Jet Lag, Doorknobs, and One Pair of Socks: The New Zealand Mission Begins.

Do you remember when I said that thing about how I was going to get all nice and caught up on my blogging by December, so that I could switch gears and tell you all about New Zealand when I got here?

Sorry.

I’m most of the way through the screen printing post, and still have to do my moccasin boot post as well. I’m going to save those for a rainy day- and let me tell you, those seem pretty hard to come by in my current corner of the Pacific…

North Head, New Zealand

A beach below the old Navy base at North Head- My very fist New Zealand Adventure!

But first, a bit about travel (in case you’re interested in visiting little old me)… The flights were fairly uneventful- a good thing when your total travel time is 26 hours. It gets to the point where you give up on trying to keep track of what time it is. My layover in Los Angeles was 6 hours, which went by really quickly because, as it turns out, the most interesting people you’ll ever meet can be found in the international departures wing of an airport. We bonded over a singular need for electrical outlets and talked for hours. I met JD and his twin brother Sam who are travelling around the south island for 3 weeks (mostly hitchhiking, and I am very curious to know how that’s working out for them), and Ashley who studied fashion design and now would like to start a business with her twin sister who she’s meeting in Australia, and last but not least Tim and Mary- who told stories of their grandkids and offered us all a place to crash if we ever found ourselves near Wellington. Mary was astounded to hear that JD had only brought one pair of socks for his entire trip, and even went so far as to find him another pair (so he can wear one pair while the others are drying)- which I believe she gave him as we were boarding the plane.

boeing 777 airplane landing

This is my plane landing in Auckland! WHEEEEE!

Tim also told us that in New Zealand socks do not come in pairs, and that we would get callouses on our heads because of the waking up upside down- and managed to keep a straight face while he said it.

new zealand pohutukawa tree

the Pohutukawa tree- which flowers in December and is bright red and green. It’s symbolic of Christmas here, and- bonus points- has really tasty nectar.

We landed at about 8am local time and my jet lag had not yet set in- so we went on an adventure, of course! There is an old navy base on a mountain near Auckland called North Head (I say mountain. It is a little mountain, but big enough.) It’s very park-like, with flowers and trees everywhere, and at the top there’s a great view of the city and surrounding beaches.

north head auckland new zealand trees and nature

It’s December and everything is so green!

The old Navy barracks are here, along with some very cool, very large cannons. New Zealand’s Navy is currently located one mountain over, this stuff is circa World War II. Part of what makes this place so interesting, though, is that most of the stuff that goes on here is underground- the barracks, ammunition storerooms, and even the places the cannons are stored- are built into the mountain. Some of it is open for wandering, and some areas are closed off.

north head underground tunnels new zealand

Little Hobbitses must watch their toes in the darkness!

After a thorough exploration of the above-ground areas, we ventured inside the mountain.

north head underground tunnels

What even is real life? Tunnels and rooms inside of mountains? I feel like Bilbo Baggins is going to come running through here yelling while Smaug tries to fit his head through the little corridors…

It’s a very interesting combination of manmade and natural structure inside, this little room, for example, was right off one of the hallways and yet held no trace of ever having been effected by people.

nature and rocks in new zealand

Let me just stay here forever, please and thank you.

When the base was in use, this cannon used to fire and then flip down inside the underground room for storage. Sneaky.

north head navy base cannon

A cannon with a hidey hole, is pretty much what this is…

By some other cannons, there was a plaque that talked about how the locals were upset that the sonic boom from the blasts would shatter their windows, so the Navy planted trees to dampen it…but by the time the trees were large enough to make any difference, the cannons were obsolete.

There were a lot of ways in and out of the tunnels, and we tried to explore all of them. A lot of them are covered in graffiti, and some were more overgrown than others.

north head explorations, new zealand

Hobbits, I keep telling you…

It would have been a great place for a picnic if I hadn’t been utterly and completely confused about what time it was. Feels like dinner time, looks like lunchtime? Even at dinner time here as it turns out, the sun is still bright in the sky. It doesn’t go down until nearly 9:30.

IMG_9089

It all just sort of screams ‘adventures!’ doesn’t it?

We emerged from the tunnels at a perfect vantage point- overlooking Auckland on such a beautiful day. Everything is so blue!

auckland CBD from north head new zealand

The pointy thing is called the ‘sky tower’ but I keep forgetting that and calling it the ‘space needle’. Jon is less than amused.

If cityscapes aren’t your thing, feast your eyes on the aptly named ‘fire poker’ flower.

new zealand fire poker flower

If I were seven, I would definitely be having sword-fights with these…

Travelling to other countries is so interesting- the people are still people, and the important things are the same, but then there are these weird differences that you sort of notice along the way, like all the trees and flowers are different, or the doorknobs are located at least a foot higher on the door… or that you drive on the left side of the road. Still not comfortable with that last one… I’m trying to practice deciding which lane I would turn into when I ride along in other people’s cars, and I keep getting it wrong…

IMG_9100

Let’s just take a minute to realize how large this tree is, shall we? and think about how long it has been there in that sandy soil, watching over the bay.

It’s been five days now since I got here, and I think it’s safe to say I’m over the jet lag. It took about four days to wear off completely. The second day (before I got super sleepy like a 90 year old lady at the ripe old hour of 7pm) we went to Parnell rose gardens, which turned out to be a lot more than roses (though also a lot of roses)

pohutukawa tree at parnell rose gardens, new zealand

Another Pohutukawa tree. I absolutely climbed around in it, and it was excellent.

Long stalky flowers are difficult to take photos of when it’s ridiculously windy outside, but I managed..

new zealand flowers

Sorry, I don’t know the name of this one. Pretty speckled bell flower? Let’s go with that.

And of course, roses. So many roses, in so many colors.

pink and yellow rose bud at parnell rose garden in new zealand

And not a single sneeze was sneezed that day: I understand the appeal of flowers now…

Sheep also made an appearance once he saw some flowers he liked.

adventures of sheep at parnell rose garden

Sheep was less than impressed with the flowers, but posed nonetheless. He was worried about getting sunburned, and weren’t we all.

 

As if by magic, as soon as I said “I wonder if any of these roses match my hair”- there they were!

pink hair matches pink flowers

I am a princess, and I am flowers.

Those were the two big adventures this week. It was nice to have a few relaxing days around to adjust and talk to home and stuff. On the list of things not covered however, we have:

  • Ate octopus (eh), squid (yum!), papaya (nope), and green-lipped mussels (yum, but want to cook with them myself)
  • Tasted the nectar of the Pohutukawa tree (yum!)
  • Went to two night markets (full of Asian food and trinkets- the kind of place that makes you want to hold on to your wallet…but the kind of place with the best mango smoothie ever)
  • Went to the Largest Shopping Mall in New Zealand- which is roughly equivalent to a smallish shopping mall in the states.
  • Experienced unrefrigerated eggs, and solved that mystery: Eggs in the US are washed which strips them of their protective coating, making them more likely to absorb contaminants. Eggs almost everywhere else are not washed, which means the protective coating stays intact,and also gives farmers more incentive to keep their chicken’s environments clean, so that the eggs stay cleaner anyways.
mission bay, new zealand

Mission Bay: That little land mass in the distance is North Head, where all the tunnels were. If you want a beach in this country, you’ve got options.

So far, New Zealand and I are getting along excellently. Now that I’m here getting acquainted with things, it’s a lot easier to do my travel planning, so I’m working on my list of things to make happen before I leave. The exchange rate works in my favor, which is helpful, and once I get a bus card in my hand I’ll be unstoppable!

 

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