After a 13 hour flight from San Francisco, the Gap Year Buddy and I landed in New Zealand. After trying to come to terms with the fact that we had set off on a Monday and arrived on a Wednesday – skipping out an entire day – we found our shuttle bus into Auckland, which took us to the Nomads Hostel.
We caught up on some sleep before venturing outside the next morning to hunt down some food. Around the corner from our hostel, we found a delicious and well priced Asian BBQ restaurant – so far, so good.
Fed and watered, we went off to see the Sky Tower and then to Karangahape Road, which our tourist map had described as “funky and eclectic”. It was easy to find and we didn’t get lost (surprising for us), so we were able to spend some time wandering around the vintage shops on the road before going to Victoria Park Market. We had thought the market was worth an explore but sadly we arrived shortly before it closed and everything was already winding down.
Our first night in Auckland wasn’t quite as cultural as perhaps it should have been. We went to an internet cafe, then bought Domino’s pizza and ate it in front of WWF. Afterwards, we headed to the hostel bar for a much needed Southern Comfort and coke – we had been deprived of our favourite drinks as under-21s in America. Sadly, my drink came out a lot more expensive than my friend’s gin and tonic and so it was after this moment that my love affair with gin began.
The next morning began with some relaxing on the sun deck at the hostel before meeting at The Fat Camel bar for a day trip organised by Nomads. We set out on a bus, over a bridge and up to an old army barracks where we found great views of the bay below, the city and the dormant volcanoes nearby. We then had a BBQ before going to the village of Devonport but there wasn’t too much to do there so we just treated ourselves to a cup of tea and a rest on the beach.
On returning to the hostel, we had some planning to do. The next day, we were setting off on our bus tour with the Kiwi Experience and we needed to organise our timetable. The company recommended how much time we should spend in each place but we were on quite a tight schedule and so had to juggle a bit.
We managed to come up with a plan before it was time to head out on the hostel’s bar crawl. This turned out to be a great way of meeting people but perhaps not the ideal activity the night before a long road trip. We also made the mistake of forgetting our IDs so had to return to the hostel, grab them and then run and catch up with the group – rookie mistake.
In Cassette Nine bar, we got our first taste of teapot cocktails – the way cocktails should always be served. Next it was Fusion Bar, then Globe Bar and finally Father Ted’s Irish Bar. Somehow, I ended up picking up a pink feather boa along the way and so, at around 3am, I could be found walking through the streets of Auckland, back to Nomads, shedding a trail of pink feathers as I went. After a shower, I crashed to the sound of loud music still being played in the halls but I was too tired to notice.
We had to get up early and grab some breakfast before catching the Kiwi bus. The first stop on our tour was Mt. Eden, where we got some good pictures before heading to Cathedral Cove. We actually never quite made it to the cove and instead headed to Greenstone Bay which was covered in boulders so we walked a bit further and discovered Stingray Bay which looked like somewhere from a movie set. The Gap Year Buddy and I pitched up on the deserted shore and ate our quiche and apple lunch. We tried paddling in the sea but the water was freezing so we started our ascent back up to our meeting point, before heading to Mercury Bay.
Our hostel – Turtle Cove – was really nice and we had a homemade dinner of spaghetti bolognese before settling down with tea on the sofa in front of the TV. Spending a day on a bus, driving along lots of winding mountain roads, after our bar crawl the night before, hadn’t left us feeling great, so we got an early night so we’d feel slightly more fresh the next day.