We arrived in Auckland on a warm, summer evening and picked up our rental car – the one that will carry us around for the next two months. It’s a tiny, light thing and it has some trouble getting up hills, but we’ve lovingly named it Miss Chanandler Bong (we’ve been watching a lot of Friends recently) and we keep crossing our fingers that the two hubcaps we’ve already lost will be all the drama this troika has.
Have you heard New Zealand won’t allow you in with dirt on your boots? That’s a thing. We scrubbed ours well the night before we left, but even still at customs they made us take them out, inspected them and disinfected them with stuff so strong, they urged us to “rinse them off before going into [our] house”.
Though 32% of New Zealand’s residents call Auckland home, we found it to be quite empty. Stores closed at 5pm on weeknights and aren’t open at all on Sundays. The streets were typically devoid of people. Everything was quiet. Coming, as we do, from Boston, this was a little unnerving to us, but we tried to sit back and enjoy the slower pace of life.
Auckland sits on the northern part of the North Island on a thin slice of land, so you can walk from east coast to west coast in a day, which is just what we did. The Coast-to-Coast walk is about 19km and runs through downtown, a few parks, a few volcanoes, some quiet neighborhoods, and spits you out at the beach. Auckland is situated among some sloping mountains, in a fertile valley, with plenty of bays and inlets, earning it the Maori name Tamaki Makaurau: “the spouse desired by a hundred lovers”.
We also took some time to explore the area surrounding Auckland, driving 30 minutes west to some incredible coastal formations. At Karekare, we found a mystical, empty, windy, black sand beach bookended by huge, hulking rocky cliffs. It reminded us of Oregon’s Canon Beach, only far more vast and with no buildings in sight. Signs there told of it being a scared place to the Maoris and we can see why.
We continued our drive north to Piha to see Lion Rock and finally found where all the people in New Zealand were. The little town was filled to the brim with campers and weekenders.
We also took a quick hike to the top of Kitekite Falls, our first of many hikes into the cool, shaded tropical fern forests of New Zealand.
Finally, we drove a few hours north through rolling farmland to Whangarei (pronounced Fang-A-ray) Falls.
Auckland was a great introduction to New Zealand for us. We’re getting used to the accent, the idiosyncrasies of the language, and Nate is doing an awesome job driving on the left! We’re thankful for how lush and fertile the land is, and how easy it is to get fresh, delicious produce. We’ve also started re-watching Flight of the Conchords in the name of cultural education. (If you’re unfamiliar with them, start here). We have one full month to explore the North Island, so there’s much more to come!