t want to go back to the hostel, we end up playing a game of bowling at Metrolanes and then we start drinking at the bar. The bartenders are super nice, pouring us two ciders as soon as they see one of us get up and head towards the bar, and eventually one of them offers us a free game of pool, which we happily accept. While playing pool, Craig knocks over someone’s drink with his que and he turns around to apologize, which is how we end up chatting to Paul and Rebecca for a long time. Eventually we finish our game and walk home very drunk and fight about directions and pass out and it’s not even midnight.
The next morning, we go for a walk, passing the Sky Tower and eventually we reach the wharf. Unlike what we’ve managed to see of Auckland so far, this area appears to be more lively, and it’s a nice view of the iconic Sky Tower from the here. We walk over the rolling bridge, all the way to Silo park, where a group of guys are playing basketball with their dog.
Going back towards Queen Street, we are on a mission to find some specific souvenirs that are apparently hard to come by, so we are looking in every Souvenir shop we find until we finally get what we’re looking for, 5 or 6 shops later. We walk by a cute lane by Takutai Square and then reach Queen Street and hunt for a GPS, which is too expensive in JB Hi-Fi, but at The Warehouse we get one for $95, plus awesome customer service.
We go back to Grafton to organize our trip over the next couple of days and eventually head out for Thai at a nearby food court, and then to Mount Eden for a sunset hike. I try to be cheery about the uphill walk, we see a crater and I actually get upset with Craig because he is useless with a camera.
On the way back to the hostel I give him a 6 second photography tutorial (“Just hold the camera still and press the button”) and it starts to rain. Since we’re getting up early to pick up our van in the morning, I go to bed after I’ve called my grandparents and edited a film about Australia.
After we’ve picked up Marshmallow in Mangere the next morning, we do a big shop in Countdown and we’re off on our adventure! Marshmallow is a 1998 Toyota Estima, and she’s going to be our home for the next month and a bit. She takes us to Hot Water Beach, where we go for a dip in the ocean and conclude that the water is not hot at all. Of course, once we get to the big crowd of people further down the beach, we see people digging holes in the sand to get to the hot water springs that’s +2 kilometres beneath us, but travelling up through fractures in the ground.
We then head to Cathedral Cove carpark, where we’re lucky enough to find a parking spot, and then we begin the descent down to the beach. We’re the kind of rookies that forget to bring water with us, so the whole way we can be heard complaining about being thirsty, and on the way up we complain about the blisters we’ve gotten in the meantime.
Nonetheless, Cathedral Cove is a beautiful sight, and so is the carpark, so here is where we will spend the night. We try to cook some pasta on our portable stove, but run out of gas before we even get the water to boil, so we’re forced to eat the pasta cold and raw. Some tomato sauce helps though. A couple and their teenage daughter pass us and offer to take a photo of us, because apparently this is the kind of moment we want to remember. We take them up on that offer.
After the sun sets, I try – and fail- to photograph the amazing cluster of stars right above us. Frustrated by my camera’s lack of cooperation and the Germans having an awesome time in their giant campervan next to us, I climb into the car and fall asleep on the front seat. It’s not a great night for either of us, and other campers are being noisy, but we manage to get up at sunrise and get on with the day – without coffee, as we are out of gas.