The day after Megan and I arrived in Austin after driving 24 hours from State College, I boarded a plane to Auckland. I left two days before everyone else in my family, so I was flying alone. Halfway through the flight, I recognized a family friend (Lisa) that we met while living in Liberal, KS. Isn't that crazy? Some of the family members Lisa was travelling with were sitting right next to me and she had come over to talk to them. Lisa and I talked for a little while and then I saw her again when I got off the plane and we made plans to meet for dinner.
I took an airport shuttle to downtown Auckland and checked in at my hostel around 7:30 AM. I quickly threw my stuff in my room and went to explore the city. Auckland is very clean and easy to get around. I found the train station where I would need to be the next morning, found a nice little park that I later ran and slept in, bought an international cell phone, got lunch at a little cafe, slept some more in the park, and then walked down to a restaurant on the water where I had dinner with Lisa and her family. By 9PM I was passed out...
7:30 the next morning and I was on a train to Wellington. I cannot stay awake in moving vehicles. As much as I try and want to see the scenery, I'm out in minutes. After eating breakfast - a meal I absolutely refuse to miss - I went to sleep basically until we took an hour break in Tongariro National Park. The Park was beautiful. From the station we were able to see three different volcanoes and snow capped mountains. I walked around a little and then sat down outside of a cafe and found a little dog that hung out with me until I had to get back on the train. I stayed awake for the second half of the ride and spent a lot of time standing outside between cars in a little observatory space. The air was so refreshing compared to the warm, stuffy air in the train. There are so many sheep in New Zealand. So many. It's sad how much land has been cleared and turned into pasture land.
The best part of the train ride was that near the end around 6PM: all sandwiches went on sale for half price. I was so proud of myself for holding out to that point! Dinner for $2.50!
I arrived in Wellington around 7:45 PM and took a bus to my hostel. I missed my stop because the bus driver forgot he had promised to tell me when to get off. I got off at the next stop, which wasn't too bad except that I nailed every person in my path with my backpack in the process of trying to get off. After getting my room I went directly downstairs to the bar because the guy at the front desk gave me a coupon for a free glass of champagne in exchange for a piece of gum. While at the bar I met a really nice girl from Germany who was making her way through New Zealand and working at farms on the way (WWOOF) and we also talked to the bartender for awhile, who was from Seattle.
The next day I spent the morning in the botanic gardens and then walked around downtown for awhile. That afternoon I went to New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, and walked through an exhibit about the impact invasive species have had on the country's native wildlife. One thing that is absolutely amazing about New Zealand is that most of the museums and art galleries are free. They should be though, because everything else is so damn expensive. I really liked Wellington. It's smaller and more personal than Auckland. Auckland, I wasn't that impressed. Just another city, really.
That night I took a 3 hour ferry ride to Picton, a small town at the northern tip of the south island. My family was there waiting. I love them!
Ok this is only up to December 22nd. I'm way behind. I'll write more soon!