|Arrived in Auckland a full day and 4 hours after we left the Cooks. Strange to "lose" a day of your life. We met a man in one of our hostels in Rarotonga, who, through a hacking smoker's cough, told us he likes crossing the international date line because then he can say that actually, "he didn't smoke for one full day." Nice try, buddy.
Everything about the airport and surroundings was simply, pleasant. Perhaps we are still hyper sensitive to things being clean, and to buses being cushioned and people not harrassing you upon arrival.
The backpacker's hotel was another story altogether. A couple girls at our hostel in Rarotonga recommended ACB to us, for its convenience and what it had to offer. Not knowing where else to go, we took there advice. unfortunately. It ended up being "our home" for three days, although everyday we packed up our bags in the morning, checked out, and hoped that would be the last day. But, we had numerous things to take care of in the city, which necessitated that we stay a bit longer.
The place was on old, 10 story office building. It had 500 beds total, or something ridiculous like that, a reception area that was clogged nearly 24 hours straight with young, hip travelers... seemingly in NZ for the adventure, thrill-seeking tourism thing, two bars, a travel center, internet floor, and a kitchen the size of a school cafeteria. It was simply unlike anything we were used to, and if we hadn't stayed one night, it would have been enough.
The first night we stayed in dorm beds, sharing a tiny cell of a room with another male and female. Mandy's earplugs did little to muffle the snoring of the man on the top bunk. A bad night's sleep- and reason enough to move to a private room for the next night.
Our main priority in Auckland was to find a used car from another backpacker, which is, apparently, the most cost effective and most popular method of transporation in this country. As there are hordes of backpacking travelers at all times in New Zealand, there is a huge used car market, and what happens is these cars are just bought back and forth between travelers. Of course, you have to take the necessary steps one would take in a normal car purchase, so, there was a bit of leg work and stress involved.
We found ourselves at the Backpacker's Car Market, which is an ingenious business, and one that works well for all involved. Sellers (other backpackers at the end of their trips) purchase a space in this big garage for $55 for three days. here they display their lovely piece of crap cars or campervans. The owner of this garage is an unbiased party, serving only to ease the buying and selling process. The attendants don't offer any info about the cars, or give any advice, persay. What they do do is offer transfer of ownership services, supply the mechanic to do the check on the vehicle, sell car insurance, and legal checks. So, you can walk out of the place with everything taken care of, at a very reasonable price.
Although we went in looking for a small car, we ended up with a small campervan. whoops. After doing some research, and figuring our length of time in NZ (over 2 months) we realized that it would save us loads on accomodation (since we could sleep in the back). We did nothing rash, and left the first day without handing over any money to anyone, just left with a clear head about what we were getting ourselves into. We negotiated a bit with a young couple who needed to sell their van by the end of the day, in order to catch their flight the next day. It was a buyer's market in that sense, as there were loads of sellers in the same predicament.
To make a long story a bit shorter for you all, (no one likes the used car buying process, do they?) we ended up with a great deal on a little white 1991 Ford campervan. (Really, a converted electricians truck, but we won't tell her). She came equipped with pots/pans/camp chairs/stove/double bed and bedding, and even tennis balls and rackets (?).
She had a mechanical check, and after a bit of TLC, she was good to go. She has done us well so far, after four days now, and is actually really comfortable to sleep in.
We are told, as well, that because of the time of year we will be re-selling the van, we should have no problem getting all of our money back. So, its a great system, really. Renting would be pricey, and even bus tickets would be extremely expensive, and of course wouldn't allow us the same freedom.
Auckland, therefore, was less of a tourist experience for us, and more of a base from which we were able to get ourselves prepared for the rest of New Zealand. We ate a lot of cheap Asian food (tons of Asian food in the city, to cater to the Asian student population), saw our first Bungee operation, marveled at the SkyTower, and spent as little time as we could at the ACB mega hostel.
The people here have been wonderful, and we both recognized quite quickly just how friendly everyone is. What the US is lacking, we think is a term equatable to the Kiwi "mate" or the Latin American "Amigo." No matter what the exchange, it is always followed by "mate."- "No problems, mate," or "Hey mate, what can I do for you?" There is little room for anger or hostility, and connects us humans in a much more pleasant way.
The Kiwi accent helps a bit too.