Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Zealand Adventure - Day 1 Auckland

I know I still have my #1 US National Park post to write, but I'm going to switch gears to share some stories from our New Zealand Honeymoon while it's still fresh in my mind. Mostly, I'm doing this so I can re-live our amazing adventure. It's going to require several posts to really share everything we did while we were in New Zealand. But trust me, they will be worth the read. I'll start from the beginning and go chronologically. My favorite day wasn't until Day 15 of the trip, so it's hard not to jump right to that! But honestly, each day was one of the best days of our lives...that is until the next day happened. Every night we would say, " THAT was a great day!"

So let's get started! We flew nonstop from San Francisco on an overnight flight that arrived two days later at 5:10am in Auckland, NZ. That was the longest flight I'd ever been on and we had no idea how jet-lagged we would feel. I had planned for us to do the Coast to Coast Walkway, a 16km (10 mile) hike across the city through beautiful parks, impressive craters, historic landmarks, and cute neighborhoods. Many people thought I was nuts. No way would we feel like doing this! But we did it. And it was the best thing we could have done to adjust. We were exhausted by the end of the day, but that helped us fall asleep (in our twin beds...that story will have to wait for another post) at a reasonable time and then wake up the next morning ready to truly begin our adventure (read: get manual transmission campervan and set out on the "wrong" side of the road!)

We started at Waitemata Harbor (Pacific Ocean) and ended in Onehunga (Tasman Sea). We took a short detour at the beginning to check out the Sky Tower (kind of like the space needle in Seattle), and used our trusty map to find our way over to Albert Park and University of Auckland. The most fun part of the day was trying to find the little Coast to Coast Walkway markers that guided us across the city. The "trail" was pretty well marked, but occasionally we had a difficult time finding the next marker. After the University, we walked through the Auckland Domain (Auckland's oldest park which also holds the Pukekawa volcanic crater) and took some time to enjoy it's manicured gardens, greenhouses, and fernery.

Following the signs, we made our way through Auckland Domain and then through neighborhood streets to Mt. Eden, the tallest volcano in Auckland. This clearly looked like a crater and gave us a great view of the city.

 One bad thing about this walk, is we saw very few restaurants and were getting very hungry by this point. The walkway seems to go through more neighborhoods and less streets with businesses. You'd think whoever planned the walkway would want to direct people to walk on streets they might end up spending money. We found a Japanese restaurant and ended up eating there mostly because we couldn't wait any longer.

After getting some food and caffeine in our systems, we continued on the walkway to Cornwall Park. This park is enormous and so beautiful! There was livestock within park limits, and huge trees that had clearly been there for awhile. One Tree Hill, a volcanic peak (182 meters) and important memorial place is accessed through Cornwall Park. The Coast to Coast walkway goes right to the top of One Tree Hill and that back down into the rather rundown neighborhood of Onehunga. Very conveniently, there is a train station in Onehunga that took us right back to Britomart Station (where we started).

Cornwall Park

 The trail up One Tree Hill

We could probably count on our hands how many stop signs/lights we saw in New Zealand. Instead, they yield, or "give way" and amazingly enough...people do it!

As you can see from the pictures, the weather wasn't terrific. It never got particularly warm and stayed cloudy the majority of the day. We were warned that we would need layers and that the weather would change throughout the day. Although it didn't really change in Auckland, I was very happy I had brought layers and didn't assumer summer = hot and sunny. I guess living so many years in the Bay Area had us prepared for that!

What's next? Day 2: Getting Used to the Campervan and Hobbiton and Day 3: Polynesian Spa in Rotorua

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