I can’t help it. I can’t fall in love with every place we visit, but that’s okay.
As we flew over the city and came into land, my jaw dropped. I had no idea how big this city was. In every direction as we turned, city lights sprawled out as far as the eye could see. It was huge.
We landed at almost 1am, and all buses had stopped – or at least we presumed they had, but we hadn’t checked because we’d planned to sleep in the airport anyway. And actually, as it turns out Auckland airport isn’t a bad one to sleep in. We had a really good hot shower for free, and the benches are pretty comfy to lie down on, even if we did have to content ourselves with sleeping outside the arrivals door.
This meant that we woke up early (by early I mean 4am and then dozing on and off until 6am), surrounded by people waiting for their loved ones to arrive on the early flights. We headed into town on one of the first buses after a quick breakfast, and it was raining so we took cover in McDonald’s for a cup of tea.
Laden down with our bags, we took a walk around the centre of Auckland, which involved a pretty quick walk down to the wharfs on the harbour, and back up the next street until we got to the Sky Tower.
We also stopped for an early lunch in a lovely bakery, Ronnie’s, where we had pies for $5 and cakes for $3. I had a delicious bacon and egg pie. Bacon and egg. I am not lying when I say this place was my favourite thing about Auckland.
And not that I was overly bothered about going up the Sky Tower in the first place, but when I perused the information centre at the base of it and found that it would cost a whole TWENTY EIGHT DOLLARS to go up to the top, I was even less keen.
As this was probably the only thing I was remotely interested in doing in Auckland, we decided we didn’t even really want to come back in to the centre the next day, and we hadn’t even been there half a day. Then it started raining again and we retreated to the library until it was time to catch our bus out to our first couch surfing host in Te Atatu.
We made the decision a while ago to couch surf as much as we could in New Zealand. I love couch surfing as an experience, and we could not have had a better host than the one we had in Auckland. We were greeted by two backpackers who I initially assumed were living there, but in fact they too were couchsurfers, and there would be two more staying there as well.
This guy literally hosts backpackers all the time, and he’s one of the most genuinely nice and interesting people I’ve met. He couldn’t do enough for us, he cooked a big dinner and invited everyone to join him, he offered people lifts, he even apologised for not being able to offer us more as he was working.
Immediately, we befriended a Hungarian guy who had arrived in Auckland two weeks ago. He already had his own car and was keen to go running in the Waitakare Ranges just outside Auckland the next day and asked if we wanted to join him.
“YES!” I said, thinking of the alternative trip back into town. “Well, maybe not for a run. But we’d love to go for a hike.”
And so off we went the next day to Karekare, along with a German “housemate”. In the end, I didn’t do the planned 3-hour hike because the weather wasn’t great. Instead, I took a route up to a lookout point that was mostly at a 45 degree angle and took around 20 minutes.
I had to remind myself that this wasn’t exactly a place that comes to mind when you think of scenic New Zealand areas. So I was pretty surprised to find myself face to face with THIS view.
That’s when it all turned into a bit of an adventure.
We headed down to the massive sprawling beach to join our German friend, who came running towards us. “Have you seen my backpack?” he asked frantically.
We shook our heads. “Did you leave it somewhere?” I asked.
“Yes, over there!! It’s gone! It’s been stolen!”
I looked around at the empty beach in disbelief. Even from my viewpoint, I had seen only two other people pass the beach, and they didn’t look close to where he was. “What was in it?”
“Only my phone… some clothes… and Daniel’s car keys. Thank God not my passport.”
THE CAR KEYS?! Panic ensued, and it rained again. I was amazed it hadn’t rained on my “hike”. TJ ran across the entire beach to see if anyone had his bag. Eventually, we made it back to the car park where Daniel was waiting for us…
…in the car.
It turned out that someone had picked up the bag thinking that someone had left it there, to see if the owner was in the car park. They were also worried because they couldn’t see anyone on the beach, and thought he might have drowned and were actually about to call someone to report it!
So all was okay. TJ sheepishly pulled his passport out of his bag and said, “oh. Maybe it is in here. That was lucky!!”
We went to leave, when Daniel gestured towards a 4×4 pulling into the car park, and asked, “do you think these people have petrol?”
You see, we were 27km from the city, a mountain away, and the petrol light had come on around 10km from where we were now. I groaned. TJ laughed. Ash looked perplexed. The people in the 4×4 did not have petrol, but they lived at the top of the hill and her husband might have some for us.
He did not, and we drove very carefully down the ever-winding roads back down the mountain towards the city, hoping against hope that a petrol station would appear. Thankfully we made it, although it was a close call!
We needed to be up early the next day – our host had very kindly offered us a lift to catch our bus as he was driving to work anyway – so it wasn’t going to be a late one, but it was a good evening of chats, laughs and catching up with things online. (speaking of which, the wifi network was “Stark Industries” which made our host even more awesome)
And of course in the morning, it rained. And we never saw the city not-raining again.
So maybe winter was the wrong time to visit Auckland, but I’m sorry, I just didn’t like you at all. But your surroundings are rather pretty, so we’ll remember you for that, alright?