Normally, this break at this time of the year would be Spring Break, but I am in New Zealand. And in New Zealand, it is the opposite of Spring. I would then call it Fall Break, but I have yet to hear a Kiwi say that, so I will refrain. Anyway, Mid-Semester Break started with a seven o’clock taxi to the airport for my flight to Auckland. Turns out that this was a little premature and ended with me dawdling around the small airport for a few hours. I had given myself ample time at the airport because my brain was still in American mode, meaning my logic went something like–need to get through security, get my ticket, find my gate, and account for any crowds that will slow down the process. However, in this airport, there is no security, nor are there any “gates”, and there were no crowds either.
During the wait, I bought a coffee at the coffee stand. The design on the coffee was cute, but I have yet to acquire a taste for New Zealand coffee. Let me tell you: it is not the same as the way we Americans think of coffee. Nope. In fact, I think the very first thing I do when I get home, besides hugging my momma, is going to be getting a white chocolate iced mocha. But I really need to stop talking about coffee because it’s making me really sad.
It was very difficult to sit still on the plane because I was so excited to see my momma. I’ve been away from my momma for months at a time with little communication before, but there’s something about being unable to see her in person without monstrous effort and money that makes it a lot more magnified. Needless to say, it was great to see her. She met me at the domestic airport in Auckland and together we started making our way to Whangarei Bay. There was definitely a learning curve for the both of us, me as navigator, and mom as driver. A couple of traffic jams and missed turns later, we found the house we would be staying in for two nights.
During this trip, we used an organization called ATC (Affordable Travel Club). Basically it’s a club that allows you to stay in people’s houses who are also in the club, and for only $30 NZ a night. Our first ATC members that we stayed with were Don and Raewyn. Rae made a nice barbeque dinner for us and a young mother who had recently moved here from New York with her son also joined us. It was interesting to hear her perspective about the US versus NZ. We all ate out on the deck, overlooking a beautiful view. I took maybe a few too many pictures from this deck, but it was so beautiful, especially with the sun going down! I got at least 11 mosquito bites, and that is not an exaggeration; I counted them.
Someone, and I won’t name names (mostly because I don’t know who, or I would be calling them out on it, for sure!), gave me a cold right before break started. Because of this, I spent the next week coughing and hacking, day and night. Not fun. Don ended up making me midnight tea because he heard me coughing. The coughing was only part of the reason I couldn’t sleep that night however; my mother is a horrendous snorer! I always try to go to sleep before her whenever we have to share a room, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Don and Rae were nice enough to lend us their kayak, so early in the morning we kayaked to a mangrove across the bay and then paddled a little bit around the bend. Although that little adventure made me realize that we needed to get some sunscreen ASAP, it’s always fun to do some kayaking. Not to mention that kayaking in New Zealand was on my list. This list that I just mentioned will come up a few more times in the next few blogs. It’s really just a list of some of the things that I really wanted to accomplish in New Zealand; big adventures, things that can only be done in NZ or are best done in NZ, and just things that New Zealand is known for.
After our kayak trip, we drove up to Parau Bay and ate our very first steak and cheese pies. New Zealand has a thing about meat pies, and when I say thing, I mean that they love them. During this time we discovered that milkshakes are very different than American milkshakes. If you want something similar to what we would expect, you need to ask for a thickshake, otherwise it’ll taste more like chocolate milk. We also hit up Bream Head Scenic Reserve and hiked to Smuggler’s Bay where we spent some time just enjoying the ocean. The beaches in NZ have a lot of shells, and beautiful ones at that! During the walk there, we passed gun batteries that had been set up during WWII and passed through pastures that still had cattle (pronounced kettle here) in them. There were supposedly Kiwis (the bird, not the person or fruit) living on the reserve, but we didn’t see any. My theory on that is it was because they are nocturnal and live in burrows. We had planned to swim at Ocean Beach after the reserve, but I was so sunburned at this point that we just drove over to check it out and then headed back to the house, stopping for a fish and chips dinner on the way.