The Long White Cloud - Kia Ora!

Here I am, finally, in New Zealand! As much as I like Australia, it's good to arrive in a new country with just the thought of traveling in mind. And I already know that this country will blow my mind. I know I shouldn't expect too much, risking to be disappointed, but seriously, it's New Zealand! The country that always figures in EarthPorn on Reddit. There's no way I'm not going to get excited about this! Also, I'm finally doing what I craved to do in Australia: a Road Trip. Actually, 2, to be more precise. One from South to North, and one from North to South. A bit repetitive? We'll see...
Actually, I didn't know how to handle this blog post, if I needed one post per island, but as you can see, my discovery of this country is going to be non linear, so I decided to go simply with a timeline.
So first, I have a couple of weeks on my own, and here's what I found out...

Arrival in Auckland
First impression, from the plane: The country is so green and curvy!

Second impression, out of the plane: the country's bloody cold! I mean, of course, it's just spring, but even Sydney went up to 28 before I left, while Auckland was struggling with a mere 18°C...
Auckland in itself looks like a great city, with a beautiful coastline, islands in the horizon, a great harbour, and, yes, volcanoes. I mean, a city built on volcanoes is bound to be epic, right? My first thought when I think about Auckland is: don't worry about getting fat enjoying the delicious food around, because Auckland will take care of that for you: the city is so hilly, you can actually work on that fabulous bum you always wanted to have. I knew San Francisco, but I think Auckland is another level. One example: to get from YHA Auckland City to YHA Auckland International, you have to go down Liverpool St, a street so steep you can't see the end of it. I was litterally pushed by my suitcase on the way down.

But Auckland has so much more to offer, as I soon discovered when I finally had the time to enjoy it.

Orewa will always mean "I am" in Japanese for me. It is a beautiful small beach town, with a gorgeous rocky coastline, it has Silverdale and SnowPlanet at its south, Waiwera and its hot pools up north, and is part of the Great Auckland region. I didn't stay long, unfortunately, but the beach itself with its dark gold sand is worth a detour. I think the whole Hibiscus Highway is worth the drive.

Auckland again
Ok, when you look closer at this city, Auckland seems to say to Sydney:
"Oh you have a nice harbour? We do too, and there are 50 volcanoes!"
"Oh you have a Sky Tower and a Harbour bridge? We do too, and we can jump out of them!"
"Oh you have a Opera House? Well, we don't have that, too posh for us..."
but we have this, does it count?

Anyway, among all the must-dos of Auckland, I decided to focus on its volcanoes, since I couldn't climb the ones in Bali...
First on the list, Rangitoto Island.
A good thing to know, on the week end, you can catch the first ferry at 7:30 and pay a lower "early-bird" rate. And on the way to the island, if you're lucky enough, you can encounter playful dolphins jumping in the wake of the boat!
The climb to the top of the crater takes an hour, with a breathtaking view on Hauraki Gulf and the CBD.
The crater itself is massive, and you can walk on its rim in 15 minutes. It was really impressive. You can also see some lava caves, which are more like small alcoves of collapsed lava layers, but still add to the alien quality of the island. Next to it is a kiwi reserve which is also worth seeing.

The next on the list is Mangere, that you can reach by several buses going from downtown to Mangere City, but the stop you're looking for is Mangere Bridge village, and more specifically Coronation Road, as it is the road leading to the summit walk.

After that, I did a part of the Coast to Coast Walkway, specifically the part between Mount Eden and One Tree Hill. Mount Eden offers some impressive views of the CBD.

But I think my favorite for the day was One Tree Hill, and the whole of the Cornwall Park. During spring, the trees are blooming, and when you get to the second part of the park, you can see cows and sheeps grazing all around you! Yes, in the city... In the heart of one of the biggest city in New Zealand, you find cattle... For me, this is just so New Zealand!

And the view from the summit is also spectacular, a brilliant 360° of the surroundings.

Just at the end of the park, the Stardome offers a small exhibition on the universe, quite educating. And for those like me too lazy to walk back, several buses go from the park exit to downtown.

The next day, I took the ferry to Devonport. There are actually 2 volcanoes in Devonport. North Head and Mount Victoria. Both are rather easy to climb, and while the first offers apart from the view a tour of the military premisces, the second one's entrance is harder to find, next to a primary school and "No Entry" signs, but the view would be much better if some devastating real estate project hadn't put a building between the summit and the Harbour Bridge... But anyway, it was worth the walk.

After that, I went to Waiheke Island to spend a week in one of HelpX host's house, with a beautiful view on the sea. Waiheke Island itself is a chunk of Paradise dropped from Heaven. Seriously, I could live there for the rest of my days and never get tired of the views, the bays, the coastline, the hilly paddocks, everything here is picture perfect (Hum, I shouldn't start using those terms, as I can imagine that I will use them quite often for the next 2 months...)

There are several walks that you can do in Waiheke, but beware that few roads have sideways. Well, the traffic is not excessive either, so pedestrians are fine, really, and the views from the roads are amazing. Several buses circulate around the island, but the eastern part, where all the farms, groves and vineyards are, is quite isolated from public transportation. Still, apart from the vineyards themselves that amateurs can visit, I strongly recommend to go to the Bottom End, and the microscopic town of Orapiu.

And this is it for my first two weeks in New Zealand! Stay tune for the "real" stuff soon!

Edit: At the end of my first road trip, we ended up in a campground at the waterfront of Takapuna, where the view of Rangitoto is simply mesmerizing, at sunrise and sunset.
purple clouds

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