When I flew into the Auckland airport, I think I expected to see the towering volcanoes and rolling hills that I first witnessed in the Lord of the Rings movies (somehow, I doubt I am the only one). Instead, we landed in a sprawling city in the middle of a torrential downpour. Caitlin and I would learn later that it had been raining in Auckland for the last two weeks straight. It should not have been a surprise that New Zealand was cold since we arrived at the tail-end of their winter, but it was a sharp contrast to Hawaii nonetheless.
We made it through customs shockingly fast with no more than a glance at our passports, and we easily retrieved our bags, but then we had another line to go through. New Zealand is very diligent about environmental efforts, so we had to go through a bio screening. The line was long and every few feet there were signs about $300 fines for bringing in fruits, vegetables, seeds or even dirt from other countries that could harm New Zealand’s biodiversity. I found this all very intimidating at the time, but in hindsight it is pretty cool that so much emphasis is put on the environment. Since then, every hostel we have stayed in has had signs above every faucet asking to conserve water and buckets for recycling and compost. Pretty impressive. We ended up making it through the bio screenings without any problems and were soon on our way to Auckland.
From the moment we arrived in this country, we have made fast friends. Our first night we went to an Irish pub, Father Ted’s, and had a long chat with a 60-year-old drunk and toothless Kiwi man, as well as a very friendly 60-year-old Aussie. Then the next day, an Englishman named Callum took us all around Auckland and brought us to the top of Mount Eden, which overlooked the city. It was once a volcano that imploded, leaving a massive crater that is now covered in vegetation. Mount Eden is the highest natural point in Auckland, but there are 47 other craters all around Auckland.
That night we hung out with a huge group from our hostel with people from Germany, Spain, England and Canada. According to Callum, 30 percent of Auckland’s population is German. I don’t know how accurate that statistic is, but certainly the vast majority of our hostel was German travelers. However, we learned at karaoke night that the song ‘Wonderwall’ transcends most language barriers.
After four nights in Auckland, Caitlin and I were supposed to head on to our first WorkAway host. However, we had hosts in both Coromandel and Devonport fall through, so Wednesday night we had to scramble to figure out where we would head to the next morning. We decided to go north to Paihia, a small coastal town with waterfalls and mangroves.
Stay tuned for tales of the Northland!