Auckland: Welcome to New Zealand!
Nau mai ki Aotearoa / Welcome to New Zealand
After spending a whole month in the amazing country of Australia, we took a three hour plane ride from Brisbane to Auckland, NZ. As soon as we touched down, we realized that our current attire of shorts and t-shirts would be demoted to the bottoms of our backpacks, and our warmest clothes would be up for a rotation. New Zealand, though relatively close to Australia, has a much colder climate. It is also 2 hours ahead of its neighbor, so we adjusted our watches accordingly.
We took an airport shuttle to our Airbnb apartment and after checking in with our host, embarked for our first walk in the neighborhood. Auckland does not have trams or subways; buses are the only mode of transportation and one that is not our favorite so we were happy once we got our car rental sorted out on our first day there. We spent the following day making plans for our month long stay in New Zealand, as well as relaxing and exploring our immediate neighborhood. I even snuck in a run and stumbled upon a lovely little park tucked behind in peoples' private backyards (which apparently there are plenty of in Auckland).
On Saturday we picked up our rental car and took it on our first adventure in NZ - a black sand beach called Katekare, about an hour away from Auckland City. If you are familiar with Filipino cuisine, this name will sure make you chuckle (for those of you who do not know, karekare is a Filipino oxtail and peanut sauce dish). Unsure of what to expect, we went for a short hike in the bushes, which was supposed to lead us to the beach. With a slight drizzle and the wind picking up, we found ourselves cold, a feeling we quickly forgot as soon as we caught a first glimpse of the beach... What we saw ahead of us looked completely unreal - a pure black sand beach sprinkled with the whitest of sea shells. Despite having passed a handful of people on our hike to the beach, we found ourselves in complete solitude the entire time we were at Kareare. It made us feel as if we entered a completely different time and space - half expecting a dinosaur or an alien to peek out from the bushes.
Not too far from the entrance to the beach, we found a beautiful waterfall, also by the name Karekare. What we found most surprising was how accessible and easy to find it was. After spending a nice chunk of time at the beach, we headed back out into civilization in search of some much needed grub.
We ended up driving towards city center, then walking around, and stopping by the harbor as well as a few local shops. Our wardrobe proved to be too light for the unpredictable New Zealand weather so we decided to get some warm and comfy sweats and fleece zip ups. We rounded out our day by checking out the city of Devenport across the harbor, from where we saw the skyline of Auckland. It may not have been the most flattering angle for Auckland - as it looked rather industrial and dull - but it proved to be a great way to survey the whole city.
Overall we found Auckland city center to be quite forgettable, but the suburb area where we stayed was charming. None of the houses resembled each other, and there was plenty of green spaces and tree lined streets around.
Below are some general facts about New Zealand and Auckland:
Geography: New Zealand is a country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, about a 3h flight from Australia's east coast. A lesser known fact perhaps - the country consists of two main landmasses: the North Island and the South Island. Auckland is situated near the top of the North Island.
Population: Only 4.47 million people live in New Zealand, which is less than the population of Brooklyn and Queens (two of five NYC boroughs) combined. Auckland is home to 1.4 million people and it's the largest city in the country. 77% of the population lives in the North Island, 23% in the South Island.
Currency: New Zealand Dollar where 1 NZD = approximately 0.80 USD
Official Languages: English, Maori, New Zealand Sign Language
Religion: Half of the country claims no religion, 11% is Roman Catholic, 10% is Anglican, 7% is Presbyterian, 15% is Other Christianity, 2% Hinduism, 1% Buddhism and 1% Islam.
Best Known for: A beautiful and diverse landscape; New Zealanders call themselves Kiwis, a nickname that comes from a rare nocturnal bird that lives only in New Zealand; Maori native people; the country is well known for growing sheep that's used for merino wool; Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed in New Zealand and were directed by Kiwi native Peter Jackson; bungee jumping first began in NZ; Rugby Union is the national sport of NZ; All Blacks National Rugby Union team; the Haka - traditional Maori war dance now performed during special events and rugby matches; silver fern and kiwi bird are both symbols of New Zealand.
What We Noticed: lots of greenery; nature is easily accessible; Kiwis love nature and being outdoors; small pies (like those sold at Pie Face) are very common; Cadbury chocolate is very popular (there's even a factory in Dunedin); no dangerous animals (what a delight!); lack of churches or houses of worship; most houses are not insulated and therefore are cold; many international tourists, lots of them from Germany.
New Zealand is situated south east of Australia.
Our Airbnb room was very bright and very cold. We learned that most older houses in New Zealand are not insulated. Because of that, everyone has portable heaters in their rooms and bathrooms.
Our housemate Pablo. He was a cutie but gave me major allergies. You can find some beautiful houses in the suburbs of Auckland. Stained glass windows and victorian ornaments are popular. A street in one of Auckland's neighborhoods. On our first night in Auckland we went to the nearby hip and happening Ponseby area for some local beer at Revelry. First New Zealand excursion - hiking towards the black sand beach Karekare
First look of the vast black sand beach. The shore. This sand really was black. Mandatory selfie at the beach. It was very windy and cold, hence our squinty faces. Walking towards Karekare waterfall.
First glimpse of the waterfall. Found a rock to prop our camera on. This photo shows how huge the waterfall was. This was our first time coming across the famous silver fern which, is a symbol of New Zealand. Legend has it, Maori hunters and warriors used the silver underside of the fern leaves to mark their trails and to find their way home at night. The silver color would reflect the moonshine and show them the path.
Vlad recreating the All Blacks jersey.
catching up on your newest adventures, NZ looks wonderful!!!
As usual, stunning pictures! Thank you for sharing !
Love Pablo ;)
I like the trunk/wood table/chest in the bar you guys went to. Very rustic looking. The black sand looks really neat. The pictures make this place look out of this world, like a place that you wouldn't think is part of this planet.
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