My first day in Auckland - view of Auckland from Princes Wharf.
I'm uploading pictures from my first couple days in New Zealand. I will be back later to add commentary. I've got limited time right now because I'm catching a bus today up to Kerikeri! Julia Scahill's family was so kind to invite me to stay with them! Overall though - I have LOVED Auckland
so far!!! As I said, I will come back later to write more about it...but for now, here are some pictures! :)
Okay - I'm back & want to give the run-down on my first four days in Auckland.
Continuation of my previous entry... (and by the way, the pictures don't really line up with the text! I'll get better at that.
The Sky Tower. This is what Tina had to climb on the Amazing Race! I do have to say, it is TALL! I definitely have much more respect for her climbing to the top!
..for now this is what I've got! :) )
*****MY FIRST DAY IN AUCKLAND (Wed, Dec 3rd) - JUST WANDERING AROUND*****
My first day was spent in pretty much of a haze. After my trip to the internet cafe, I went to a Vodafone store to get my SIM card. Woo hoo! I now have a New Zealand number. Very exciting - I feel so official now that I can actually call & text people. :) Then, with my cool new local number, I walked around the city & ended up at a cafe down on Princes Wharf. I thought it was going to be raining on my first day, but it turned out to be gorgeous! I grabbed a pizza & a beer (Steinlager Pure) at Barbara, a little cafe...and started to read my book, The Four Agreements (actually, to read it again.
Steinlager Pure. My first lunch in Auckland was at Barbara - a pizza and a beer for $8 US!
..I read it once a year or so ago & thought it would be a good book to read on the trip!). I got through the First Agreement, "Be Impeccable With Your Word". It's about speaking with integrity, saying only what you mean, not gossiping, and using the "power of your word in the direction of truth and love". Not a bad way to be, good stuff to think about....and hey, it's really easy not to gossip when you are traveling alone! :)
After my little lunch, I made my way back to Albert Park which was very close to my hotel. I ended up just crashing out there for a little while as I waited to check into my hotel. Such a cute park!! It reminded me of sitting on Fort Mason, only without a water view.
Anyway, so then I was off to check into my hotel, The Quadrant.
Hanging in Albert Park with my Lonely Planet & my Keens. I took a little nap while I waited to be able to check into my hotel.
When I got into my room - I was SOOOO excited. It was SO unbelievably nice!!! I had a little sitting area and a kitchen - in addition to my queen size bed & bathroom (the only 2 things I was expecting). It was SO comfortable & the perfect place to spend my first few nights in Auckland.
Before I settled in for the night, I thought it would be a good idea to go to the local grocery store to pick up some food for my room...especially since I had a frig, toaster, coffee pot (which I've since learned is called a "jug"), a microwave, etc. It was so funny to go into the store in the state I was in though - I was SO out of it and the store was SO bright. I ended up coming out of there with some soup, salad, yogurt, fruit, pita bread, butter & chips.
The kitchen at my hotel!! I was so surprised by how nice it was!!
It was great because it ended up being my breakfast every day & a few of my dinners. I figured since I was definitely NOT staying in a backpacker-like accomodation, the least I could do was act a little bit like I was to save a few $$ here and there.
So I made dinner at home and just kicked back and watched the local news. It was SO funny though - they kept replaying the footage of David Beckham from the airport that morning! Classic.
*****SECOND DAY IN AUCKLAND (Thursday, Dec 4th) - MY AMAZING RACE DAY*****
The "Amazing Race" was my theme for the day. I walked all over the city and I visited two of the spots that I saw this year on the Amazing Race. I went up to the Sky Tower and to Mt. Eden. I started the morning off with a very touristy trip to the Sky Tower.
Where I spent my first 4 nights in Auckland. The Quadrant Hotel was SO nice!
People can choose to do the "Sky Jump" where you jump off the tower all buckled into some contraption, the "Sky Walk" where you actually walk all around the sky tower - super high up - all strapped in to this harness thing....or you can ride the elevator up. That's what I did! :) I was not ready for the crazy New Zealand type activitites yet & I just wanted a good view! I have to say, I gained so much respect for Tina and Ken - the couple on the Amazing Race who had to climb on the OUTSIDE and all the way up to the tippy top! It literally made my stomach turn just thinking about it.
After the Sky Tower, I walked up to K'Road...the K is for something much longer (I have a picture of it in here) & it's the kind of bohemian, funky, hipster kind of spot.
The Sky Tower from the ground.
Apparently at night the clubs are crazy....I actually didn't make it out to them when I was in Auckland, but that's what I hear.
Anyway, I had the BEST lunch that day. I went to Satya restaurant. It was recommended by Lonely Planet & I'm so glad I went. The food was DELICIOUS and the owner was the nicest guy!!! I got a picture of him you can check out. :)
After lunch, I walked to Mt. Eden. It was actually quite a long walk & then it was pretty steep once you get out there. There were spectacular views of the city skyline...and all the way back to the Sky Tower where I had just been. It looked really far away & I was psyched I had walked that far! But - to be honest, by the time I got up to the top, I was pooped! I almost tried to jump on one of the many Japanese tour buses that had just pulled up to take me back down.
Someone doing the "Sky Jump" off of the Sky Tower. Yes, it was very touristy to go up the Sky Tower...but hey, I'm a tourist! :)
..but I couldn't get up the nerve to ask. It was really funny - I was there by myself for awhile and then I was literally surrounded by 50 or 60 tourists ALL snapping photos. I loved it.
So not only did I have an "Amazing Race" themed day --- I was also in full-on tourist mode. :)
I did end up catching the local bus back into town because I just couldn't walk anymore - I needed a rest! I sat next to a very nice woman from Holland. Everyone here is just so nice!
THEN - very exciting - I had heard that Alicia Keys was playing on Saturday night, so I popped into an internet cafe to see if I could get a ticket and I did! And not only that, the Vector Arena (where she was playing) - was 10 minutes from my hotel. It does not get any easier than that!
So, for dinner that night, I just decided to do my pumpkin soup & some salad.
YUMMY lunch at Satya on K'Rd. This is dahi puri, a South Indian dish. Yogurt, potato, chutney, spices...it was SO DELISH!
I was actually pretty tired from my day and just wanted to chill, write in my journal, etc.
Actually, here's an excerpt from my journal about some of the things I had noticed I was struggling with on my trip...
1) Figuring out what exactly I want to do!
2) If I should have stayed in a hostel the first couple nights instead of a hotel (this actually ended up being a great decision!)
3) My schedule and how it's going to work with transportation...do I do buses? rent a car? what the heck am I doing?
4) Internet time - I don't want to be on the internet a lot, but I also want to keep this blog, connect with people, etc...we'll see
5) Should I have a laptop?!?
6) Should I have a memory card reader? (I later found out that most internet cafes have them)
7) When is it okay for me to be back in my hotel - or when should I be "out"?
So, those were some of the thoughts I was having.
Karmesh, the owner of Satya, and me. :) I was the last one they served before they closed for the afternoon - that's why it's empty.
..now that I'm a little further along (yes just a couple days - but still!) on my trip I'm getting better at making decisions & also just seeing what happens & figuring it out along the way...but it's actually really hard to know what you want to do sometimes!! I am still figuring out the whole transportation thing...but things seem to be falling into place...I know I'll figure it out!
Oh - and to continue with the whole soccer/David Beckham thing....I saw a bunch of soccer-looking-type-people in my hotel that night & a sign that said "Oceania Soccer" or something....turns out that the team that the LA Galaxy was playing was staying in my hotel!
*****THIRD DAY IN AUCKLAND (Friday, Dec 5th) - MAORI HISTORY AND DEVONPORT DRINKING*****
Today's highlights were 1) The Auckland Museum and 2) Getting drinks at night in Devonport!
So, 1) I walked to the Auckland Museum in the morning & got there just in time to see the Maori cultural show.
I really love learning about their culture - I really find it to be beautiful - they are a very spiritual people that are so connected to the land. Their carvings are pretty incredible - so beautiful and detailed. And how can you not like the HAKA?!? When they were doing all their demonstrations - I actually got teary-eyed at one point because the woman who was explaining all their history & the meaning, etc. was so authentic - so genuine - and you could tell how proud she was of the culture. At the end she said something in Maori and then translated it in English and it was "May God bless you and keep you safe". The way she said it was incredbily touching. I think it also reminded me of Ruth Wortman at camp saying "May God bless you and keep you, may he cause his countenance to shine upon you & may he bring to you & to the whole world, peace, and peace of mind" every Shabbat morning at camp.
It just made me really happy.
After the museum, I got some lunch & headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening, which brings me to #2 - getting drinks in Devonport. I took the ferry over to Devonport to meet up with Chris Lindley (a friend of Suzanne - thanks Suz, for connecting us - it was so much fun to have people to meet up with! :). I met Chris and his friends Yanne (sp?), Marie and another Chris for drinks at the Patriot. It was gorgeous afternoon and it was so much fun to be having a couple beers (well, I actually had cider) with several locals. We all then went up to Mt. Victoria and saw a gorgeous sunset over the city! We were all having such a good time, we went back to Chris' and hung out there until 11:30 or so.
A Jewish cemetary I passed.
They were enlightening me on some of the socio-economic issues that New Zealand has....it was very interesting (and somewhat depressing) to learn about the crime, suicide rates, poverty, etc that exists in NZ. They were saying that New Zealand has a great marketing campaign going where everyone just thinks it's clean, safe, friendly, etc...but there are actually a lot more problems than people think. But of course, they love it here and don't want to live anywhere else because you can have a very relaxed lifestyle. Anyway, just interesting stuff to talk about. Oh, and we also played some silly drinking games too - you know, to balance it all out.
*****FOURTH DAY IN AUCKLAND (Saturday, Dec 6th) - RELAXING ON WAIHEKE & SINGING WITH ALICIA*****
SUCH A FUN DAY!!!! It really was just such the perfect day! :) It started by going to Waiheke Island
and ended with the Alica Keys concert! How could it not be a great day?
So - heading over to Waiheke Island was great.
It's a 35 minute ferry (or 45 min if you catch the one that stops in Devonport) ride from Auckland & it was soooo gorgeous out, it was a great day to be out on the water. I think it was about 75 degrees or so, and not a cloud in the sky! The ferry ride over was eventful for 2 reasons...
1) There was this hilarious group of guys on the boat who were headed over for a bachelor party. They dressed the bachelor up in a pink tutu, a blond wig & fake boobs. They were just so funny to watch & to chat with. They were going over for paintball...and they had already started drinking so I was looking forward to seeing what they were going to be like on the way back! and
2) I made my first "trip friend"! :) I was sitting right next to this woman for most of the ferry ride and I could just tell she was doing some travel too.
Self-timer picture on Mt. Eden. This was one of the pit stops on the Amazing Race this season. I was looking for Phil and the mat to jump on!
...she had on the same tevas I did, a backpack with all sorts of things hanging off it, she was wearing pants with a bunch of pockets, and she just had that look about her. Anyway, at some point on the way over I got up the courage (it was really funny - I was actually nervous to say something to her - I have no idea why!) to ask her a question about her travels ...and from then on we hung out the rest of the day! Her name is Belinda and she is from Holland. It was awesome meeting her and we had a great day chatting about our life histories, our trips, and various other things! We decided to hike over to one of the beaches and just chill for the day. It was perfect!!! We both read for a bit, swam, ate our little snacks....just chilled out on the beach.
Mt. Eden. The crater is actually VERY deep & looks much more impressive in person.
I was obsessed with the shells for awhile - there were so many & they were so pretty! Then, as we were chatting, she mentioned something that was related to something I read in The Four Agreements book - I had a feeling she would like the book, so I took it out and gave it to her. She loved reading it & didn't get through it - so I told her to keep it & then to pass it on to someone else. Thinking about it now, it would be cool to have my name, where I'm from, etc. in there....have her add it before she passes it to the next person, etc.....(Natalie, kind of like that documentary we saw together...do you remember what it was called?) Anyway, the rest of the day was wonderful & we caught the 6pm ferry back to Auckland.
An interesting sculpture outside the Auckland museum.
The bachelor party boys were back on the boat....still drunk...but with a ton of welts on their bodies. Just a comical addition to the trip!
THEN - I raced back to my hotel to get ready to go to Alicia Keys. I was very excited to see her & actually, I have to say - I was kind of excited to go check it out by myself (this was the first concert I've ever been to on my own!) I walked the TEN minute walk to the Vector Arena and went in to find my seats. I was seated in row SS - so I thought it couldn't be THAT bad. Well...it turns out that SS was the LAST possible row that you could have your seat! Hilarious. It acutally turned out not to be that bad....and I sat next to some very nice Kiwis. :) I LOVED the concert.
The haka. Ka Mate!!
....Jordan Sparks opened for her and it was funny to see all the young girls go crazy for her! I didn't know any of her songs - but it was fun to see her. Then, Alicia Keys was awesome. I really love her song "Superwoman" so that was a highlight for me. I got some video of it & when I figure out how to upload it onto this thing, I will. :)
One more highlight of the day was when I came back to the hotel after the concert. I was heading up in the elevator & this guy got in that looked very soccer-esque. I asked him if he played and he said he was the manager of the Oceania soccer team! His name was Seamus and he was such a nice guy. We chatted about the game a bit - apparently they lost to the Galaxy 3-0.
An intricately designed Maori storage house. It indicated someone's status...and I guess was used for storage.
..and they were all about to go to some party where Alicia Keys was going to be!!! He wasn't excited about it though & said he was just going to be chasing drunk soccer players home later that night since that was his job. He was wearing a bunch of shell necklaces & he gave me one when we said goodbye. It's from the Cook Islands. So sweet!!!
*****FIFTH DAY IN AUCKLAND (Sunday, December 7th) - BREKKIE WITH BELINDA & BUS TO KERIKERI*****
Today was my last day in Auckland. I actually REALLY enjoyed the city & the experiences I had there. I think Auckland gets a bad rap. I'm sure after I travel the rest of the North Island and the South Island (especially) - I will realize why the rest of the country is more exciting, but I had such a great time!
So, I met my new friend, Belinda, for breakfast and we totally splurged! We got eggs, toast, tomatoes, and bacon.
It was really a huge breakfast. And I'm not sure if I'm going to order bacon again. Instead of little strips of bacon that I was expecting, I had these two huge lumps of almost done ham that had been thrown on a grill or something. It was a little too "meaty" for me in the morning! Anyway, we had a nice little breakfast and agreed that we would need to meet up again either in Lake Taupo
, Wellington or on the South Island. I'm sure we will make it happen!
Then, I went back to the hotel - and actually ran into my friend Seamus again! :) I was excited to see him again because I wanted to give him a little present as well since he had given me that necklace.
Inside a Maori house thingy. All the walls looked like this.
So, Seamus was the first recipient of one of the Obama '08 buttons I brought along with me! We chatted a bit about US politics and he said he followed the election and was happy with what had happened. He was really excited to get the button!
I then packed it all up to get ready for my bus trip. This was the first time I had to repack my backpack! Wow - I thought I packed light - but it turns out I definitely could have packed ligther!!! I'm sure I will figure it out as I go - but it was already difficult getting everything back in my bags. I eventually succeeded....but I know some stuff is just going to have to go. Actually, my packing situation is GREAT incentive to actually read the books I brought so I can get rid of them!
ANYWAY - so it was off to the bus station for me.
...and that was my experience in Auckland!!! I have no idea if I'll be able to write as extensively about all of the days of my trips, but we'll just see!! And hey, if you actually read all of this...next time you e-mail me say "the eagle has landed"...that's our little code so I know you really care about me and that you've read what I've written! Haha. :)