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Day 1: Arriving in Auckland, New Zealand

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

November 3rd, 2022

Today, I arrived. Butterflies swarmed my stomach as islands began to peek through clouds. As the plane descended, more and more lush green appeared, then rows of homes and city buildings. We walked off the plane and into the airport, and I could feel the air rich with humidity. Making my way through customs, the butterflies waned as I focused my attention on doing everything correctly. All the airport staff were kind and helpful, which put me at ease. As I wandered toward ground transportation and out the door, a security officer asked if I needed help and I said “I’m okay, thanks.” My AirBnb host had messaged me to check in and see if I needed help getting to her house (40 minutes by car, an hour and 20 by transit) and offered some guidance.

A bit of panic starts to settle into my body as I try to figure out what to do. The airport Wifi is not strong enough to get apps downloaded for rideshare or public transit, and I can’t figure out where to buy a bus pass. I walk around a little trying to figure it out, then take a deep breath. The same security guard checks in on me again, and this time I tell him that yes, I do need help. He points me in the direction of the bus that I need. The place to buy a reloadable Hop card for Auckland transit is at the other terminal, another bus ride away. But my AirBnb host said that the buses accept cash or card, so I wait for it to arrive.

The bus pulls up and I let the other person at the stop go ahead of me, watching as he pulls out a card and taps it on a receiver on the bus. I ask the bus driver if he takes cash or card and he says, “No. You need a Hop card.” I feel my face flush a little. He asks if I am going to Puhinui train station and when I nod yes, he says “take a seat.” I smile behind my mask and thank him, then fumble a little with my luggage as I sit down in the first row. Asking for help is not my strong suit and doesn’t feel very good, but I release the negative sensation. I tell myself that it’s okay to not know how everything works, and it’s definitely okay to accept help when you’re alone in a foreign country.

Onwards. At the train station, I buy a Hop card and get onboard the train headed for the city center. I pull out a book and read for a little while, taking breaks from the pages to stare out of the large windows at this new landscape. About a half hour later, we arrived at Britomart Station. This time, I followed signs for the ferry and headed to the information desk. I told the agent where I was going, and she asked if I had a Hop card. I was surprised to find that that was all I needed. She pointed me to the nearby gate and told me which pier my ferry would leave from. I had heard people say that the public transportation in New Zealand isn’t great, but I was pretty impressed that I could use one card for bus, train, and ferry. Maybe other areas are not as easy, but Auckland seems simple to navigate so far.

After the ferry I take one last short bus ride to get within a couple blocks of the AirBnb. The front yard is bursting with life and my host is kind and welcoming. She shows me where to get tea and coffee anytime, and where she’ll serve breakfast in the morning (yes–it is actually a bed and breakfast!). My room has a large desk and a window overlooking palm trees and Oneoneroa (Shoal Bay).

At customs, we were given a COVID rapid test kit, and pulling it out I realized it has 4 tests. I thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and take one just to be safe. While the test processed, I layed on the floor with my legs up against the wall, trying to combat the swelling in my lower limbs from the long flight. The test was negative, so after a little bit of unpacking and considering the rest of my day (it’s only 11:30 am!) I take a shower and pack a small bag. Looking around on Google maps, I saw a market and an overlook nearby and I decided to start there. It was drizzling a little so I left with my rain jacket on, passing my host in the entryway. Her friend had just arrived with a cup of monarch caterpillars for the garden.

At the market, I found locally grown avocados and apples on sale. After buying them and putting them in my backpack, the cashier followed me out of the open doors for a couple steps, commenting on the weather. The drizzle stopped and the temperature felt cozy. I walked by several shops and restaurants with wide open doors letting out tempting scents of Indian curries and Turkish kabobs. I made my way to the overlook, passing by a school with sports practice occupying large fields. The sound of ocean waves grew louder. I walked through the grass and over to the fenceline to take in the sea crashing against the cliffside, and Rangitoto Island in the distance. The clouds are low enough to obscure its highest point.

Continuing on, I wandered through neighborhoods close to the coastline. The array of plants in bloom is spectacular. It’s hard to believe that I left autumn behind in Colorado, and now find myself in the height of spring. There are some familiar tropical species, but many flowers and trees I’ve never seen. Eventually I arrived at a beach that had a short staircase that started from the road and went all the way to the water. I wondered if it was high tide. A few other people are enjoying the beach on this cloudy day too, and one man even goes in for a swim. Maybe I’ll swim tomorrow when it’s sunny, I think to myself.

There is a bus stop with a nice view of the ocean where I waited and listened to a podcast. The bus took me to Devonport, where I wandered the wharf and watched people go about their days. I settled in one spot for a bit, setting my backpack aside to do a little bit of yoga in the park. Then I noticed a library across the way and decided to go in. The displays of books reminded me of a bookstore more than a library, and I appreciated the careful curation. Then I found an open seat near a large bay window, and sat down to journal for a while.

Soon I grew hungry, and walked up the main street to see what was open. I passed by a restaurant with a friendly dog playing outside, his owner sipping a beer on the patio and waving hello. I continued up the block, pausing to read a couple menus, but decided to return to where the dog was. At first I was the only customer inside, and I enjoyed the banter between the single staff member and the man outside. With the doors open, the dog wandered in and out, begging for someone to play fetch. After I placed my order I walked over and picked up his stick, then threw it out the door and to the sidewalk outside. A few other parties sat down and the place became more lively as I enjoyed my meal and continued writing a bit.

With dinner finished, I decided to head back to the AirBnb. I took the bus most of the way, and walked the last kilometer rather than wait for another bus. The sun came out and warmed my face, and I said hello to several passing walkers and people playing soccer in the park. Back in my room, the sleepiness set in. I organized my space a little more and caught up on messages from a couple of friends and family. I fought my tired mind and body and made myself stay awake until about 9pm, trying to set myself up for a good circadian rhythm from the start. This was a rare night when I did not need a podcast to help me fall asleep–once I was cozy in the sheets, I quickly fell into a deep sleep.

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