Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Zealand Day 1: Auckland to Uretiti Beach

After we landed in Auckland, we were whisked into a separate and MUCH shorter line at passport control by a grandfatherly looking gentleman who could clearly sense B’s impending meltdown. Then we gathered our bags and went on to the-people-who-make-sure-you’re-not-bringing-in-food-with-diseases, and eventually we came out into the arrivals hall. Alex went off to get local SIM cards installed into our iPhones (a process that went very smoothly, thank you Telecom NZ) and Brynna entertained the masses by performing a dance around the arrival hall in her fuzzy pink footsie PJs and crocs.

We hit up the little café for hot chocolate (B), chai (me), and coffee (Alex) and then met up with our campervan drop-off guy. He drove us to a big parking lot just outside the airport and showed us around the van. Here she is:

This is Brynna’s favorite part:

There was a bank and supermarket right there so we were able to stock up before hitting the road. The shopping was a frenzy of fresh fruit and vegetable buying, since NZ is towards the end of its summer. We were able to get NZ peaches, plums, pears, blueberries, avocados, corn, and apples as well as Aussie mangos and a pineapple from the Philippines (which is pretty local in this neck of the woods). After stocking up, we headed north out of Auckland, across the harbor bridge. Alex did a marvelous job of driving our behemoth on the left at highway speeds, as well as shifting left-handed. Brynna was exceedingly peeved that she couldn’t travel in her bed up above, but we made her a stack of pillows in the back to lean her head against, and she had a nice nap.

Our first stop was the Mangawhai (manga-fye) Heads Reserve, where there was a hike recommended by one of my guidebooks. And it was splendid indeed!

The first portion was along the beach, and then returning back along the hill/clifftop. We cut the beach portion quite close as the tide was coming in. Here we are headed down to the beach:

“It’s tropical!” Brynna kept saying.

We hopped from cove to cove, investigating all the different surfaces. There was smooth white sand at first, then these small smooth white rocks, as well as other coves with shells, with rougher rocks, with larger rocks, and so on. Quite the variety.

The views out to sea weren’t bad either!

At one point we had to wade around a point. I put B up on my shoulders and shortly thereafter went from ankle-deep to knee-deep, and then after a big wave came in, to waist-deep! With a steadying hand from Alex, we made it just fine.

Then there was this handy place to sit, though we only rested for a minute because the tide kept coming in!

The end of the beach portion of the track was marked by this arch in the rock, already wet due to the tide coming in.

We thought about wading through but the waves looked pretty rough so we opted to bushwhack straight up the hillside instead, and managed to meet up with the staircase coming from the other side of the arch.

Then we headed along the hilltop. Lots of palm trees and beautifully constructed stairs:

More great vistas:

Brynna took this one, looking back towards where we’d parked:

This shows the beach where we had to wade around the point at the far end of the sand:

We found a nice place to rest and watch the ocean:

And eventually headed back down more stairs to the beach we’d started on. B was getting tired at this point (whole walk was 8 or 9 kilometers) so we were counting the stairs to keep her mind off it. We ended up with just over 200 stairs down.

And then back along the beach to the campervan.

Then we headed to the Uretiti beach DoC (Department of Conservation) campground, where we were able to park the van (no power) and have access to clean water and cold showers for 27 New Zealand dollars (about 20 US dollars). Brynna met a friend over the hill, a three year old named Sophie from Montreal, and they played together in the loft for awhile. We were able to figure out how to use the van’s stove to make dinner (rice and bean burritos) and the van’s shower to have warm showers and then finally off to bed.

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