Hello New Zealand!!
Our flight was lovely, we were in the middle section but the seat next to me was empty allowing me to spread out. We watched a movie and had our dinner and then I slept the rest of the way, waking briefly to eat my breakfast before falling asleep again. I was a bit apprehensive because we had seen on the news that a storm the size of Australia was heading to New Zealand right in time for our landing so I intended to sleep through it all and it worked ... except there was no storm! (well not until later on in the day anyway, and even then it was only a small one). While I was sleeping Dan only managed to get a couple of hours shuteye, choosing to watch three movies instead.
We arrived early, made our way through customs with no problems and collected our bags. When we entered the main terminal I realised we didn't actually have anywhere booked for that night so we found some lovely computers giving us free Internet access and quickly booked somewhere before jumping on the shuttle service that took us into the city centre.
It was cold, very cold and even though we were both in long trousers and fleeces we were bloody freezing so we went straight to the hostel and managed to check in (despite it being 11am!) and actually had to get into bed in order to get warm. Naturally we fell asleep for a couple of hours and woke to find the storm had arrived, although it was only raining and slightly windy. We decided to go and investigate Auckland so we put on as many layers as we could underneath our waterproofs and headed out.
As we walked down Queen Street (THE street in Auckland) the first place we came to, to our huge surprise, was Starsucks! We thought there were only 20 in the whole of Australasia so we weren't expecting to find one so easily. We went inside to buy coffee and hot chocolate and to try and find wifi. This was an epic fail! In New Zealand Starsucks does supply wifi but it is not free and we would have to PAY, the horror! Thankfully there was a free wifi hotspot nearby so we tapped in to that and let people know we had landed safely before we continued down towards the harbour.
There's not much to say about Auckland. It seems nice enough and rather large. The sky tower was impressive and looked great all lit up but we didn't go up it as we'd ticked that off our list in Seattle. A new burger king had opened giving away free burgers so naturally we couldn't refuse free food and we went and had one and then investigated the harbour, which wasn't much fun in the rain and we soon took comfort in the nice, dry,warm Irish bar, where we had some lovely home comfort tea rather early, Dan had yet another burger and I had bangers and mash. By now jet lag was setting in and we were still rather confused that we had lost a day in transit and thoroughly depressed our Hawaiian days were truly over so we went back to the hostel and had an early night falling asleep to the sound of thunder and the rain pounding at the window.
The next morning we went and found a different Irish Pub serving breakfast before meeting Becky who had come to collect Stu and Tracy arriving back from their honeymoon. The sun was shining but it was still very cold. We drove to the airport and met Mr and Mrs Archer and the five of us drove down to Hamilton. It was obvious NZ had received alot of rain in the last couple of weeks because the river that flowed beside the SH1 to Waikato had burst its banks in a couple of places and there was some extensive flooding, which hadn't occurred before Stu and Tracy flew to Hawaii. We stopped at the kennels to collect Puss before arriving at Stu and Tracy's, a delightful little bungalow that looks like a show home. I knew straight away it was going to be hard to leave this gorgeous house and move into a camper van or go back to hostels! Maybe I could buy a lock for the spare room and barricade my self in??
One of the first things I did was go shopping with Tracy to a big warehouse imaginatively named Warehouse! It reminded me alot of Makro back home and had lovely warm clothes. I picked up a big chunky fleece for around £12 and a wrap around fleecey blanket for less that a fiver! I also bought some thermal socks and was a much (warmer) happier bunny.
That's when I caught Dan's cold and felt utterly horrible. We spent the next couple of days doing not very much except planning what we were going to do while we were in New Zealand and how we were going to do it. We popped in to see Dave and Pip and they very kindly gave us one of their cars to use while we were in Hamilton. NZ still do car insurance the good old way, insure the car not the driver, so we were able to drive anything we wanted if necessary. Becky cooked us a lovely Roast Pork dinner on Monday and we spent the evening there.
On Tuesday after not really leaving the house for a couple of days we decided to go and explore a little and we drove East towards the coast. We stopped at a waterfall and I couldn't believe my eyes when I read it was called Bridal Veil Falls. Honestly, this is getting beyond the joke now, can't we have some different names? Anyway, we parked up and walked down the path, which had been recently developed to stop it being impassable when it rains. We came to the look out at the top of the falls quite quickly and it was a lovely, quite spectacular waterfall, well worth leaving the house for, however ill I was feeling. We walked down hundreds of steps to the bottom to watch the water falling into the pool at the bottom from ground level and it was lovely, and wet! The spray reached us on the platform, some 50 metres away. It was obviously in full flow due to all the excess rain the country has had recently and it looked magnificent.
Back to the car we went and drove the rest of the way to Raglan, a little seaside town, which was quite sleepy today but we imagined would be heaving in the summer months. We drove through the town and stopped to buy a couple of drinks before driving a little further down the coast to Manu Bay, a very famous surfers beach. We got out and had a little walk around and watched mighty waves crash into the surf and thought of our poor boys trying to surf Hawaii when the sea was as flat as a pancake!
We walked down to an old jetty where boats can access the water and admired the black sandy beach of Manu Bay. It was very windy and cold so we didn't stay around for long and we got back in the car and drove back where we came from stopping down a little side street where we saw a footpath signpost to a look out point so off we went.
After a short walk through a lovely wood we came to come steps, which took us up to the look out directly above the beach and it was gorgeous. Black sand certainly has its appeal and I couldn't decide if it was more beautiful than golden sand. We sat on the bench in the sun for a little while and watched the waves and a lone walker make her way along the beach before returning to the car and driving back to Hamilton.
That evening we went with Stu and Tracy back to Dave and Pip's house for a yummy tea before returning home to say goodbye to Pete who was leaving for the South Island early the following morning (even earlier than we were leaving).