Well, we made it to New Zealand! We left Pago Pago, American Samoa at 9am on the 22nd for Auckland, New Zealand via Apia, Samoa, where we had a short layover before our 1pm flight to Auckland, NZ. We arrived in Auckland around 4pm, but because of the time change it was suddenly the 23rd. We are actually in the same time zone in NZ as we were in AmSam, only we are now a day ahead. Strange.
So far, New Zealand is wonderful! I knew this would be a good trip as soon as we landed–getting through customs was a breeze! The lines moved quickly and the customs officials were polite and helpful (imagine that!). Our first night was spent in Auckland at the Skyway Lodge. It’s a very nice little hostel near the airport that offers private rooms, a lovely lounge area, a pool, and a large kitchen. It was incredibly clean and the beds were so comfortable! Since we hadn’t eaten anything all day, we walked to a little Indian place near the hostel for dinner. I ate a delicious, spicy lamb dish and Wes had a chicken and coconut curry. The woman who waited on us seemed very reluctant to serve me such a spicy dish but Wes insisted until she agreed, haha. It was that perfect mix of burns-the-mouth and makes-the-nose-run which I love and which I haven’t experienced in so long! After getting back to the hostel, we stayed up a bit later than we’re used to talking to a 19-year old British guy who had just completed a 10-day cycling trip from Wellington to Auckland with his friend. The next morning we checked-out and headed to the airport for our 8am flight to Wellington.
Our first order of business, before checking in to the hotel, was to visit the Te Papa museum. Te Papa is 6 stories and boasts several fascinating exhibits on subjects ranging from earth science and marine biology to colonization, human rights, and contemporary art. It took about three or four hours to see it all, though we did not go to the current main attraction about wedding fashion over the centuries. By far my favorite memory of the museum occurred while we were viewing this really quite clever statue of a cow constructed from Pacific corned beef cans. Because we live in AmSam, where the people consume ridiculous amounts of corned beef, I was struck by the brilliant commentary on Western influence, etc, etc. While I was discussing it with Wes, a New Zealand woman walked up and said (please say this aloud in your best Kiwi accent): “Ohh, You see what they’ve done is they’ve opened up all the tins, and they’ve made a statue of a cow with them!” Hilarious.
Wellington is known as the coolest little capital in the world, and I am completely convinced of the truth of that. The flow of the city, the architecture, the artwork—everything, really—it is all so cohesive and well planned; it’s just a wonderful place to be. Since we are here for Christmas and Christmas Eve, Wes decided to book a nicer hotel in the downtown area. We are staying at the Museum Hotel. It’s hands-down the swankiest place I’ve ever been and I think everyone should stay here if they ever have the opportunity. It’s located right downtown and next to the Te Papa museum (which is free to visit), has excellent amenities, and the room rates are very reasonable. Probably because of the holiday, we received a complimentary upgrade to a gorgeous suite. The room is awesome (pictures below). It’s possible that the awe I feel is due to my 5 months of limited access to hot showers, clean bed-sheets, washing machines, dishwashers, air-conditioning, and television, but I assure you, this place is great.
We spent most of the day yesterday walking around the downtown area and shopping. We ate at a great little Cuban place (there are a million Cuban places) for lunch, the name of which, sadly, I can’t remember. But the kabobs were delicious. I ended up buying some jeans and tops since I didn’t have any decent clothing to pack (most of my clothes are pretty ruined from months of being haphazardly washed in the sink), and because it’s less than 86degrees here, haha. I was actually quite cold when we first arrived, but I think I’ve already began acclimating to the climate.
Today is Christmas here and we’ve just been taking it easy. This morning, Pride and Prejudice was playing on t.v. (it’s like NZ is trying to impress me), so we had a little in-room picnic and watched that. We also walked the city a bit more and skyped with our friends and family back home. Tomorrow we are picking up our rental car and headed north to do some hiking and whatever-else we spot on the way. I’m excited about seeing the rest of the north island. I’ve always known that I’d enjoy visiting New Zealand, but now I think I’d enjoy living here even more (oh if only New Zealand were closer to Georgia!). It’s very odd spending Christmas this far away from family, but it’s been a lovely day.
I hope you enjoy your Christmas and aren’t too terribly jealous of all the fun we’re having in NZ! Next post I’ll be writing about the Tongariro National Park day hike, which we plan to do soon. Until then, cheers!