You might be looking at this blog entry and wondering, what’s up with this new premade layout, bro? Yeah, I’m not sure myself, other than the fact that I was getting sick of staring at the same layout for 4 years but feeling too lazy to go back to the drawing board and make a new one. There will be a day when I’ll give this blog the facelift it deserves, but that day is likely not today. To make up for it, here! Have a gratuitous photo of New Zealand!
One of the promises of moving to California two years ago was that of constantly being spoiled by gorgeous scenery, from the hills of San Francisco to the beaches of Santa Cruz to the redwoods to wine valleys to the proximity of great beauties like Yosemite and Tahoe. And as much as I miss the urban playground of New York, I do feel that Northern California has lived up to that promise.
Until now, because New Zealand has officially ruined and appropriately shat on every perception of natural beauty I once had that I can’t even look California in the eye without thinking of how I could have it so much better in the antipodes, like I did when I took a 10-day road trip in NZ with my family this Christmas and New Year’s.
In fact, New Zealand was a family trip two years in the making, and the idea made a bit of sense back then, when everybody in the fam was living in Asia. However, other plans happened and priorities shifted, and the idea of going to New Zealand never quite took off and was thus shelved on the backburner. My New Zealand guidebook, in fact, remains a testament to how long the trip had been in development, based on the amount of dust it had been collecting on my bookshelf. Maybe Amanda remembers the times I’d ping her with I THINK I’M GOING TO NZ THIS CHRISTMAS!!!! … back in 2012.
This holiday season, we vowed to actually put more than hot air under our words and make this trip happen. It would be a road trip, starting off first with the South Island and then driving around the North. And let me say that I — in general — have a dislike for road trips, despite all the romantic notions they tend to conjure up, such as those in On the Road or Crossroads (OKAY, I JOKE). Road trips make me antsy for reasons having to do with claustrophobia, carsickness, boredom, and being stuck with the same people for hours on end. Even when I did the classic California road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway back in ’07, cabin fever and migraines got the better of me (as did my memory card, which got totally reformatted along the way) during those long stretches of time cruising past scenic West Coast views. There have been, like, two road trips in my entire life that didn’t leave me feeling like I was doomed to an existence of recycled air and “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” ad nauseum, and those were an East Coast drive back in ’09 with my college friends and a cross-country safari in Kenya where I saw a lion rip apart an ostrich among other Lion-King-worthy highlights. But before you think all my New Zealand posts are going to be a huge whinefest about how I hate everybody else’s driving except for my own (actually, scratch that, I can’t even stand my own driving, so I guess this means I hate everybody’s driving.), I’m going to put it out there: New Zealand road trips blow all other road trips out of the water.
Simply put, this trip was so worth the two years’ delay and the perfect conclusion to a madcap 2013 that was filled with motion and sights and discovery. The one complaint I do have is that I have to get my jaw realigned, because it kept dropping and unhinging itself countless times as I stared agape at the scenery out my window. Glaciers, valleys, hot springs, mountains, forests, hills, geysers, fjords, lakes, caves — check, check, check. How is it possible for one country to contain so much natural beauty per square mile!!! I still don’t know the answer, but feel free to speculate and plot with me to bring some of that natural beauty to the rest of the world, because no country should ever be this stunning. This is the stuff that Windows desktop backgrounds, Instagram shots, and Facebook cover photos are made of.
So without further ado, I’ll probably spend the next few days (or weeks) talking about New Zealand in hopefully-chronological order, starting with December 23rd (Auckland) and culminating with our final day in Auckland on the 1st of January. Assuming I can curb my tendency to tl;dr, there will be one post per day spent in NZ, because let’s face it — summarizing the entire trip any more wouldn’t be doing it justice.
To start off, my brother and I had an extra day to spare in Auckland while our parents were flying in from Sydney, and Amanda being the awesome lady that she is, picked us up from our hotel to show us around her turf and we were off to Piha for the day!
Piha reminds me of Santa Cruz and Kauai a bit — the former for its hilly winding roads, abundance of surfers, and choppy waves, and the latter for its natural beauty and black sand. Either way, it makes for an absolutely beautiful backdrop for our first day. Coming from a hectic week at work wrapping up all my end-of-quarter stuff, I found a day on the beach to be the day of relaxation I never knew I needed. Most beaches I visit are plagued with people that it becomes less chill and more like a scene from Where’s Waldo?, but this one was just the right amount of quiet needed to unfuck my head from all the flying I had just done and all the stress left behind in California.
One caveat, though: Piha is hot as hell. Usually a beach being hot is about as surprising as water being wet, but New Zealand in the dead of summer plus the presence of black sand basically means that you better lather up on the sunscreen, lest you want to look like you pulled a Sylvia Plath in a wood fire oven. I had my SPF 60 to protect me from any burns, but either way, I think I might have burned off the soles of my feet while running across the black sand. They really weren’t kidding when they said that black absorbs heat the most; I might as well have been running across a cul-de-sac with hot coals on it.
After lazing about on the beach, we went to Mt. Eden, the crater formerly known as a volcano overlooking the whole of Auckland.
Look at that mother.
As fun as it would be to roll downhill in the crater (the thing resembles a giant salad bowl — if salad bowls were all made of grass) or go sledding in it during the winter time, you can only walk around the edge, but it’s worth it for the city views alone.
The day was rounded out by a nice dinner at Circus Circus, which made me chuckle because it shares a name with a Las Vegas hotel that I may or may not have stayed at a few birthdays ago and during a family trip way back when. Whoops. This Circus Circus, on the other hand, is a much classier establishment with good food to boot.
My salmon fillet
My brother’s lamb scotch fillet and the first of many, many lamb dishes we’d be eating on this trip
And with that, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel, where we went to bed at an absurdly early hour. I’d say we had slept so early because we were trying to squeeze in as much sleep as we could before we had to fly out to Christchurch and hit the road the next day, but let’s be real, it was all jetlag.