We have arrived in Wellington, our last stop on the North Island. It has been an amazing trip thus far with much more to come. A few things we would plan differently? Less time in Aukland and instead stop at Rotorua and the Coramandel Penninsula or add an extra night in Napier! We made great use of our time in Aukland, but it is certainly a big-city atmosphere with a flavor of Hong Kong. Due to the number of Chinese students at the university the asians outnumber New Zealanders 10 to 1. That means the shops and restaurants cater to Asians, as well.
We planned for Jetlag, which was not an issue at all. Our flight left LAX at 11 PM and arrive in Aukland about 8:30 AM….a day later! But our body clock did not even notice the missing day.
November in NZ is spring, so the weather is getting warmer and we did not have to deal with the summer tourist crowds and escalating hotel prices. The high temp has been about 19° centigrade or 70° F. But the wind chill on the coast and on the overlooks and mountain passes were quite chilly. The New Zealanders were wearing shorts and mini skirts and I was bundled in sweaters and hats most of the time. Luckily I dressed in layers and when we got those 70° afternoons, I could peel away layers and had already applied sunscreen.
While food is expensive, the conversion from NZ$ to US$ makes it more tolerable. Eating has been our biggest challenge! There are a lot of lamb and fish dishes on the menus and George does not eat either. Also a bakery in George’s mind conjures up visions of sweet pastries and danish and not savory muffins and quiche filled with spinach, cheese and mushrooms! The eating challenges are complicated because our traveling companions are vegetarians! Burger Fuel and McDonalds are plentiful, but the vegetarian options are limited. So Irish Pubs, of which there were many, seemed to accommodate everyone’s needs. Our particular favorite was Danny Doolan’s, which offered Monteith’s Original on tap and a cozy fireplace. The specials were offered until 7 pm and offered many choices! George also discovered a new chocolate bar available at the Mobil stations…dark chocolate snickers. So he bought 14 and won’t starve!!!
We were expecting wineries in the Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay regions, but it seems they are all over New Zealand. I think we have visited about 10 in 12 days and haven’t even begun the wine trail. We’ve tasted some great wines, but prices were in the $60/per bottle range due to the high wages paid to the vineyard workers.
My favorite stop on the North Island was the Bay of Islands! We took the Cream Stop boat tour and dropped off packages to many inhabited islands. At the first sheltered cove we saw a pod of dolphins playing and eventually breaching out of the water. Some of the passengers had paid to swim with the wild dolphins and the lowered them into a net on the side of the ship and then let them swim for about 30 minutes! Water temp was about 64°, so I was happy to watch from the boat.
We have seen thermal areas, beautiful beaches, and hiked to high overlooks. Each day I am averaging about 15,000+ steps, even though we are driving between cities (on the left side of the road, from the right side of the car. We’ve only had one really rainy day, which hampered our view. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind me I am in New Zealand!!