We left Easter Island on a Tuesday afternoon and had to fly all the way back to Santiago Chile before catching a 13 hour flight from Santiago to Auckland. We arrived at 4:00 in the morning after a full 24 hours of travel time and with the additional time zone change we spent two days travelling from Easter Island to Auckland.
Fortunately we were arriving in a developed nation that rivals our own, so we had no trouble finding our way around. We elected to hang out in the airport until about 8:00 am and then settled into a nearby motel for the day/night of jetlag recovery.
We were very excited to finally be back in an English speaking country and even more excited to hire our camper van and start exploring all that New Zealand has to offer. We have since learned that NZ has way more to offer than any traveller can handle in a month. One of the first and obvious things we noticed right away was the costs, and rightly so. We realized quickly that we were no longer in third world living conditions, and of course there is a price to pay for luxury and good food!
We stayed in a great, spacious hostel conveniently located right in the heart of downtown Auckland and began the selection process for our camper van. Renting camper vans and exploring the islands is a very popular thing for tourists of all sorts to do so we had many options to choose from. Ultimately price played a big role but we also wanted to make sure that we would enjoy our experience, so we went with the middle sized van that did not have a toilet/shower but did have the mini fridge, microwave, stove and sink.
To those reading this for research purposes, the company we went with was Jucy Rentals. Since being on the road and actually seeing the vans, we would also recommend Britz and Backpackers as its vehicles look to be top notch (ours is a bit dated and seems to love burning diesel). Although the costs seem to keep mounting (fuel, campgrounds, etc), we still got a very good deal on the rental at $39 NZ per night for 17 nights total (we were spending $56 per night at a hostel). But more on our camper adventure in future blogs.
We found Auckland to be very similar to Vancouver and Vancouver Island. It has been comforting being in NZ, and it is very nice to be traveling in a place where you are not price discriminated against. Like Vancouver, Auckland is littered with coffee shops and pubs on every corner. And the coffee and beer is fantastic! Food is very expensive in the city (more than in Vancouver) and the people love to party until early hours of the morning; we had a window in our hostel room that faced a night club, and we were staying there on the weekend (you do the math!). The city is very clean and there are even guys on sidewalk-cleaner vehicles sweeeping up the sidewalks at all hours of the day.
One thing we did notice was that the major intersections allow pedestrians to cross in all directions. This obviously slows down traffic, but it was different walking diagonally across an intersection. The tourist infrastructure in NZ is top notch and we've found the people to be very helpful and genuine.
Every time we venture into a new country we make an effort to attend one of the premier sporting events. Being in Auckland it was only fitting that we attend a professional rugby match, so off we went to the Super 14 match of the Blues vs the Reds. Having never been to a rugby game and knowing very little about the sport, it was difficult following the rules but we do have a new respect for the toughness of rugby players. It's like combining soccer with football, and the intensity never lets up.
Throughout our travels in South America we kept running into travellers that had mini laptop computers, and with WiFi being free at all of the hostels, it seemed ideal for us to make the investment in a small, light weight laptop to make life much easier. We spent an afternoon shopping around and comparing models and eventually made the purchase and added a new companion to our journey; mini ACER AspireOne. Ironically, once our trip began we've noticed that NZ does not have free WiFi anywhere (except Esquire Coffee) so the cost savings is not being seen yet. But it is definitely VERY convenient having the computer and a dollar well spent.
After 4 days of wandering the streets of Auckland, taking care of some errands, and of course drinking local draft beer at pubs, it was time to pick up our rental camper van and start the road trip of a lifetime! Having spent some time in South America with friends from NZ we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. Our goal was to make it to Wellington (bottom of the north island) within 5-6 days to meet up with old North Vancouver friends Chris and Tina. The plan is to stay with them for about a week to have some down time before tackling the south island and its many outdoor adventures!