Josh and I arrived in Auckland at about 7am on Wednesday, but the landing had some very strange affects on me. For one thing, during the descent my head felt like it was being crushed from external pressure – my teeth were literally ringing with pain. It was quite a different experience from any landing I've felt before – there was a baby crying two seats in front of me, and I would have been crying too if I weren't a grown up. Anyway, we landed and had to go through like 50 million different custom checkpoints, we had to literally keep bringing our passports back out every 5 steps. Since a majority of my travel before this was mainly on the domestic side of things, it was a new experience and just the feeling that they could literally turn you around and stop you at any point was kind of scary, especially when you're in a new country on your own. Anyway, once we got through customs we hopped on a shuttle to take us to our hostel.
The ride into town was quite a visual overload simply because it had been so long since I had seen a ton of cars on a highway like back in the states. There were skyscrapers and modern buses – it was simply amazing to behold. We got to our hostel at about 8am, checked in and just crashed to get over our jet lag. We slept till about 10am and decided it was time to actually see the city, so we took a walk down the main street of Auckland called Queens Street. There were a ton of places to get food and clothing – it was just an amazing amount of choices to have at your fingertips after being limited for over a year. Just being able to see a Borders, a KFC or a Burger King was great. We walked all the way down to the Auckland harbour and got a nice look at why they call this place "The City of Sails", the harbour was just full of boats coming and going. Another thing we experience on our walk was the cool Auckland weather, when we arrived it wasn't really as chilly as I thought it would be. I was expecting frigid like weather but it was mildly warm but the funny thing is the weather would go from cool to warm to cool to rain in like an hour, so at least NZ has that in common with Samoa: the dramatic change in temperatures. As we were walking I was having some very strong and very painful stomach aches so we stopped by a medical store to pickup some supplies (oddly enough I have not seen Pepto-Bismol in this country yet!) and headed back to the hostel. Once we got there, I just stayed in bed for the rest of the day trying to get better. This meant that Josh had to walk around by himself for a bit and just get a lay of the land – in the long run it was better to lose this one day to sickness then let it drag out for 3-4 days. So a good majority of my first day in Auckland was spent in bed – not quite the impressive first day I had planned for myself!
But it worked out for the better as I was able to be a lot more mobile today. We left the hostel around 7am to go look for some breakfast. We found this nice little coffee shop on Vulcan Lane where the prices weren't too outrageous. Because I hadn't eaten a lot the previous day my stomach had shrunk a bit, so I didn't eat as much as I probably should have BUT at least it stayed down which is a lot better then what my stomach might have been able to achieve on Day 1. After breakfast, we went back to the hostel and checkout – easiest checkout process I've ever been through: you just hand them the key and you're done! Fortunately the Auckland City YHA hostel we stayed at was pretty clean and well organized – the staff helped us arrange a rental car for our drive down to the South Island and the plane ticket for our trip from Queenstown (South Island) back to Auckland (North Island). Once we were checked out and put our bags away, we took another journey into the city and went to the Maritime Museum near the wharf area. You would think a museum that dealt exclusively with boats would be pretty boring but since boats were the ONLY way that NZ was populated it was a very interesting museum to just walk through and see how the various people got to this hidden island in the south pacific. We spent a good 2 hours or so in the museum before we had to get back to the hostel and get our stuff.
After we picked up our stuff, we then caught a bus from Auckland to Mangere Bridge, which is like a suburb of Auckland (it's considered southern Auckland). As we were on the bus leaving downtown Auckland, I realized that as cool as it is to be in a new city sometimes being in the downtown area can feel a bit cramped and not very fun – at least for me. It's when you get to get out of the main tourist area and get into the residential area to see where the real people live that you get a good feel for the place and not just the image that the tourism department portrays. So I greatly enjoyed the bus ride from Auckland to Mangere Bridge – a good change of pace after the closeness of downtown Auckland (I must be becoming more slow paced in my old age). Now, you may be asking "Why did you head out to Mangere Bridge?" Well the reason is simple – a friend of someone I know from church in Samoa offered her place for us to stay in while we were in the Auckland area. We didn't take her up on the offer the first night just because we wanted to experience the main Auckland area as soon as possible and just get a feel for the place. The bus driver was extremely helpful in making sure that we got off at the right place, so we knew exactly where to get off. The area where this friend lives is simply amazing, it has an awesome lakeside view of the mountains some of the main Auckland area. The house is awesome in that there's plenty of room, plenty of space and we each get our own room plus it's not costing us anything per night to stay here so it's just all around great! But it got even better – she also offered us use of her car. I know – it's crazy and was totally not asked for on my part, but was just a godsend. The only problem was that it's a stick which I don't know how to drive, but Josh does. I knew there was a reason I brought him along! Anyway, we soon took the street (on the left side – which felt wrong all the way) in search of a grocery store to buy some food for the night. We easily found one and once we were inside it was just sensory overload – so many choices at such affordable prices was just an incredible sight. It was so hard to make any decisions because there were just so many options to choose from. This trip gave me a taste of what it will be like to come back to the states and the two places I will (in order) when I get back is 1) a Best Buy 2) a grocery store and just thank God for the great economy of scale we have in the states! We spent about a good hour in the grocery just trying to figure out what to buy and spent about $80 on food (which will last us about 2-3 days and is a lot better then having to buy food at a restaurant). We then came back to the house and cooked some tortia's and watched as the sunset over the mountains – a breathtaking view.
Also, as we were checking out at the grocery store the female clerk who was checking us out called a guy 'palagi' and when we told her we knew what that word meant and that we were from Samoa, she was absolutely shocked. So it only took two days to run into our first Samoan in New Zealand. She kept calling Samoa 'Sa' which was interesting but just the look of shock on her face was priceless.
And that's the end of Days 1 & 2 in Auckland, obviously 2 was a lot more interesting than 1 but I'm feeling a lot better now and hopefully I will be completely over this virus or whatever it is by the time we leave Auckland. Also, after a year of being behind the states in terms of time I'm actually ahead! I'm 19hrs ahead of Central time and 20hrs ahead of Eastern time. It's good to finally have the lead over you guys. Up and away to Day 3.
Weird Auckland Things:
- When people cross the street, they can go across or DIAGONALLY! They literally cross in the middle of where traffic would be crossing - it's quite a sight to see.
- In downtown Auckland, there are a ton of Asian related banks and restaurants. In fact, it seemed like we saw more Asians in the downtown area then any other ethnicity.
- There's a replica of the statue of liberty in the Auckland Harbour
- Even though it feels like it's between 55-65 degrees, people are still out wearing shorts and sandals. After coming from Samoa to this weather, that's just wrong!