I met Rob, an actor from New Zealand in Cusco on Christmas Day. He had just spent 8 weeks traveling Mexico and falling in love with it. We bonded, he invited me to New Zealand, and 3 months later he picked me up from Auckland airport.
It was a lot cheaper to fly from Buenos Aires to New Zealand and then fly from there to Vietnam (my next project country), instead of flying directly, so why not get a fun extra trip out of it?
New Zealand’s largest population are sheep, not people. I walked around with Rob the first day around his neighborhood, at a local park, and even visited two volcanoes. In total, I saw way more sheep and cows than I did people.
Day 2 ~
Rob’s parents took me out to lunch at a beautiful “Garden Restaurant”– a lunch place and a plant nursery rolled into one. Apparently, Auckland is full of places like these. If I’m ever presented with the chance, I will totally steal the idea.
Afterwards, we drove West to the coast that glittered with black sand.
Another day, another lunch with the parents. We stopped by a mall, but don’t be fooled, it was unlike any other mall I’d visited. A very different immigrant life thrived. Malaysian, Indian, Pacific Islanders, Maori, Chinese. The aroma of the food, the languages, the faces– it was incredibly vibrant.
For dinner Rob and I went Thai, where I conquered my fear of curry.
I woke up early and rode the train into the city with school children, and later a ferry with bicyclists. I landed in Waiheke and wet my feet as I walked along the beautiful beach.
Fish & Chips and passion fruit ice cream gave me the strength to walk uphill and see Auckland from above…and run into WWII lookout posts!
I accidentally sliced my foot with sharp oyster shells before boarding the ferry back, but it didn’t prevent me from admiring the well-dressed young people in downtown Auckland and finding it amusing that they cross the street to and from all corners at the same time.
Two of my favorite things: Chai lattes at cozy cafes and grocery shopping. Auckland breaks it down, from the “Fish store” to the “Fruit store,” Feijoa to Hokey Pokey ice cream.
Rob was surprised I had never been inside a cave before. Not sure if it’s as common as he made it sound but it should be because my trip to Nikau cave was one of the most amazing things that has happened to me. I’m talking top 5.
Nikau cave is a Glowworm cave. These are fly larvae with bright green-blue lights who adorn the caves with a sticky thread of the same color. Sounds gross but the experience is nothing but beautiful. The walls of the cave look like a cathedral thanks to thousand year-old stalactites and stalagmites. Add the glowworms, and you have a sky full of stars above you.
The tour was wet and muddy, and for 12 meters involved crawling in a very tight space with cold water up to my waist. At one point, we turned our flashlights off, held hands, and let the owner, Phillip guide us with only his expertise and the light of the glowworms. I will remember it for the rest of my life.
Click here for pictures of inside the cave on the Nikau website.
To close off the perfect day, I celebrated Rob’s uncle’s birthday like a true Kiwi: watching Rugby.
Before my evening flight, I visited the museum with Rob and learned about Maori people and their history. I also enjoyed the company of exotic plants before saying goodbye to Rob and his family.
~ ~ ~
Rob’s parents and close family friends, were beyond kind to me. They shared their home with me, showed me around their city, and fed me delicious home cooked meals. I boarded my flight feeling very lucky. Yes, the Watson has allowed me to visit places I never thought I would be able to visit, like New Zealand, but the best part is that it has let me be the recipient of so much kindness from strangers. I will do my hardest to pass it on from here on out.