Hello from the future! To be precise, we are 18 hours ahead of you east coasters (19 hrs from Midwesterners, and so on).
We are currently in Kaitaia (pronounced Ki with a long I – Tie – A), which is in the “Northland” (north of the North Island). We took a 6-hr bus ride from Auckland today on very curvy roads. I’m not certain what the speed limit is here, but I’m pretty sure you are not allowed to go below 85 MPH. And the sharper the curved, the faster you have to go.
Anyway, our first few days in New Zealand have been fantastic.
We landed in Auckland on Monday. We thoroughly enjoyed flying Air New Zealand. Their planes are beautiful, the alcohol is free and they have the most creative safety video ever (involves Lord of the Rings). The flight did not seem 13 hrs long.
Our two biggest worries in getting here included the fact we had a one-way ticket and we were trying to bring in 60 dehydrated meals (food regulations were confusing). The airline attendant did question our one-way ticket, but after a call to immigration, we were cleared.
As for the meals, the customs agent took out everything to inspect, asked if we knew that New Zealand did have food available, then sent us on our way. Huge sigh of relief.
In Auckland, we stayed 2 nights at the Brown Kiwi Hostel with about 30 other travelers, mostly from Germany and France. Really nice place centrally located in the city, but surrounded by trees and quiet. We were definitely the oldest of all the guests, so I’m kind of glad we opted for a private room, although everyone was very respectful. Hannes is the manager there and he was super nice and super helpful. We may stay at the Brown Kiwi again when we come back through Auckland.
During our 2 days in Auckland, we got a New Zealand phone number (please note if you call or text our U.S. number, we won’t get the message until we return to the states), we food shopped for supplement our dehydrated meals with breakfasts, lunches and snacks in our mail drops, and sent off 5 mail drop boxes at the post “shop” (as they call it) to the South Island. We have enjoyed discovering new foods here, including this 5 lb block of wet dog food. Below is a picture of the contents of one of our mail drop boxes with 5 days of resupply.
Besides trail prep duties, we also had a bit of fun! We have walked all around Auckland, and although we are not city fans, it is a great city. We loved the harbor areas and all the boats. We are also enjoying all the fresh seafood & already had fish & chips twice! Our first day in Auckland, we went to see “Mockingjay” in the theater. We are not typical movie goers and I realize this is not what you do in another country, but it was a little rainy and we were slightly jet lagged (but not as bad as I thought I would be), so this was the perfect choice activity. Don’t worry parental units, we will save jumping from the 772-foot Sky Tower for another day.
Overall, New Zealand is very expensive, as everyone told us. But 3 days in and we haven’t spent a single dollar. How? Well, J discovered a casino and I encouraged him to sit down and play a hand. I figured he just couldn’t pass up saying he played at a New Zealand casino.
Well, he can actually say he played and WON at a New Zealand casino! First hand, no lie, he won. We walked away shortly after that.
A few other observations so far …
-We always look both ways when crossing the road because we still can’t get used to this whole driving on the other side of the road thing.
-The public “toilets” (they don’t call them restrooms) are small, but so so clean.
-It is expensive here. The mail drop packages, however, only cost $13 to send! In contrast, it cost $2 to mail a postcard to the US.
-We are slowly learning to talk like New Zealanders with words like “takeaway” for “to go/takeout,” “rubbage” for “garbage,” “cue” for “in line,” and “top up” for “add on.”
Well, that’s my report so far. We are staying at the Main Street Lodge (hostel) in Kaitia and will take a 3-hr bus ride to Cape Reinga to start the trail tomorrow. And as they say in New Zealand, “no worries.”