Miraculously, we seemed to have completely evaded jet-lag. We woke up at a civilized hour and were able to start making plans for the next couple of days. We had a lot to do and wanted to throw in some sightseeing, too. Right away, we were subjected to a couple very rude surprises. First thing was the weather. It was a bit chilly when we landed the previous day, but nothing that a light sweater and some fresh-off-the-plane enthusiasm couldn’t take care of. But this morning was grey and windy and the forecast had storms coming in in the afternoon. The depressing bit was to learn that this was typical of ‘summer’ in New Zealand and that we would have a lot more rain and cold weather ahead of us. The second kick in the shin came when we walked up the street for a quick coffee-shop breakfast and discovered that Kiwis are all rich like sultans and think nothing of paying $17 for a pancake breakfast. We tried a few different cafes and finally decided to just grab some eggs, bread, and coffee from a corner store (called a dairy in NZ), which still came to $25. Later that day when we spoke with our host, Dave, over the phone, he told us that those are the going rates in NZ and that we should start getting used to it. Double bummer.
Over the next few days, we did manage to get a lot done. We scoured all of the outdoor gear shops for after-Christmas sales and managed to amass most of the equipment that we’d need, including cold-weather clothes, at sky-high prices. Dave came back for a couple of days of work and I finally got the sushi I had been fiending for when we met for lunch the next afternoon. Dave patiently watched us come and go over the next two days and let us fill his living room with piles of gear and clothes and other odds and ends that we kept reshuffling and editing.
After 3 days, we finally felt ready to tackle the expensive, cold, mountainous trip that had unfurled before us. Dave and Helen both advised us to head to the South Island right away, since we arrived smack in the middle of Christmas/Summer break and all the tourist spots would be filled up with local families and the roads would be overrun by aggressive drivers. We arranged to take an overnight bus from Auckland to Wellington, where we would catch a ferry to the South Island. We were reluctant to book the night bus and miss all the scenery that NZ is so famous for, but the bus company suggested that we might have trouble getting our bikes on a morning bus and the price for the night bus was dramatically cheaper. We hate to be such penny pinchers, but basic needs like food and beer was at least 2-3 times the equivalent prices in the US, nevermind how many more times expensive than we had grown accustomed to in Central America. We realized that we’d have to start making concessions if we wanted to spend any time in this country.
In the end, we didn’t do quite as much sightseeing as I had hoped in Auckland, due to the trifecta of hurdles: cost, weather, and too much other stuff to do. I realized that we have exactly no pictures of Auckland despite the fact that we really enjoyed our time in the city and had some memorable meals. We made a trip to the fish market, which was very reminiscent of the Ferry Plaza Building in San Francisco. In fact, the whole downtown area of Auckland had a SOMA (South of Market for those of you out of the loop) vibe to it: vaguely industrial but clean and bustling, in an efficient sort of way. I can see why people would be drawn to Auckland, but we were finally ready to see what the fuss was about in the rest of the country.
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