Journal Entry: RTW Day 2 – Auckland to Taupo

So I’ve decided to start a ‘new’ concept: Journal entries!

Thus far, I’ve limited myself to less-than-stellar storytelling, and to be honest, finding a time when my inspiration to blogggggg coincides with the availability of free weefee (wifi?).

Hence, I’ve started taking notes in weaksauce stream-0f-consciousness format, and will begin to spew my goings on for all the world to see (you’re welcome) starting now:

Auckland to Taupo – Jan 3

The customs official at the Auckland airport was way too friendly (not that I’m complaining, but wow, so friendly!!!)

Our arrival in NZ was heralded by a spell of beautiful sunny 25 deg C weather.
We ‘freecalled’ (800 #) Apex for a pickup from the Auckland airport, and were collected in less than 5 minutes.
Our car is a 2007 4-door Nissan Tilda automatic that we drove away after a 10 minute paperwork session with the clerk who was nothing but helpful.
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Fun fact: All the controls are in Japanese!!! I’m a little bit scared about our visit to Japan now after realizing I can’t even figure out how to set the clock….

Julie and I took turns practice driving on the side streets near the Apex office (complete with a roundabout!) and after a few signaling-wiper mishaps we were on our way.

We took the highway from the airport towards downtown, but once we got closer took a local road the rest of the way in.

This ended up being quite nice and we ended up right in the CBD before driving around a bit more until we reached our hostel.

Although we had to pay 8$ for parking (contrary to website info), and a 50$ key deposit (refundable), our first hostel experience was reasonable…

As we had opted for a 12-bed mixed dorm, and arrived later in the day, we got stuck on separate bunks (first time sleeping apart in the same place since we moved in together almost 3 years ago) and had to take turns in the shared showers.

After 3 days of travelling it took longer than usual to clean 3 days of world gunk off our tired bodies… I had no idea I could feel so dirty…

On another note, travellers are MESSY!!! Our 12 bed dorm was full, and almost all of our roommates appeared to be very chaotic with their approach to storing and keeping their stuff… It was strewn everywhere… Definitely not what I expected

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After we were refreshed, we took a walk around the city, with the first stop at McDees (they suckered us in with a giant ‘LAMB BURGER‘ sign that immediately made us feel like we had to try it since NZ is sheep-famous).

It was actually quite good for McDees and was loaded with fun stuff (fried egg, beets, red cabbage, etc…) and didn’t make me feel too gross afterwards.

We took advantage of their free wifi for a bit, then went on our merry way.

Julie had been drooling over the prospect of breaking her bank account shopping for Icebreaker Merino gear, and sure enough, we were just in time to catch the Boxing Week sale at Bivouac Outdoor store.

After running frantically around the store until 5 minutes AFTER they closed, she was able to finally open her wallet for some nice new stuff that was 30% off (a great find for Icebreaker).

On to less commercial endeavours:

We spent the next few hours wandering the streets and waterfront of Auckland, discovering not-so-hidden gems around almost every corner.

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Although it is supposed to be the height of tourist season (or so we’d been led to believe), there were not actually that many people about. The temp had cooled considerably, and it got pretty windy, but it was still a nice evening.

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We learned that not every country in the world coddles the $#!% out of their children, because we came across a number of playgrounds, public spaces, and structures that would be immediately torn down for ‘liability’ reasons if said structure were ever to show face in north america.

Good job you idiots who are in charge of sterilizing the planet… (for those of you who don’t know me, that was sarcasm).

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I hadn’t done much research about the city but the one quick search I DID perform before arriving was something like ‘auckland microbreweries’, and this yielded the Shakespeare Hotel & Brewery which we visited next.

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They only had a couple of their own brews on tap, so I tried them, and Julie tried a nice light apple cider that they also had on tap.

A ‘handle’ (less than a pint) was $8.50 tax in, and it was reasonable tasting, but for the price, I wasn’t thrilled (admittedly, I had pretty high expectations due to my love of microbreweries back home which rarely fail to disappoint… or maybe it had something to do with the ‘brief domestic’ we decided to have while at the bar… Hmmmmm…).

We headed back to our hostel and even though we were sleeping separately in the same room as 10 other people, it was one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had (again, after travelling for 3 days, and only getting a few decent chunks of sleep on the longer haul flights, any sleep was most welcome).

Alas, the nice weather was not to last, and we woke up to a cool drizzle, and as neither Julie or I had the foresight to pick up any groceries or supplies the day before, we headed to starbucks for caffeine and brekky (which was a bad idea, but old habits die hard… I wasn’t impressed with the quality, especially at the price, so that’ll be the last time I’ll be going there on this trip).

We lounged around our hostel for an hour or so charging our various electronics (HINT GET A POWER BAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and I decided to check out the details on the ‘visitor sim card’ that the Apex guy gave me when we picked up the car.

This ‘visitor sim’ is just what it sounds like: A sim card for visitors from 2degrees.

It comes with idiot-proof instructions, and in less than 5 minutes, I had my unlocked iPhone4S connected and was able to call my family in Toronto (it ended up costing me less than 3$ for more than 15 mins of international talk time from my own cell phone… good job NZ).

After dumping some photos to the comp, we hit the road again and headed for Taupo.

Julie got a bunch of left-side driving clicks under her belt, and we explored many of the natural wonders along the way:

Thermal Springs

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Mud pools

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Steam Field

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We also peeked our head into a few tourist trappy places that looked a bit too tacky and expensive for our desires.

We checked out a grocery store and stocked up on pies and fruit.

We stopped along the roadway a couple times to take pictures of the cows and hills.

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A couple wild goose chases for more fun stuff (thermal wonderlands 21km off the main highway, etc…).

We arrived at the Taupo Urban Retreat around 7:30, cooked up some pies, enjoyed a couple beers for happy hour, met Abena Gross from Germany, V, and Francine (? I’m terrible with names) from France.

Walked around town, climbed some towers and played on some more dangerous play grounds

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Went back to hostel, listened to some very loud Korean travellers in the room next to us, showered, and are heading to bed now.

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2 responses to “Journal Entry: RTW Day 2 – Auckland to Taupo

  1. That was a great read and photos! Keep up the interesting posts. Oh, and speaking of Sbux, it just reminded me that their coffee in China tastes like instant, haha.

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