Day 1 and I’ve already thrown caution to the wind. If this were a novel, I’d start here in the thick of the action. But since this is a travel (b)log I feel I must take you with me on my journey chronologically (I’m sure if I looked the true blog-tiquette up somewhere I’d realize I’m tremendously wrong in making this assumption.)
Nonetheless! From the top! Air New Zealand, despite it’s garbage vegetarian food, was delightful. I was a bit cramped, and of course incredibly envious of all the hoity toity up in first class with their Q approved gadgets and finery, but all-in-all not terribly much to complain about. I tossed and turned and turned and tossed as one does when trying to sleep in a sitting position next to a stranger whilst suspended in mid air above this earth’s largest ocean. The mad turbulence in the middle of the flight didn’t help the situation, but I managed to squeeze in some ZZZs between my worst-case-scenario this-will-be-the-real-life-Lost imaginings.
Landed feeling not terrible, but rather refreshed. As I stepped off the plane, I felt that tummy rush of excitement usually described as butterflies. But to me it’s more like bubbles, a Wonka-esque fizzy carbonation explosion that rises up until I’m dizzy with anticipation. And I was. Or maybe it was jetlag.
Hopped on a bus to Auckland amidst some dreary rainy ho hum weather. I spent most of the morning either waiting for a tourist information center to open or talking to one awesome Mr. Chris who dropped some crazy knowledge on me about my trip and the best places to stay and get about. He helped me figure out a car rental situation and I puttered around that morning bouncing between coffee shops waiting for my car to be ready to pick up.
First meal and the view that accompanied it…
I decided the waterlogged concrete jungle of Auckland was not for me, and despite the epic travel I just concluded, bold moves people, I would drive the 3 hours to my next stop – Rotorua – the same day, itinerary be damned! But I did learn 3 important lessons during my short stay in Auckland:
1. NZ waitstaff basically never gets tipped. Unless you want to be weird. Unless they literally brought you a pet puffin.
2. When you get your bill here, you go up to the register to pay it. And if you don’t (like me), enjoy the extreme awkwardness that follows.
3. Kiwis spell tire like this: tyre.
These life lessons learned, I took to the road. The first 30 minutes were. Um. Rough. I kept chanting – left, left, left – in my head. The very left lane is the slow lane, y’all. The SLOW lane. Trying to remember that, and use your directional not your wipers, and pay attention to the GPS while also doing your best to not be distracted by the unreal scenery was ehm a very interesting challenge for a sleep deprived individual. But it was fine (Mama, it was fine). I was amped on adrenaline and excitement, and happy to leave Auckland behind.
This is my best description for the scenery from Auckland to Rotorua, especially the second half: it’s a bizarro but wonderful mix of Jane Austen’s pastoral England and the wildest wilderness taken from both Lost and Where the Wild Things Are. I know. It doesn’t make any sense. You have to see it with your own eyes for it to click. There was a fair deal of onomatopoeia – many wows, and whoa, and what, and ooooooo – along the way. At one point, and I kid you not, I felt I was going to start weeping because that is how crazy beautiful this country is. AND THIS IS DAY 1. A good friend of mine who spent a semester abroad here described New Zealand scenery as “soul-crushing.” Gurl speaks the truth, and I feel my soul has only just begun to be crushed. I will report any and all embarrassing roadside weeping here of course.
The rest of the day is a blurr. Arrived at a cool, simple but comfortable hotel/motel thing that had vacancy. Went to Rotorua’s own Eat Street and had a mediocre plate of Thai mussels with a really solid beer.
First beer in NZ: Croucher Anzus IPA – 7% ABV – $11 NZ
Described by my waitress as one of her top 5 beers in the world. It was really tasty, but I wouldn’t go that far. Still, an incredibly strong start to the tour-de-booze portion of this holiday.
Ok we’re back. After the dinner, I went to the Polynesian hot springs which confirmed what I already knew. The hot spring thing is not for me. Despite the weird vibe and the sulfury aroma I brought back with me to the hotel as a souvenir, the last bit of stink cannot take away from this dream of a day. Already I can tell, if I have my druthers, I’ll be back here some day.