We also took a picture with our Bible Study, but still waiting for Paul to send that one. These two groups really made us feel welcome and our stay in Australia much more enjoyable.
We left for Brisbane a couple of days early so we could drive a day, relax a day, and then wake up at 4:30 in the morning to make our flight to Auckland. We arrived at our hostel Minto only to discover that due to a loss of internet they didn't get our reservation for the night, but could host us the second night. This really made me sad because Minto is a beautiful colonial Queenslander with entryways like this:
They even have antique claw foot tubs in the bathrooms. They are also, clean and quiet and have a marvelous view of the city from the porch.
Instead we had to stay that night at Somewhere to Stay (they try to keep your expectations low with the name), a loud, grungy crowded hostel. Thankfully there was a fun cat or it would have been a total loss. It was really, really hot with no AC so we had to leave the window open and the people of Australia apparently rebel against screens as many buildings don't have any. So I woke up with several mosquito bites including several clustered together in the arch of my foot that itch like murder every time I walk. So, wasn't sad to leave it for Minto the next day. Daniel drove out to the Gold Coast again to the waterpark so he could take several laps around the lazy river. I stayed in town and took in the double feature of Breaking Dawn on IMAX (which came here a couple days earlier than in the US to my delight) and Moneyball. I ate popcorn for lunch. It was great. We went to bed at 8:30 pm so we could get up at the crack of dawn.
Daniel's description of the flight is infinitely more entertaining than it was, which was I think part of his disappointment. My only complaint was that was an hour too short. I had managed to squeeze in Captain America (not exactly a 4 inch screen movie, but I hadn't seen it still) and only half of the Help. Now I need to finish it. I was highly amused, though, that it was subtitled because they assumed you wouldn't be able to understand the Southern accents. I suppose if I hadn't lived in NC for the last 10 years, I might too.
We got through customs considerably faster and with less hassle than in Australia, and had our little Hyundai Getz ready to go at the rental place. It was just a 20 minute drive to our hostel in the Auckland neighborhood of Parnell, which bills itself as the creative quarter. It's an interesting mix of ritzy boutiques, fancy restaurants, and a surprising number of hostels. Old large homes seem to get converted to backpacker places when they go up for sale, I'm sure to the dismay of the neighbors. We are in a pretty nice one, and very quiet.
We didn't do much that afternoon and evening. We jumped ahead another 3 hours, so missed a chunk of the day. For those of you keeping track that now means we are a full 18 hours ahead of Eastern and 19 hours ahead of Central. We found a grocery store to do some stocking up, and then had dinner at the same chain Italian place that introduced us to sticky date pudding in Melbourne. This time they had a new amazing dessert, the chocolate banana calzone with gelato.
Daniel was more excited about finding the Coffee News, and even found that little guy you are supposed to look for. They also brought us pitcher of ice water that made his day.
While we were out and about last night we walked past an Anglican church we decided to try this morning. I wasn't paying a great deal of attention to it in the dark, but later discovered it's the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and is even in our Lonely Planet book as a must see. It was a beautiful church with modern stain glass. Here's a one of the windows.
After church we headed to the Waitakere Ranges and Karekare Beach. It's not very far from Auckland and very beautiful. It meant driving on another of those terrifying one lane twisty roads that are technically two lanes, but it was worth it. Here's the view of the Ranges:
They had a fun frame you could pose in that Daniel felt was a challenge to fill the whole thing:
Then it was on to the black sand beach of Karekare. When they said black, they meant black. I was envisioning some black sand mixed in with regular sand, but that was not the case, as you can see here:
It's that color because of the volcanic soil and iron or something. There was not an informative plaque as I had hoped. It reminded me a bit of Cape Cod in that you had to hike through tall sand dunes before you could even get to the beach. They also took you by an interesting forest. There's a cookbook by Molly Katzen called the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. I swear this is it. I couldn't get over how much the trees reminded me of broccoli stalks:
We also passed some large kouri trees:
And this beautiful stream:
The beach itself was a bit surreal. Daniel and I both expressed it as very Lord of the Rings-esque.
The surf was very rough and the water was cold. It was only about 70 degrees out anyway, so we did not swim. We headed back to downtown Auckland to take in some of it's sights. I even found this helpful sign pointing home:
And happiness in a cup:
Haven't had a Starbucks mocha with toffee nut syrup in months. Overall, a good first day.