It is hard to believe we’ve disembarked the Cap Cleveland a week ago. It took us a couple of days to get our land legs (we did feel slight swaying in bed and in the shower… go figure) and a couple more to orient ourselves.
So far, we’ve walked around Auckland, took a day trip to Rangitoto Island and hiked to the top of the dormant volcano for great views of the city and the surrounding islands. We were then invited to an afternoon party thrown by very lively recent ex-pats and were driven around by our kiwi host to see some of the beautiful beaches in the greater Auckland area.
Having had only a taste of life in New Zealand, here are a few things we’ve noticed:
* Auckland is very clean (no “rubbish” laying around or any homeless people that we could find)
* There are “heaps” of street signs for pedestrians (with information like how long it will take you to get somewhere)
* Auckland has a lot of parks and trees along the streets
* There are a LOT of bars… many of which are Irish
* There are a LOT of backpackers (both the people and the places)
* People are super friendly, welcoming and will invite you in their lives without second thought
* People dress up. There are a lot of high heels walking around. Women are as or more fashionable as Europeans. A casual mid-week dinner in a small corner Italian restaurant may involve a black dress, lacy tights and designer shoes.
* Lots of “campers” are to be rented. People seem to love traveling in these vans which typically have at least a double bed in the back and sometimes a little sink and stove.
* Internet comes rarely free and when you get connected, it’s bandwidth constricted. We really do take it for granted in the US…
* Post offices (or Post Shops) are really pleasant. They sell magazines and postcards, they have tables with cushy stools where you can sit and prepare your packages, everything is colorful, the employees are young, hip and smart. Note to American (and French) post offices: get your “arse” down here and learn!
* Drivers are pretty courteous, rarely honk, rarely tailgate, everything seems to run smoothly.
* The countryside (or “bush”) looks – at our utmost surprise – very much like Northern California. At least in the surroundings of Auckland. Just replace a few cows with sheep and add a few Punga trees in the middle of the clumps of trees on the hills. I’m sure there are many more differences, but at a glance, we feel pretty at home.
* It’s pretty darn cold in spring… well, what else was I expecting? Duh.
Of course these observations are based on a very short time being here and not having moved around much yet. We’re excited to explore the country a little more and discover some of NZ’s pristine scenery. That means we will need to drive on the
wrong left side of the road. Dun dun dun.