My first stop in New Zealand was 2 days in Auckland. For me, my time in Auckland stands out less for the city but more for two things: the shock of being in a developed city in New Zealand, and the launching point for the next two weeks.
Even though Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand, the part that you explore as a tourist is pretty small. It doesn’t take long to walk around the downtown area or to the main suburbs. I spent most of my time just wandering the city; first down Queen Street to the waterfront and then over to the suburb of Parnell, where there was a Sunday market happening.
Within hours of arriving I was at a farmers market sampling locally produced goodies and purchasing organic produce. The San Franciscan in me rejoiced. I had left Buenos Aires proclaiming that I would be healthy in New Zealand; thanks to this market I had lots of veggies and salads to look forward to.
That night I walked through Sky City and it was a trip. Tourist buses and families wandered through the expensive restaurants. From a second floor balcony I watched people playing craps and blackjack in the Casino. When I got back to the hostel I sat around with a couple of recently graduated Americans and Brits who were talking about politics and how privileged they are to be here. Something about the conversation screamed “these are not the travelers I’m used to,” and I mostly kept quiet.
Day 1 was jarring. It was such a change from South America in both the city itself and the people I encountered, and I didn’t really know how to process it. Luckily my exhaustion from traveling overnight made sleep more of a priority than dealing with this confusion; I slept a solid 11 hours that night. I needed it.
The next day took a turn for the better. I had met Frank the day before in the elevator, and when we found ourselves sitting on adjacent bean bag chairs we swapped travel ideas for how best to get around New Zealand. The next morning we decided we would take on the challenge together. We spent the better part of the morning renting a car, booking the ferry between the North and South islands, and booking a Waitomo cave adventure for the next day.
That afternoon we walked around the suburb of Ponsonby together. We hadn’t paid for the car yet so if we ended up hating each other we still had an out. But it turns out we got along, so when we got back to the hostel we paid for the car and got some celebratory pizza. This was happening.
So here’s the plan: we have a car through October 14th. After a quick trip through the North Island – a day in Waitomo, a day in Wellington – we would make our way down the West Coast of the South Island. That’s pretty much it. We set off from Auckland with nothing booked except the Waitomo cave and the ferry, hoping to figure out everything else along the way.
My idea for this part of the trip had so far come true: I showed up at a hostel in Auckland, found a new friend to get a car with, and was setting off on an adventure that would unfold as we went. Here we go NZ, let’s see what you’ve got.