It has been a while since our last posting so this one will be a bit long. Pictures are below for anyone not interested in reading.
AUCKLAND– Jet lag hit us in the late afternoon of May 3rd. I went to bed at 4pm for a nap before dinner but ended up sleeping through the night until 4am. Susie slept form 6 to 6. While Susie was still sleeping, I walked two blocks down the street to a 24/7 coffee shop to grab an early breakfast and catch up on world news. At 4am, the city was still active with cars, people, and runners.
At 7:30am, we walked down to Starbucks for coffee. Coffee is different here. Espresso is what one gets when ordering a regular drip coffee, and sometimes it tastes as if the espresso is watered down to get a drip like consistency. We’re still trying to get a satisfying cup of coffee here.
We headed to Albert Park with our coffees for a walk. The landscaped park has odd looking trees with enormous trunks and low hanging branches that extend out longer than the trees’ height. There were also flowers everywhere and interesting evergreens. It was beautiful, very peaceful, but too hilly for a leisurely run so we headed in the opposite direction to Victoria Park. Victoria is much bigger, but just an enormous, open sports field, which was great for running. We walked to a grocery store afterwards to grab some fruit and water for the road trip. Walking through the grocery store was interesting. There were many fruits we didn’t recognize, and everything was labeled – USA oranges, Philippines bananas, New Zealand pears, apples, broccoli, peaches, etc. The packaging for liquids, such as milk, comes in a soft plastic bag and laundry detergents were in tiny boxes, half the size of the packaging in the USA.
After checking out of the hotel, we wanted to head South but could only find the entry for North so decided to head North and find an exit to turn around. This roundabout route gave us a magnificent view of Auckland when we crossed the bridge connecting to North Auckland. On top of the bridge, there were thousands of boats on the water and the Pacific Ocean looked light blue with the sun’s reflection. Best of all, we got to see this view again when we turned around to head South. No pictures to show you but It was a postcard worthy view.
RAGLAN – We headed West for a four-hour detour to a quaint surfing town to grab fish and chips. Bow Street (main street) is one block long but has everything – post office, drugstore (pharmacy), library, restaurants/bars, ice cream shop, and even a hotel. The drive to Raglan was lovely. New Zealand is not flat. There are rolling hills with grazing cows, sheep, and alpacas. It is true that New Zealand is green, different hues of greens reflected in the grass, dark pine trees, and many trees we don’t recognize. The countryside looks like the Shire in Lord of the Rings. Really.
LAKE TAUPO – After lunch in Raglan, we headed Southeast toward Lake Taupo, arriving at 7pm on Monday. Lake Taupo is the largest Australasian fresh water lake with a zillion trouts and is the size of Singapore. It is in central part of the North Island, situated 2000 ft above sea level and North of Tongariro National Park, and Mt. Tongariro (Mt. Doom in LOTR) is an active volcano. We could see the snow capped Mt. Tongariro from Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is a fun town, just big enough but not too big. Tons of shops, restaurants and businesses along 3-4 blocks. It may have New Zealand’s only Ford dealership as we’ve seen just five American cars (all Fords) since being here. Lake Taupo is similar to Lake Tahoe, only bigger, less tacky (no casinos and wedding chapels), and much less developed.
TONGARIRO CROSSING - Tongariro Crossing is a famous day long hike through the Tongariro National Park. A third of the way into the trail is the Blue Lake and half way through are the Emerald Lakes. Every guidebook warns the weather changes quickly, from sunny to rain and possible snow. To do the day hike, most people take a bus to the entrance and then get picked up at the end of the trek on the other side. We got a late start and since rain was in the forecast, decided to drive there and attempt a portion for the trail. The terrain is not anything we’ve seen before and guessed that Wyoming might come closest. You can see and hear streams. The trail is well marked and laid out with parts of it being a boardwalk. An hour and a half into the hike we stopped to look at Soda Springs, and within fifteen minutes, mist, clouds and rains descended on us. The temperature dropped quickly and what was gentle breeze minutes before became a cold wind. We decided to head out because hikers we talked to at Soda Springs warned us that it was extremely cold and windy further up. Rain is in the forecast for the next few days, so we plan to leave Tongariro and head to Wellington.
Some New Zealand observations:
- Skim milk is labeled trim milk and we think blu milk is whole
- Hiya is the return greeting we get when we say hello
- Dogs, bikers and runners everywhere (Sarah, we’ve spied bald running guys)
- Barefoot walking is common
- Susie’s got driving on the other side of the road down but I still need more practice. It’s doubly hard to drive on the other side when you don’t know left from right.
- Highway 1 is the major road on the North Island that goes all the way down to Wellington. It becomes a two lane highway (one lane each direction) as soon as one gets out of Auckland. How many lanes in I95? New Zealand appears to be implementing its own stimulus package because there is roadwork every 25 km.
- It is pure bliss to drive through the New Zealand countryside while Jack Johnson is on the radio.
- There is one sailboat, ten cows, 8 sheep, .85 alpaca, and 300 cracked beef pies per New Zealander. Not true but sure feels like it.
Pictures are below. Miss you all.
Susie on the 50 ft long boardwalk in Raglan
Soda Springs at Tongariro Crossing