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Auckland's West Coast

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Hey everyone! Lauren here to tell you about our first two days in New Zealand exploring Auckland and the surrounding areas!

Arriving in Auckland

After a very late flight (or early) 2am flight leaving French Polynesia, we landed in Auckland, New Zealand around 7 in the morning...the next day! Despite only having a 4-5 hour flight, we crossed the international date line meaning we left on Friday and landed on Saturday. It was a little weird because there isn’t a huge time change, but we lost an entire day! At least we didn’t have jet lag.

Customs and Duty Free Shopping

New Zealand requires that travelers entering their country must have an outbound flight. Customs was a breeze, despite having a few things to declare, including soil on our shoes and some leftover snacks.

Following the “loss” of my waterproof camera, we wanted to get something that we could actually take on any future diving we may do. After doing some research online, a Gopro would be our best option, and duty free shops seemed to be the cheapest place to purchase one. We ended up finding a Gopro Hero7 Black and a dive housing for 670 NZD, which was about equivalent to what we would have spent on Amazon at home. Expect way more videos to come!

Rental Car Pick-Up

After buying our Gopro, we headed to Avis to pick up our rental car. We wanted to have a car the entire time we were in New Zealand, and had booked the rental car online as follows: pick up at the Auckland airport on January 19th and return to Christchurch on March 1st. For some reason the online booking system booked our car with the agent as follows: a January 19th pick up at the Auckland airport and a February 19th return to the Auckland airport.

Luckily, Avis easily sorted it out! We ended up with had two separate car rentals for the north and south island, returning our first car on February 8th at the ferry terminal in Wellington and picking up a new one in Picton on the south island. The total for our 6 week car rental was 1700 NZD, which is pretty painful to spend all at once. But this is actually around 28 USD per day, which is a pretty good price for a rental car!

Our rental car

Soon we were in our grey Toyota Yaris, which would be our trusty companion for the next 3 weeks. Gerrod had a little trouble adjusting to the opposite side of the car and road situation, which included accidentally turning on the windshield wipers rather than the turn signal several times.

Gerrod and Lauren preparing to explore New Zealand

Relaxing and Magic

We stayed at a place about 18 km outside of Auckland called Fat Cat Backpackers/Travellers Community. It is a bit outside of the city, but we thought the description sounded interesting.

We spent most of the first day relaxing. We experimented with our new Gopro to figure out how to use it. While Gerrod was figuring out the Gopro, I was messing with my broken waterproof camera yet again. I was messing with it and all of a sudden...POOF! The lense made some struggling sounds but finally unstuck and turned on! My camera was MAGICALLY FIXED! Apparently we just had to buy an expensive Gopro before it would start working again.

Fat Cat Travellers Community Experience

After relaxing, we decided to be social. There were tons of people hanging around the hostel from all over the world. We enjoyed a mostly potato based vegetarian dinner with everyone and chatted to them about their plans in New Zealand. After dinner we each drew from a bag an assigned helping task. Gerrod and I had to help clean up the kitchen after everyone was done eating. After dinner a bonfire was started, and we hung out with everyone by the fire.

Bonfire at Fat Cat Backpackers/Travellers Community

Fat Cat was very much like a hippy traveler commune. It seemed like most people that were staying there were in New Zealand on working holiday visas, and many people there were volunteers part of the WWOOFing program (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Fat Cat had a compost shower, vegetable gardens, and communal vegetarian breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast and Groceries

The next day we woke up around 8ish to partake in the included vegetarian hostel breakfast.They had some oatmeal and fruits, and had batter to make your own crepes. Gerrod and I failed and made crepe flavored blobs, which are still very tasty!

We stopped at a store we found online called Four Square to grab some lunch supplies and snacks, and headed towards Waitakere Ranges National Park on Auckland’s west coast!

Mercer Bay Loop

We started with a trail I had read about online called the Mercer Bay Loop. Near the trailhead, there were several signs regarding that the area was an old air force radio station. Gerrod and I took the time to learn and read the signs before starting down the trail.

Mercer Bay Loop shoe cleaning station

At the start of the trail there was a shoe cleaning station in order the prevent the spread of a local disease killing native kauri trees. There were some informational signs about the kauri dieback disease, and how to prevent the spread.

A view of Piha beach from Mercer Bay Loop

A view of the coast from Mercer Bay Loop

Mercer Bay Loop trail

The track is a 2.7 kilometer loop trail that follows the Tasman Sea. Along the trail there were some informational signs about how the coast was the located of an ancient Maori village (the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand). The views of the coast were beautiful! The trail only took us about an hour, and soon we were cleaning our shoes again and off to the next place!

Mercer Bay Loop cliffside

Maori sculpture on Mercer Bay Loop

Piha Beach

We then headed to Piha Beach! The beach was beautiful! The sand was a combination of normal tan sand, and black glittery sand which reflected in the sunlight. There were several warnings that the currents were very strong and to swim at your own risk. It seemed like everyone in the water was predominately surfers.

Lion’s Rock at Piha beach

A good look at Piha beach

Gerrod and I spent time walking the entire beach, which took us a long time because it is over a mile and a half long! We also walked up to the top of an “island” called Lion’s Rock. There was a great view of the beach, and we had some snack lunch while enjoying the view before we hiked back down.

A view of Piha beach from atop Lion’s Rock

The other side of Piha beach from Lion’s Rock

Shiny Piha beach

Kitekite Falls

Next, we headed towards a waterfall called Kitekite falls. At the start of the trail was a shoe cleaning station for the kauri dieback disease. The trail to the falls was 3.6km round trip, and lead to the bottom of the waterfall. The waterfall was beautiful and had a big pool at the bottom that people were swimming in. We noticed there were people at the top of the falls too, so we decided to check it out.

Kitekite falls

People swimming at the base of Kitekite falls

At the top there were pools that people were soaking in. Gerrod decided to get close to the edge but I was too chicken. After checking out the top of the falls we made our way back to our car and headed back to the hostel.

People hanging out at the top of Kitekite falls

A look down Kitekite falls

End of the Night

Sunday nights at Fat Cat are pizza nights. The dinner lasted forever, since they were homemade pizzas and they could only cook one or two pizzas at a time for 20-30 people. But the pizzas were delicious! After eating, we drew for after dinner jobs again. I had to wash all of the dishes, and Gerrod had to show the cats love.

We had a great time easing ourselves into New Zealand around Auckland. From here we planned to drive to the Coromandel Peninsula, which we will talk about in our next post!

Until next time!

Lauren (and Gerrod)

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