Touchdown - New Zealand

Trip Start Apr 17, 2009
Trip End May 09, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, January 8, 2010

Hello from New Zealand! Yes, we have made it to New Zealand. First stop- Auckland (aka The City of Sails)!

We arrived late in the evening into Auckland. We took a taxi to our hotel (City Life at City Center) where we had a great rate for a small suite. The room was more like a one bedroom apartment- with kitchen, living room, separate bath, and bedroom. We were very pleased with it and glad we finally had a place to do laundry (the kitchen had a washer/dryer) after a month of traveling. So, we washed several loads of clothes. Yes it’s scary that washing clothes is a highlight of our travels, and it was a much anticipated and celebrated event.

Downtown Auckland is not a late night place and finding a restaurant that would serve us dinner at 1030pm was very hard. Frighteningly enough, our only option was a sushi place where the sushi is premade and rotates by your counter seat via a conveyer belt. It’s called the Sushi Factory! Eating sushi that has been going round and round for hours on a conveyor belt takes some guts- but we did try it.

We only had 3 days in Auckland, but we made the most of them. The weather was perfect- sunny and in the low 70s. January is the middle of summer here but the highs seldom exceed 75 and the nightly lows cool to the upper 50s and low 60s. Our sunny weekend in Auckland was great. We enjoyed wandering the harbor front and downtown areas. The city is about the size of Cincinnati or Nashville but it is very upscale, safe, and unbelievably clean. Auckland is built around 20+ dormant volcanoes and hugs a beautiful bay dotted with islands.

On our first day we found a nearby Starbucks and enjoyed Venti coffees for the first time in a month. We also took the opportunity to buy two pounds of ground Starbucks coffee to use with our prized possession- the French Press Coffee Maker we purchased in Aitutaki.

After savoring our coffees we wandered around town and signed up for an afternoon sailing excursion on the NZL 40 - one of the sailboats used in the America’s Cup Race. It was a PERFECT day for sailing and we headed out for two wonderful hours sailing around the harbor and bay of Auckland. John was even given the opportunity to take the wheel of the ship for a few minutes (we survived that harrowing experience). We had beautiful views of Auckland from the water and sailed passed Rangitoto island which is a large, barren, dormant volcano.

That night we had a nice dinner at a PanAsian restaurant and turned in a bit early. The next day we took the 9am ferry over to Waiheke Island which is just a 30 minute ride off the coast from Auckland. Everyone told us that we should visit Waiheke island for its beauty, its beaches, and its vineyard. Everyone was right! Waiheke is a wonderful island of nice beach homes, fantastic beaches, gorgeous hills, amazing cliffs, and awesome vineyards. This was a place we fell in love with immediately!

We jumped off the ferry and found our rental car. We had been given a great deal on a small, red Mazda convertible and it proved to be the perfect way to tour the island on a glorious sunny, summer day. We headed out to a rural area of the island where we did a short hike to a beautiful bay. There was a wonderful type of flower covering the countryside of the island- these flowers can be white or purple and you see them growing wild everywhere across the North Island of New Zealand. We have not learned the name of them yet, but we will.

We drove every inch of the island and stopped at three excellent vineyards- The first was Passage Rock where we had what we thought was the best wine of the wineries we visited. While at Passage Rock we enjoyed an outdoor lunch with their famous wood-fired pizza and we purchased a couple of bottles of wine to take back to Auckland.

From there we headed out across the more rural (unpaved roads) area of the island. We kept commenting how much it reminded us of Tuscany in the landscape and appearance. We called it Tuscany with a Sea and thought we were quite clever in coining that idea until later that day when we actually saw a travel headline that called the island “Tuscany sur Mer” which means Tuscany on the Sea. Someone else obviously agreed with us!

In the afternoon we drove along cliffs, tiny coves, white sand beaches, and lovely vineyards. We stopped to visit the Te Whau Vineyard which has to be in one of the most stunning settings of any vineyard in the world. We also visited Cable Bay vineyard where we had a delicious but somewhat hurried dinner before catching the evening ferry back to Auckland.

On Monday it was time for us to depart Auckland. First, however, we both got much needed haircuts and then headed out to the rental place to pick up the car that we would have for our two months of driving around New Zealand. The car they wanted to give us was not going to be suitable for two months of travel and for carrying around visitors and their luggage. So, after much haggling and patience we were upgraded to a nice mini-van which will give us the room we need and a more comfortable and safer vehicle for our two months of driving around. By mid afternoon we were ready to hit the highway and drive to the Far North regions of the North Island.

We really enjoyed Auckland and it surpassed our expectations. It was a very pleasant city in a beautiful location.

A few side notes- We have found that all catsup (ketchup) here usually has cloves in it. The cloves give it a tangy sweetness that is quite different than the ketchup we have at home.

Also people from New Zealand refer to themselves as Kiwis. The fruit is called Kiwifruit- not just Kiwi.

The standard way of saying hello and how are you is to say, “How you going?”

They say, “Good on you.” instead of “good for you”

And when you are heading up to bed they will say “Good Sleep” instead of “Good night”
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larryandeverett on

New Zealand is a beautiful country. Be sure to try the cheese, beer and lamb. We are opeing a research center in Chirstchurch in two months and I amy have to travel there. When are you leaving?

Mike K on

I'm catching up on my J&R blog reading. I feel like I'm there with you.

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