Arrived in New Zealand at 4:40 am local time after a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles. I was not able to sleep on the flight but Shaleah got a couple of hours. Instead of sleeping I caught up on my movie viewing. On the flight I saw 300 (homoerotic with lots of shouting), Sunshine (philosophical with lots of shouting), Zodiac (fictional account of real events, no shouting), and Blades of Glory (ironically, not as homoerotic as 300).
After we deplaned it took us 2 hours to get through customs. They almost didn't give us visas because we had no return tickets. I really think that being white physicians from the U.S. saved our bacon here. They trusted us not to stay in New Zealand illegally after our visas expired. If we were from a poorer country I don't think they would have let us slide.
After we got through immigration we had to clear customs. The customs agents insisted that we clean all of the U.S. dirt from our bicycles. They then cleaned them with viruscide. I'm not really sure what virus can survive a 12 hour flight over the Pacific but that's probably why I'm not in charge of customs in New Zealand. This was a bit of an ordeal but eventually completed. We then met our Bedmobils representative at the Auckland airport and drove to get our camper van.
This is the part when Shaleah started to freak out. It was about 40 degrees fahrenheit, we could see our breath outside, we really had no plan for the rest of our month long trip, we forgot our bikelock, worst of all we had to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road, and we'd spent nearly $4000 to get there. Okay, I was a little freaked out as well. But, we were in New Zealand so to calm ourselves we drove down to a beautiful nearby beach and made our plan.
We ended up driving around North Auckland for hours trying to find a bike lock, which was exasperating but proved to be excellent driving practice. We finally gave up and headed north to Waiwera where we camped for the night with a beautiful beachside view. I was horribly jetlagged so I fell asleep at 7 pm with hopes of less anxious days ahead.
We awoke with the sun at 7 am and I shot some sunrise pictures. I spent the first few hours of the morning reading our Lonely Planet New Zealand guide and looking at our atlas. I guessed we might actually need some planning now that we were here. One thing that is great about New Zealand is the small land mass makes the "destination" density incredibly high. If you drive 10 km from where you are you'll see about five "point of interest" signs on the road there. For a boy from Nebraska it's quite impressive.
After we (mostly) assembled our bikes we visited the Waiwera Natural Hot Springs Spa. The 38 degree celsius water felt great after our cold morning but just like a hot tub it got too oppressive after a while. We retired to the cafe where we listened to the other visitors speak Italian and Japanese and I mourned my own monolinguisity. Following the cafe Shaleah got a massage at the spa while I relaxed. Then we loaded up the van (her name is Joy) and drove 40 km to Leigh and visited the Goat Island Marine Reserve. We were able to see lots of colorful fish swimming around the rocks near the shore. It doesn't take much effort to enjoy yourself here because you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a great view or interesting activity. We finished the day by eating carrot cake at a local cafe and planning Day 3.
We traveled to the Mangawhai cliff trail for a nice hike. Then we ate lunch on the cliffs and drove to Whangarhei where Shaleah took a nap and I posted this.