New-Zealand, Aotearoa (« The land of the long white cloud in māori, name first given to the north island, then to the whole country), garden of God on Earth. One of the last land discovered by humans, with most of its wonders preserved. Middle Earth from JRR Tolkien. What ever its name is, New-Zealand draws attention. Country of climate and chromatic contrasts, it displays every kind of landscapes : tropical, volcanic, mountainous, breathtaking jagged coasts and some deep green valleys which would make Scottish meadows jealous.
The country goes over 1600km in a northeast direction. Wherever we are, we’re never more than an hour and half away from the coast. The north island west coast is cloudy, windy and dramatic. Capricious forecast offers sometimes 4 seasons in one day. It’s in this environment that Auckland, our arrival point, lays. The first feelings are humid. Some massive grey clouds float over our hats, while wind make them fly. A dwarf from the Lord of the Rings welcomes us outside the airport, after having all our outdoors equipment controlled by customs: indeed, no foreign vegetal is allowed in this Garden of Eden.
In the hall we met Andy, an Austrian guy working in Toulouse, in France, for Airbus. He will stay here 3 months, he loves hiking, and has the face of the most happy man on Earth. We’ll spend the few next days with him, discovering Auckland, and we’re sure we’ll see him again in the next few weeks.
Auckland, first days
Auckland looks like an Australian city. Without the nice weather, though. Beautiful colonial style houses share the streets with the large buildings of the CBD, which comes to the borders of the harbour where smells of iodine and exhaust mix. The life is bloody expensive here. However, the important number of backpackers in the large streets surprises us. It’s like if all the travellers have arrived in the same time! So we have some troubles to find an accommodation and to open a bank account. Everything is overbooked.
Painful return to the city stress, and administrative forms filling.
We discover the city under the rain and in the wind. It doesn’t stops us to walk along Queen Street, the main street, temple of shopping and fast food. We equip ourselves with some windproof and waterproof jackets, and have to find some warm sleeping bags to replace ours, which won’t support the low temperature of the south island mountains. Prices are too high for the sleeping bags, we’ll wait the next sale in a few weeks. After this shopping day, Mariette discovers that she lost her camera, but by miracle, she’ll find it back a week later while we were on our way to buy another one. We also enjoy those first day trying the local beers: Tui, Monteith, and our favourite the Chomp.
Coast to coast walk
A ray of sun pierces the clouds one morning. It the dreamed occasion for our first hike: the coast-to-coast walk. A 16km long track across the country from the east coast to the west coast through Auckland, passing by Mount Eden, an 192m high old volcano high on top of which a lot of buses drop hundreds of chinese people, and One Tree Hill, which both offer us a view over the city and the classic New-Zealand landscapes, and fauna (bêêêêê). Some delicate smells of wet fresh grass, mixed with the gross odors of the muttons poop, fill our nostrils. Green is very bright and everywhere. It draws with small rocky walls and bushy trees a charming patchwork.
Then we pass a few days with Nalini who we met on Couchsurfing. She’s a student at the university, born in England but from Indian origins, vegan, involved in actions for ecology and against climate changes. She makes us discovering the city with a different point of view, and the campus where 40 000 students live. Dancing, singing, playing music, she has numerous talents like speaking several languages (French included) with an extraordinary ease, and like telling incredible stories she has lived! She’s also a very good cook, and introduced us to the vegan cuisine with Indian inspirations and spices (like a wonderful avocado soup, that you’ll be able to find the recipe of on our blog soon).
She even loans us 2 bikes to ride to Mission Beach and St Helier, famous coastal track. However, it will let us a mitigate feeling, like when we hiked from Bondi to Coogie in Australia: the landscapes are all right, and the beaches offer some beautiful colours but are sadly over urbanized, and full of ugly useless shops for tourists.
It’s been now 10 days that we’re in Auckland. It’s time to move! Tomorrow (Sunday), we’ll go to the Car Fair in Ellerslie, big second hand car market. It’s the best place to find our new 4 wheeled travel mate which gonna host us during this trip.
Tintin & Riette