For our first two nights in Auckland, we stayed with a cool CouchSurfing couple named Jess & Fletch. They live in an area of town called Kohimarama, yet another Maori place name that I found hard to pronounce at first. On Saturday, our third day in town, we went for a drive in their 1964 Impala "Yank Tank," as Fletch called it. I've never seen a car with pillarless windows before. We had them down for part of the drive, but had to roll them up again when it got chilly.
We drove around the coast, passing St. Heliers, Mission Bay and Okahu on our way to town. Then we checked out some of the new construction surrounding the Viaduct area of downtown, where preparations for the Rugby World Cup are in full force. On a side note, the opening ceremony for the RWC is Friday, complete with fireworks and a huge street party expected to draw a crowd of thousands. After that, we crossed the Harbor Bridge into Takapuna for an ice cream. Why is ice cream so tempting on a cold day? We huddled around the car to shelter us from the chilly wind while we ate it, staring down the posse of sea gulls who surrounded us like thugs.
When I asked about a hill I saw, Fletch decided to take us there. We couldn't drive to the top, as it was closed for construction, so he took us to another hill called One Tree Hill. The eponymous tree was cut down by Maori activists, and the hill is now nicknamed (N)one Tree Hill.
The drive up to the hill winds through lush green hills dotted with sheep, and, as September 1st is the first day of Spring, many lambs.
The views from the top were stunning, but we only stayed a few minutes because it was very cold up there. Jess and I put our purses in the trunk, or "boot," or safekeeping, and apparently someone saw us because when we reached our next destination we discovered someone had tampered with the lock on the trunk trying to get in. We were shocked, especially because we were standing right above the car and we were only gone for a few minutes. Even though New Zealand feels like a safe country, "It only takes one ratbag." (I'm quoting Dianne, the nice woman who helped us open our bank accounts here.)
In other news, we have moved to our next hosts' house for a couple weeks, and we're settling in nicely. We found this host through a site called HelpX, which allows travelers to work in exchange for accommodation and food. We're working 4 hours a day, or 24 hours a week, on a small flat in the house: plastering, sanding, painting, tiling, etc.
Last but not least, Sam managed to acquire a station wagon for our road trip, which I can't wait to start planning! Hmm, what shall we name our new car?
More about this place later. I need to get to work!