OK, so it was a little tough leaving Fiji at 4 in the morning but the good part was that we landed in Auckland at 8 in the morning, which gave us a whole day to explore! The car purchase idea went in to the dumpster when we arrived at the airport simply because one of the car agent guys talked us into a fairly cheap rental at $35 a day for our full stay for an upgraded midsize vehicle that we can drop in Christchurch at the end of our time here. No one way drop fee. Way to negotiate Ted. Nice and convenient and we don't have to worry about the breakdowns.
This time of year in NZ, we are finding that booking is the norm. So, immediately after getting the car, we got a SIM card for the cell and presto, we have a NZ telephone # - the whole world phone thing is so cool - we simply now call the places we want to stay at "on the fly" as we're doing something else.
Our first day in Auckland was spent just walking around and seeing the city. The first thing you notice is that hey, even as a Canadian, this place feels small. It's a spread out town but the core is not that big. It reminded me of mini-Sydney; bridge, harbour and all, with slightly less good weather. Nice view from Mt Eden of this city built around small extinct volcanoes. But, what the hell! How can it be so cold here when Fiji was boiling! It was only a three hour flight! Anyway, it's true what you here that the weather is very moderate here - we arrived to cloud and about 17 degrees and it's pretty much almost full on summer.
The people are extremely friendly though - we've got people stopping all the time saying, "Hey, you're a traveler, I've done that, how can I help you?" Very common here. Some people even offer us cars, tents, and accommodations! Anyway, it was a good day walking around. However, I think I just have to own up to one new and simple fact now - we are not really backpackers - we're "flash packers".
You see, being a little older comes with a bit of a "coolness penalty" on the circuit it seems. What, you're traveling with your wife?" I remember traveling in the 90's when I was younger and it seemed much easier to just fit in with the grungy showers and the pies for every meal. Now, something is different. It only took one night at the Auckland Central Backpackers to figure it out. The place in monstrous - 500 beds, a travel agency, large internet cafe, bar, big kitchen, on and on. We are senior citizens in this place - having to pop the odd pill every morning! So it's a different gig - we travel as a couple, spend a little more cash, and look for a better shower. I didn't expect this as much -but I guess that's the thing - it's about doing it differently and never re-living the same moment. On the other hand, double room backpacker accommodation is very common, and the industry seems to be targeting us flash packers more and more. Hmm.....
We're slowly setting ourselves up with what we need in the car - groceries, working on a cooler, and a coffee press (how do they drink this stuff here????) Yesterday, we stayed on Waiheke (in honour of our friends Sue and Bob), which was cool, but very much flash packerish - in fact I would call it utopian spa flash packerish. We were a little out of place in some of the wineries, but the setting was beautiful and the swimming at Onetangi beach grand. It was a perfect little get away from Auckland and comes with a harbour tour (ferry ride) gratis. Both ways. After this we simply hopped in the car with some new groceries and headed for the Bay of Islands, where we hope to spend a few days checking out the top end before heading back south.
We've also booked the Kepler Track - one of New Zealand's Great Walks (you can look it up) for the 1-4 of January on the South Island. These treks have to be booked because the support huts along the way fill up. It ain't cheap either, but we didn't come to New Zealand to jump out of an airplane or off a bridge like everyone else seems to have so I think its money well spent. Until next time!