Lonely Planet has proclaimed that Auckland is one of the ten best places in the world to visit in 2014. Although I concur with their choice, I would have moved Auckland to the number one spot. But then, Mike and I had something Lonely Planet didn’t– New Zealand’s best tour guides, Norman and Davina, which definitely influenced my rating.
It’s hard to believe that we spent only four days with these very gracious hosts, because we saw and did so much. It was all wonderful: breathtaking scenery, with beautiful beaches, but what made it extra special was the time we spent with their wonderful family, which gave us the opportunity to experience Kiwi culture and daily life.
This post is my way of saying thank you to Davina and Norman for a fantastic visit. I can’t capture ALL of the high points of our time together–there were just too many, so I’m limiting myself to 10 memories. Here they are, not in any particular order.
1. One Tree Hill
The Auckland area has more than 50 extinct volcanoes. This is a relatively young crater, a mere 500 years old.
2. The “Bach”
According to Wikipedia, the term originated from “bachelor pad”, but it has now come to mean a New Zealand summer home for family vacations. We stayed at our hosts’ family bach.
New Zealanders welcome drop ins, (or at least Davina, Norman and their friends do. I really shouldn’t generalize that ALL New Zealanders are like them, because they are rather special). Anyway, we got to see yet another bach, in Whitianga, right on the beach, when we popped in to visit their friends.
No only did we visit this lovely seaside resort, we also leaner how to pronounce its name. The Maori way sounds like this: Fong-ahh-mat-AHHH.
I’ve never used a public toilet that had piped in music and recorded instructions for locking the door, including a warning that you had best be done within 10 minutes. I thought it might be a New Zealand thing, but no–so far, it has only been a Whangamata experience.
4. Farmers’ Markets
Had I known that I could get a haircut by the side of the road, I wouldn’t have been in such a rush to get a trim before we left.
5. New Chums Beach
I don’t know if this is the most beautiful beach in New Zealand, because EVERY beach I’ve seen so far has been rather wonderful. I think we just TOLD ourselves that it was the most beautiful because we had to walk over rocks and through rain forest growth for about 30 minutes to get to it.
It DID have a rather nice swinging rope, though.
6. Saturday Night at “The Club”
In the USA, we don’t have anything quite like a New Zealand club. Take a casino, a restaurant, a pool hall, a sports bar, a cocktail lounge, a dance hall– mix it all together, but make it family friendly and voila, you’ve got yourself a New Zealand club. Best of all, members of one club can use any other club. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
7. Lost Spring Thermal Pools, Whitianga
No photos for this one. We sat in a natural hot spring surrounded by lush foliage and beautiful flowers. You’ll just have to take my word that it was quite glorious.
8. Waihi Picnic
We were only in Waihi a short time. Just long enough for us to have a great picnic lunch atop a hill, check out the gold mining operation, and for me to buy a Kiwi cap.
9. Karangahake Gorge
A bike path runs through this area. Biker chicks, take note!
10. Family, Friendship, Fun
Spending time with Norman and Davina’s family made our time before the start of our Road Scholar trip extra special.
I had a chance to see how “socialized medicine” works, when I accompanied Davina to Taylor’s visit to the dentist. The offices are located on school property, and there is no charge for the visit. Brig, clean offices, a short wait, at no cost. What’s not to like.
So what do you think…Auckland #1 spot?