Today was our first complete day in New Zealand. But before I talk about that, I have to mention our experience the night before in the back yard of our Warm Showers hosts Cynthia and Marjo. While making our way to our tent, I heard a rustling in the tomato bush and saw something in the corner of my eye. I asked Carrie for her headlamp, thinking I’d find a big old rat nibbling on a juicy tomato. But it wasn’t a rat. The little critter had sharp ‘fur’ and breathed like it was overdue for a laryngectomy. As it turns out, it was just a common hedgehog. Sorry, no pictures.
On another aside, I have to say how great it is coming to a foreign country and being welcomed so graciously by a pair of locals. Cynthia and Marjo were very accommodating. They let us pitch our tent in their back yard for two nights while we recovered from the flight, offered us food and use of their shower. Marjo took some time from her day to play tour guide in Auckland, driving us through the city and up Mt. Eden, one of several extinct volcanoes in the area, for a nice view. Cynthia helped us figure out a route out of Auckland and gave us some advice about where to find some of the best cycling roads on the South Island. If you’re into cycle touring, Warm Showers is an excellent way to improve your trip.
OK, so as I was saying, today was our first complete day in New Zealand. We spent the day playing tourist in Auckland, the country’s largest city at about 1.3 million people. Auckland is an interesting place. Every where you look in the city center there’s construction going on. Dozens of high-rise apartment and office buildings all look like they’ve been standing for less than a year. The city itself seems to be growing rapidly but the streets aren’t really that crowded. Carrie and I wondered where all the people were who are supposed to be living and working in all of these modern-looking buildings. Perhaps in the summer they’re off on holiday spending their free time bungy-jumping, sky-diving and whitewater-rafting.
The great thing about the city though is its location. There’s water everywhere and the landscape is lush. It’s like a mix of San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu.
Tomorrow we head off on our first day of actual touring. Our modest goal is to make it about 30km east of Auckland at a campsite along the north coast.