Kia Ora, Aotearoa!

Can I just start by saying that the past week, though short, may have been one of the best holidays ever.  I am so reluctant to be back here in the desert, but excited to relive the trip by sharing it with all of you!  I took tons of photos, so let's get started.

We flew to Auckland on an Emirates Airbus A-380.  That is one big airplane, but I have to admit it made for a very nice flight!  There seemed to be marginally more legroom in economy compared to other planes I've flown on, and it was incredibly smooth, despite some turbulence that I can't help but think would have been pretty rough in a smaller plane.  Overall I was pretty impressed.  We even got some great views of Dubai on our way out.

18.5 hours later (after a quick stop in Melbourne) we were greeted by a ginormous dwarf statue from The Lord of the Rings when we arrived in Middle Earth.  (Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that the Lord of the Rings series as well as The Hobbit movies were filmed in New Zealand.) 

In no time at all we had picked up our rental car for the week, programmed the night's motel into the GPS and were on our way.  

Driving on the left side of the road felt like being back in Japan, and I slipped right back into it with no problems...well, aside from mistaking the windshield wipers for the turing signal a few times!  Despite the drizzly rain and some pretty heavy Auckland rush hour traffic, we arrived at our destination in time for dinner.

We spent our first evening in a town called Whangaparaoa, just north of Auckland city on the coast of the Hauraki Bay.  The minute we checked into the Whangaparaoa Lodge we immediately wished we were staying for more than just a night.  Before we took too much time to check the place out, we decided to go grab dinner since we were both hungry and exhausted.  

We knew exactly what we wanted, and had kept our eyes peeled on the drive coming into town for a fish and chips shop.  I left the ordering to the pro (Bryn) while I took the pictures.

We also stopped in the local Countdown for some snacks.  Did you know they call Rice Krispies "Rice Bubbles" in New Zealand?!?  If I hadn't been so tired I probably would have taken pictures of lots of things to show you the differences.

By the time we got back to the motel, the rain had stopped, leaving us with a gorgeous sunset...the picture really doesn't do it justice.  We took advantage of the break in the weather to snap a few shots at the beach across the street.  

After we lost the light, we headed to the motel room where we turned on The Block, NZ (a home DIY competition we're now slightly addicted to) and dug into our dinner...

A big pile of greasy, deep fried goodness!  

After we had stuffed ourselves with as much fried fish, chips, sausages and curry rolls as we could (not to mention breaking into some of the snacks as well!) we climbed into bed and were both out for the count as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

Blame it on 24+ hours of no sleep and driving in a new city in the rain, but somehow we managed to sleep through the night!  We did wake up a bit on the early side, but after a nice coffee in bed we were ready to face the day, and a beautiful one it was (at least it started out that way)!  Before checking out of the motel we went back outside for a few more photos in the daylight, and it wasn't long until we were back on the Great Northern Road towards our next destination, but more on that next time.

We have already decided that our next trip to New Zealand will include several days back at the Whangaparaoa Lodge to explore the area some more. (We want that room in the front with the balcony on the second floor!)

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