Day 1: September 29th
Well, I made it! My kiwi adventure has begun.
I got in to Auckland around 6am on Sep. 29th (because of flying, I skipped Sep. 28th). After customs I waited around the airport a bit because I knew my hostel locked its doors until 8:30 am. Customs really was not that bad. However, NZ customs is quite strict. I overheard a guy saying that they almost fined him $400 for not documenting his hiking shoes which had traces of American dirt on them. The customs man asked to see the bottom of my hiking boots, too, which I thought was strange. I'm sure they need to have strict customs, being an island and whatnot.
So FYI--clean your outdoor gear before you come to NZ.
I got Airbus Express for about NZ$16 that took me to my hostel, Oaklands Lodge. My hostel was in Mount Eden, just a short 10 minute public bus ride from the city center and the ferry terminal. Mount Eden Village is a nice little town with a few bars and amazing coffee. Here, you can get a short black (espresso), tall black (double espresso), or flat white (espresso with the heated fluffy latte milk). I got so confused on the flight with Air New Zealand because when I asked for coffee, the flight attendant asked if I wanted white coffee. I quickly figured it out but that was my first exposure to kiwi lingo. Here, they also say "yous" instead of "your." It kind of reminds me of Philly slang... kind of...
Anyway, I had to wait a bit after I got to the hostel to get my room so I put my bags down and went into the kitchen. By this point it was around 9am because the bus from the airport took about 40 minutes.
There were some people eating breakfast in there so I started making conversation. Most of the people I talked to (from Swizerland, France, Scotland, and England) were staying there somewhat longterm. The Swiss guy, Surya, is taking a gap year after high school. He traveled to Thailand for a month and got his 1 year working visa in NZ. He just got job at a local coffee shop so we went into the city center to get him new work clothes.
Auckland is a pretty small city, comparatively, but it seems very metropolitan. There are tons of stores and great restaurants.
We then got some (really cheap and yummy) sushi from a roadside restaurant and took it to the University of Auckland park. It was so beautiful but that side of town is so hilly--the streets almost look like San Francisco. Surya wanted to learn more English adjectives so teaching him the word "steep" was appropriate.
Because it is going into the spring here, schools are just now finishing up the year. We saw tons of people in their graduation gowns with their families. I guess they just had their ceremony that day. Their graduation robes were much different than ours. They have a black robe but instead of having cordsand sashes like in the USA, they have different colored furry hoods.
It seems like most of the pople here are either white or Asian with a couple Indians thrown in there. I don't think I've seen one black person here yet. Maybe because of the emmigration from Britain and how close it is from Japan and China?
A Kiwi who sat next to me on the flight to Auckland said that the Maori people are the indigenous people from NZ. He said that the Maori people are probably one of the best cases of a native people resisting colonizers, but at the same time, assimilating themselves into the new culture while still keeping their traditions. Walking around, I saw some people that had darker skin and looked Polynesian. I'm wondering if those people are the Maori or if I'll see more the further into the counry I go. Give me a break, people, I'm still learning!
When I got back to my hostel I was exhausted. But I saw I had a new roommate in my 10-bed hostel dorm so I figured I'd introduce myself. Her name is Heather and she's from NYC. She's here on a working visa and rented a caravan to travel around in for this month because she has a friend coming from Norway. She is super cool and seemed to be down for anything. So I asked her If she wanted to go to Waiheki Island the next day with me. Of course she was down. That night, me, Heather, Surya, and a German girl, Patricia, all went to a Belgium bar for a couple drinks. It wasn't long until I got really tired. I was up for about 48 hours (with little awful cat naps on the plane).
The worst part is that I keep waking up around 4 am and can't go back to sleep! It happened both nights so far and it's so annoying.
Day 2: September 30th
Heather and I got up the next day and headed for the ferry which is just in the city center. The ferry ticket to Waihehi Island was about NZ$34. They asked us if we wanted all-day transport but we figured we'd just walk or figure it out. The ferry ride was about a half hour.
Pulling up to the island was magical. The water was beautiful green that seemed to turn to deep blue right before our eyes. There were huts for kayaks and boats everywhere anchored in the bay. You could see mansions on the top of the mountains ovelooknig the bay.
We unloaded and paid NZ$4.50 each to grab a public bus. Turns out, the island was bigger than we thought. We knew that the island was famous for its wineries so we asked the busdriver where we should get dropped off. He said Stonyrdge is a beautiful winery.
He wasn't kidding.
This winery was possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. The small winery overlooked incredibly green rolling hills with cows grazing. I went right for two lounge chairs and that's where the booshing began.
Heather and I first did a red wine sampler then a white wine sampler. She ordered this bruchetta with fancy bacon, goat cheese, walnuts and honey on top. Then we got a bottle of their chardonnay and just rotted in our lounge chairs. Then we ordered an appetizer sampler with a bunch of bread, cheeses, meats, spreads, olives and grapes. Again, incredible.
Stonyridge also provides yoga classes on the deck where we were so there were all these Buddhas and Ganeshas everywhere. Heather and I were in heaven.
Two guys from our ferry showed up so we offered them the rest of our food sampler--we were so full. Graeme and Greg, like us, met in their hostel in Auckland city center. Graeme is from Scotland and Greg is from England. We just drank and ate and tried to figure out how to work my selfie stick. They rented bikes for the day so they had to head back. Heather and I were planning on going to different wineries but we were honestly so content right there that we didn't move unless we had to pee or order more wine and food.
Mom-- Please skip these next two paragraphs if you want to avoid reading what you don't want to read. lol.
We were going to head back to the ferry and realized we had no idea what bus we should take or when they were going to show up. So instead, we hitchhiked back to the ferry! It seems like the two most popular modes of transportation for NZ travelers is hitchhiking and buying an old caravan to drive everywhere. Hitchhiking was fun! We stuck out our thumbs for no longer than a minute and a half and a nice fellow with long gray hair picked us up. He said he couldnt't take us all the way to the ferry but he'd get us close. He was so hippie, I loved it. He had feathers all over his 13 year old car and he just talked about how much he loved living on the island.
He dropped us off closer to town (and the ferry). We said thanks and he went on his way. We decided to get another glass of wine at a restaurant called Vino Vino because why not? After that, we decided to head back to the ferry. We could have walked there in like 30 minutes but we decided to try to hitch a ride again. This time, a nice older woman pulled over to pick us up. She asked if we were going to the ferry because she was dropping off her mother and some other man there. Perfect!!
We finally got to the ferry and saw this woman that we just passed in a store in town. We thought she teleported or something because we literally just saw her before we got in the car with the older lady.
I can't quite remember her name right now but she had ripped jeans, a bright pink sweater, messy, curly partly blonde dyed hair, and no shoes. Apparently, she only bought a one way ferry ticket because that's all the money she had on her. She just wanted to spend a nice day a the beach on the island and was hoping that they would let her go back without a ticket. Let's just say, she might have spent the night on the beach because we didn't see her on the ferry when it departed.
Greg and Graeme were on or ferry and invited us for a beer with the rest of their friends at the bar connected to their hostel. They were having a sudden death pool tournament so we went! There were so many people at this hostel. I met people from Mexico and all over Europe. I told a guy from Mexico that I was heading to Rotorua the next day and I haven't booked a hostel yet. He said to book Crash Palace because they give away free food all the time and it was nice--sounds good to me! I booked two nights right on the spot.
After I failed miserably at pool, Heather and I got a taxi and headed back to our hostel. Heather's friend from Norway was on her way and would be arriving around 3 am so she wanted to make sure everything was good with her room because she swiched from my room to a double downstairs.
I finally got some rest. I was so tired. However, I woke up at 4 am again and couldn't get back to sleep! I can't wait when that stops happening.
Day 3: October 1st
This morning I got up and started walking towards a beautiful hill called... wait for it... One Tree Hill. I'm pretty sure only Heather and I got the TV show reference. We love Chad Michael Murray.
Anyway, even though there is a mountain right next to our hostel I could have hiked, I heard there was sheep at One Tree Hill so I headed there instead. It took me about 40 minutes to walk there so I got to see more of town. I entered the park and climbed to the summit. It was very steep but not a difficult walk. There were a lot of people using this walk as their morning exercise. There were sheep everywhere, too!
The summit was incredble. You could see all of Auckland. There was an obolisque at the summit but I'm not quie sure what it was for because I had to get back to the hostel to get ready for my 12:25 pm bus to Rotorua.
The bus was easy to find--it was just opposite the ferry terminal (FYI).
Anyway, I'm signing off from a window seat on Naked Bus. I can't wait to write about my next adventure.