I started the year with a big shebang in Auckland. I was so far from home that the locals had never heard of a city that sounds oddly similar to theirs. “You’re from Auckland?” they’d ask, and I’d smile, “No, I’m from Oakland.”
- Takapuna Beach
- Ferry ride from Devonport to downtown Auckland
- Auckland Art Gallery
- Piha Beach
Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe New Zealand
New Zealand is breathtaking. It’s quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. Wait, did I already say that about Alaska?
For this leg of my trip, I mostly ditched the downtown area and instead, hiked, kayaked, walked across bridges, and stood in front of crashing waterfalls, admiring it all.
New Zealand is the land of extremes… I kayaked across a lake that was so black, the reflection from the mountains was like looking into a mirror.
I walked along a beach with black sand and giant rock formations, certain I’d run into a character on Star Trek.
Ignorant American I am
Besides “Lord of the Rings” famously filming on location in New Zealand and HBO’s “Flight of the Concords,” which was a too-soon-for-its-time, brilliantly hilarious show about two adorable Kiwis trying to make it in NYC, I didn’t know that much about New Zealand.
Part of the fun of traveling is learning more about a country as you go, but sometimes, I can’t help but feel like a big nitwit. I had no idea New Zealand was so spread apart, and I had originally planned to take a bus from one island to the other.
Much to my dismay, I discovered that it takes two days and because it’s New Zealand, you don’t have as many options for roads and getting from point A to B. So, I bought a plane ticket before I got there, since I didn’t want to be on a bus for two days.
Driving on the left or lift, as a Kiwi would say
I decided to rent a car in New Zealand instead of taking the bus. I had only driven on the left side of the road a few times in Ireland but I mostly sat in the passenger seat because my traveling buddy Elsie got car sick pretty easily. (Maybe it was my driving?)
Either way it’s really cheap to rent a car in New Zealand. They have these car rental sites that offer older cars (think, 2006 and older, and no bluetooth), so I rented a Camery in Auckland and Nissan Sentra in Christchurch.
I liked the Camery but the Sentra… what a piece of crap. The alignment wheel on the Sentra was really off, so it kept veering to the left. But hey, it was better than waiting around for the bus, and who cares about speed and stealth. Kiwis drive slow anyway.
Hug the left
When I first got behind the wheel, it was raining and I was nervous and even missed a few turns because my mind completely froze — left and right ceased to exist and all I could do was go straight. But I quickly realized that all I needed to do was hug the left.
HUG THE LEFT, always! It was like a lightbulb went off in my brain and I was suddenly a left-side expert driver. I was a driving fool!
When I driving through Arthur’s Pass National Park, I hit a little bird that was flying low to the ground. I felt terrible. Why do those little guys fly so low to the ground anyway?!
Auckland was the only place I visited where I didn’t fully see the downtown area. I was only there once to see the art museum and have lunch with a friend.
We took the ferry over from Devonport, which cost $12 NZ and was way too short of a ride, but offered fantastic views of the city and New Zealand’s sea green waters.
Speaking of the ocean, I don’t think I had ever seen the ocean quite that color. It was a light sea greenish turquoise color that was so clean. The following photos were taken from a hike on Waitakere.