It was an ominous start to my time in New Zealand to say the least. I was stopped at immigration as my face had registered with their recognition software as a ninety-something per cent match to some international criminal. After taking my passport away for more stringent analysis and making me nervously wait they finally concluded that I was in fact not an international criminal but the 22 year old law abiding British citizen I claimed to be. Apparently I wasn't the only one with troubles - Owen was patted down and searched, whilst Chris was having his possessions put through bombs and explosive tests.
All in all it was pretty late by the time we arrived in Auckland centre and due to us arriving in NZ earlier than anticipated we were without accommodation. After trying a few places we finally managed to get a couple of rooms at a hostel (although the lights didn't work). We really just wanted a place to get some shut eye so it wasn't too bad.
The next day we got organised and moved to another hostel called Lantana. It was one of the nicest we've stopped in and it was ideally located for getting into town. We spent the day familiarising ourselves with the surroundings before meeting Owens friend Caroline, who worked in Auckland, that night for a brief tour around the city and some dinner. We made plans to meet at a live music venue the next night where we were joined by her mom Kristine and some of her friends. Turns out that the lead singer from a famous NZ band Opshop was playing with his new band. The venue was intimate and the music was generally pretty good (except for the cross between Fred Durst and Eminem).
The next day we went to the impressive Auckland museum where we saw everything from traditional Maori exhibits to interactive volcanic exhibitions. We decided to see the Maori culture show at the museum. The performance included traditional songs, dances, legends and games from the Maori culture culminating in the impressive Haka.
That night we net Steph's friend Leanne who is currently living in Auckland. It was refreshing to hear the Welsh accent again and speaking to somebody who knew Steph made me miss her even more. Leanne was a great laugh and had some useful recommendations to make having travelled NZ twice before.
Bolstered by our new knowledge we spent the following morning booking up a hop on - hop off coach service to get us around New Zealand, but with a 6am start ahead of us it was pointless paying for accommodation for such a small stretch of time. We decided to sleep rough that night, thinking it wouldn't be too bad and time would fly before we set out for an early coach. We dropped our bags off in the lockers at the train station to save carrying them all day (and I grabbed some snapshots for Dad) before heading to the SkyTower. The 360' panoramic views over the city and harbour were incredible from the top providing us with an excellent opportunity for some Kodak moments. I had to exhibit some self control to not partake in throwing yourself off the side of the tower (an optional extra) but I decided that the brakes on the line slowed the speed of the fall down too much for the money - there would be plenty of chances for extreme activities over the next month.
Our first experience of sleeping rough in NZ was not too pleasant. Cold wind whipped us as we tried our best to sleep on the benches outside the station to no avail. I ended up watching the 2011 Rugby World Cup countdown display timer decrease with increasingly slower increments (or so it seemed). By 3.30am it was time to go and find a 24 hour Internet cafe and coffee to get me through the night. At least I had the excitement of the next leg of the journey to wake me up as we boarded on the coach to Rotorua.