We have made it to New Zealand, after a rather rough go from Phuket, Thailand. I really don’t know that we would have survived 0600 wakeup, 2 hour flight, 6 hour layover, and then 10 hour flight without the on-the-ground support from our friends the Perssons in Singapore – thanks guys! Charlie’s birthday cake was awesome! Thank you also to everyone who sent birthday wishes to our girl, who is now 11.
After a weird first day of adjusting to the time difference in the main commercial city of Auckland (which in the local accent sounds like “Oakland”), we met up with another family we know from the Bay Area, the Sherrys. They are doing their own sabbatical trip, and are in month 7 of a full year (blog here). We managed to stay in the same hotel for a couple of nights, where their kids and ours got to play together (theirs are roughly the same ages), and the adults got to trade stories from the road over beers.
We also managed a full-day outing, visiting the local maritime museum. It was actually pretty interestin g- New Zealand has a nautical tradition, being an island nation, and has over the last 20 years or so has made a name for itself in international yachting competitions. More than once we heard that the Kiwis would take back the America’s cup this fall from the US (competition to be held off San Francisco), so sailing is a big deal here. We also hopped aboard a harbor cruise for a short spin around the area.
Auckland itself is a very nice city – sited on a collection of hills, the Central Business District runs down to the water and makes for a beautiful skyline. It’s also a small city (NZ in total has about 4.5 million people, roughly a third of which are in Auckland), so it’s walkable.
After a too-short couple of days, we headed south in our rental car down the west-central part of the north island, through farm country, to a town called Waitomo. Waitomo is Maori (the indigenous people) for “Water” and “Hole”, and the area is dotted with caves in its limestone base. We spent a really interesting mid-day getting a tour through a couple of the larger ones, one of which was laden with “glow-worms”, insects whose bioluminescence en masse makes them a really fascinating attraction.
Next stop: volcanic Rotorua