1st Stop Around the Pacific Ring - Auckland, New Zealand Jan 12

From December 9th, 2009 to January 4th, 2010 I went on vacation around the pacific ring. My first stop was Auckland, New Zealand. The reason? I like the Kiwi accent.

The flight from Los Angeles to Auckland was twelve hours. Luckily, I filled up the first two hours with my personal entertainment console. I have never been on a plane with my own TV! It was pretty interesting, and easily killed the first two hours of my flight. I passed out cold for the next six hours, woke up, and had another four hours left on the flight. It was easy to pass the remaining time with my laptop, my iPhone, and my personal TV! My first flight out of the U.S. was a piece of cake.

The first thing I noticed when I landed was that Auckland International was humid. Someone must have forgotten to turn the air conditioner on! I was inside and I was sweating. The humidity felt like Austin, TX – enough to get slightly uncomfortable.

I went through customs, picked up my bag, and headed out on the second bus to downtown Auckland. I missed the first one because I had no clue where I was going. As I rode into downtown, the bus drove through some hilly neighborhoods, and once again I’m reminded of Austin. Everything just feels like Austin!

I reached my stop and the first thing I notice was downtown Auckland has a ton of banks. I’ve never seen so many banks on one road. It’s insane. Anyways, after my amusement, I searched for my hostel. Thanks to my international data plan, I used the help of my iPhone to find directions. And, thanks to my iPhone, I made u-turns for 30 minutes. Apparently, in Auckland the iPhone does a horrible job of pinpointing my position. I guess it has to do with being in the wrong hemisphere.

I somehow found the correct path to my hostel – Freemans Logde. I walk in, drop off my bags, shower, put on sun tan lotion, and head out.

My girlfriend told me a story of how she became painfully sunburned after walking in the New Zealand sun for only 45 minutes without sun tan lotion on. Since this is my first stop in my trip, I soaked myself with sun tan lotion. I used 85 SPF lotion. That’s right. 85 SPF! I wont get sun burned now! Muhahaha! Okay, to be real, anything above 30 SPF was probably going to be as effective as 30 SPF lotion. Supposedly, Australia’s highest sun tan lotion was rated at 30 SPF. They don’t make it higher because it would be equally effective. But, in America, you can get it at 100 SPF … because America, FUCK YEA! I couldn’t get myself to buy the 100 SPF lotion, since it was too ridiculous. But, I sure as hell could buy the 85!

Anyways, when I do tourist type things – sight see, eating, museums, eating, pictures, eating – I go all out. It was a good thing I did those 100 pushups to lose eight pounds! In my three days in Auckland, I was able to eat fish and chips four times. Fish and chips are what the Kiwis are known for. The best fish and chips I ate was at the Fish Pot Cafe in Mission Bay, on Tamaki drive. The cafe was so good, it’s labeled on Google Maps! If you decide to go there, make sure you get the snapper. It was amazing!

Other than fish and chips, the next thing I had the most was ice cream. Is New Zealand famous for their ice cream? No. But, it tastes damn good! There’s a small gelato shop called Valentino’s Gelato near the ferry building in downtown Auckland. Every day that I walked downtown, I made a stop and bought their award winning gelato. I didn’t really care that it was award winning, but rather that it was just freaking awesome in my mouth.

On a side note, I paid for the gelato with my credit card at the shop. This is the first time I had used the credit card, and when I signed the receipt the cashier looked at my signature and said it didn’t look like the signature on the back of my card. He was holding my card to verify! What the hell? He told me it’s for fraud reasons, and that every place down under – New Zealand and Australia – checked the card’s signature. See, I’ve never signed receipts with my own real signature. In the US, I tend to scribble anything short of genitalia, and the cashiers take it. Anyways, I signed it properly and took off with my gelato. Seriously though, would someone who stole my credit card buy six dollars worth of ice cream? I think not.

Finally, the third most eaten item on my trip to New Zealand were kebabs. No, they were not like U.S. meat-on-a-skewer shish kebabs. They were like wraps or gyros. They came with a side of chips and they’re damn delectable. There wasn’t much to it other than making sure I did not order the chicken. New Zealand has a sheep population of 40 million. With 40 million sheep, one of them had to be good!

Okay, before I move on from food I want to point out that all the hot food was exactly that – HOT! The chips were incredible hot that I had to wait a few minutes before I could eat. If I didn’t, I performed that open-mouth-huffing-puffing action to cool the food down in my mouth. I wish American food joints still served food this hot.

Moving on, my favorite sights were the Sky Tower, Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World, and Onetangi Beach (that’s pronounced oni-tangi) on Weiheke Island.

The Sky Tower is the tallest point in the southern hemisphere. Also, New Zealand is the birth place of bungee jumping. So therefore, I could have payed $200 NZD to bungee off of The Sky Tower. I declined because of cost… and I was a pansy, but if anyone asks, it’s because of cost. The Sky Tower had an amazing view of Auckland though, and I spent two hours up there just looking out. I was also extremely tired and needed a place to sit. It worked out well.

The Kelly Tarlton’s Antartic Encounter & Underwater World is like an aquarium. I like aquariums, and this one was pretty sweet. It’s very small and had two live animal exhibits. The first exhibit took me through the penguin lair. I sat in a computer controlled car that played a recording to teach patrons about penguins. It had music… it was exciting… almost. The most exciting part was seeing elves replenish the snow. I never knew that down under, elves created snow!

Penguins!

Elves!

The second exhibit was related to marine animals. This part was similar to many other aquariums in that I saw different types of marine animals like sharks, eels, and crayfish. This was also my favorite part. I reached the exhibit just in time for the sting ray feeding hour. I had never seen large sting rays before so it blew my mind when I saw this:

That’s a huge sting ray.

Finally, my last day in Auckland was spent on Weiheke Island with two Americans I befriended at the hostel. One of the two Americans said there were hot springs and black sand beaches on this island. He was dead wrong. We reached the island after an hour long ferry, and we asked a tour guide on directions to a hot spring or a black sand beach. He said there were no hot springs, and there were no black sand beaches on this island. All of the things we wanted to do were on the western coast of the north island – where Auckland was, and where we were not. Way to go American friend. Way to go. We then asked what activities we could do here on this island, and the tour guide said, “Not much.” Awesome! We took an hour ferry so that we could do nothing when we docked. Luckily, another tour guide said there was a nice beach called Onetangi on the island. So we headed out that way. The beach was extremely cold, but after I adjusted it was amazing. I hadn’t swum at a beach for 15 years, so this was paradise.

It was a fantastic day for the last day of the Auckland leg of the trip, and the next morning I flew out to Sydney to meet up with my girlfriend.

Sounded great right? It would have been, if it weren’t for the morning of my flight. Apparently, on the previous night, I played with my TSA lock to where I reset the combination without knowing. So, when I woke up in the morning and tried to pack all my stuff – passport, computer, camera – from my locker, the combination I used was wrong! I was tempted to rip the whole door off of the locker, but being that it was 5:45 AM, I didn’t want to wake the others. Obviously, this was impossible because I do not have the physical strength to rip off a metal locker door. Instead, I sat in front of my lock and set all three dials to 0. I then proceeded to dial through each possible combination until it unlocked. In other words, I turned the dials like below:

0 – 0 – 0
0 – 0 – 1
0 – 0 – 2

1 – 0 – 0
1 – 0 – 1

Luckily, when I reached the number 3 on the leftmost dial, I found the correct combination. It just took a total of 15 minutes. Imagine if I had gone the other direction! This would not have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact that I also had an airport shuttle bus waiting for me at 6:00 AM. It was incredibly stressful. I will never “play” with my locks ever again.

That’s the end of my Auckland, New Zealand trip. I’ll detail my Sydney trip in another post, but you can view my Auckland photos below.

Photos from my trip: