Buh-bye Aussies, Hello Kiwis!
After 3 days in Brisbane we bid farewell to Australia and headed for Auckland, New Zealand. We lucked out on the flight and ended up with a row to ourselves, so Hannah got her own seat. She did well on the plane and the Chinese tourists across the aisle from us just loved her. As the plane approached the airport, I was treated to some amazing views of the west coast of NZ and some farmland as well. Let’s just say it was love at first sight! We made our way to the apartment we had rented and were quite entranced with the views from our teeny balcony. We had a low key afternoon and evening focusing on getting settled and getting Hannah some sleep.
Our second day was another low key day where we focused on orienting ourselves to the city, grabbing some groceries and buying C a new pair of shoes (his tennis shoes had quit on him). We even ran into fellow Texans in the grocery store…too bad they were Baylor fans! Our 2nd full day in Auckland we hopped on a ferry to Waiheke Island. It is a largish island in the Hauraki gulf, easily accessible by ferry and know for beautiful beaches, wineries and a “hippie” culture. We opted for a bus tour of the island to see the highlights. We were treated to gorgeous views over vineyards, looking back at Auckland across the gulf and a few beautiful beaches. After the tour we spent some time wandering the shops of one of the towns before stopping in for lunch at a restaurant. The wind was picking up and it was getting colder so we decided to catch the next ferry back to Auckland.
We followed up that day with a day at the Auckland Zoo. After missing our stop on the bus, we hiked a little ways and finally arrived, just in time for the elephant’s walk around the zoo. It was pretty cool to see this massive animal sauntering down the walkway. Hannah loved looking at the various animals like giraffes, zebras, chickens, ducks, monkeys and more. We tried to find the Kiwi bird but didn’t see any in their enclosure. It was a really nice zoo and pretty empty so we were able to enjoy it without huge crowds.
Our 4th day in Auckland was the day we planned to pick up our rental car and see some of the surrounding areas. Well, Hannah had a different idea and ended up taking a later and longer nap than planned. By the time we actually picked up the car it was mid afternoon. Nevertheless we decided to head to Piha Beach, a black sand beach west of Auckland. It was an interesting drive with very windy roads, steep drop-offs but beautiful scenery through mountains and farmlands. When we arrived it was a bit cloudy but nice. There were only a couple other groups of people so it felt very isolated. The beach was breathtakingly beautiful. Black sand, a huge rock (Lion rock) jutting out of the sea, waves crashing against the rocks and wind blowing through. After a little while the skies opened up and it started pouring on us! We tried our best to run back to the car, but running through sand while wearing a baby and tennis shoes isn’t exactly easy. Of course, by the time we made it to the parking lot the rain had stopped.
We decided it was time to leave anyhow, because we wanted to get back to the city before dark thanks to the windy roads. About 10 minutes into the drive, Hannah started fussing and quickly escalated to full meltdown. Despite C getting in the backseat to try and comfort her, she just continued to scream and cry. Thanks to the stress and distraction of that, the windy roads and impending rain, I missed a turnoff and got a bit lost. We pulled off in a town to get her out of the car and calm her down. We decided to put her in the carrier and get her to nap. We made several laps of this small town while she slept then loaded back into the car for the rest of the trip back. Of course, she still fussed but it wasn’t nearly as bad. We had a small fiasco trying to park the SUV into a teeny parking space at the apartment but finally made it back in one piece.
That night we decided to cut our time in Auckland short by one day in order to break up the drive to our next destination. Since Hannah had melted down in such dramatic fashion, we wanted to minimize driving long distances as much as possible. So the next day we packed up our things and headed for Lake Taupo.