Auckland, NZ

Bagels come in 4-packs instead of 6-packs. They call it a “rubbish bin” instead of a “garbage can”. Every electrical outlet has an on/off switch integrated into it, in addition to the plugs being a different shape. And obviously traffic drives on the wrong side of the road. But beyond that, cultural differences between the United States and New Zealand are surprisingly difficult to notice. The grocery stores have “Taylor Farms” bagged salads, Sensodyne toothpaste, and Doritos. One of the 15 channels in our AirBNB was showing live NFL games (on Monday morning here, but still!) And worst of all, we got to talking a bit of politics with our host, and he said that he had to end a friendship when that friend got too deep into Trump. “An American?” I assumed. “No, he’s a Kiwi.” WTF?! I understand that the rest of the world unfortunately needs to pay more attention to American politics than the reverse, but you really don’t need to pay so much attention that you let our idiocy tear apart your friendships!

For our first real taste of Auckland, we did a 5-mile walk from our AirBNB in Newmarket to the waterfront in the Central Business District, connecting a string of parks. We ate a picnic lunch (with wine, which is relatively inexpensive here) at Auckland Domain, discovered a jungle-overgrown tumbling-down-the-hillside early-Auckland cemetery that was dripping with atmosphere, took a tunnel out of a mall that opened onto Myers Park, and then climbed back up one of the many hills to cut through Albert Park, eventually ending at Aotea Square and then the waterfront where the ferries run to the harbor islands.

An eastern rosella parrot; not something you see just hanging out at a city park in the US! (though this species is an Australian import).
A wedding party getting photos taken in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. 39% of Auckland’s population is foreign-born, putting it near the highest in the world in that statistic.
Auckland War Memorial Museum.
The trees in the city parks here are monumental themselves.
Incredible flower display inside the Auckland Domain Winter Gardens.
Rett the Pollinator. That’s what happens you sniff too closely!
Rett and an ancient flowering vine.
We stumbled on the Symonds Street Cemetary without even looking for it.
We walked across the big bridge that was built over the gorge in which the cemetery was laid, and signs informed us that, rather than digging up graves to clear space for the construction, they carefully worked around them, sometimes butting a pier right up against a headstone.
Rett inside another insane city tree, in Myers Park.
Albert Park has giant spreading trees too.
Springtime in October!
Springtime in October!
Auckland Town Hall on Aotea Square.

We wanted to take the light rail back home, but it was out of service for the weekend, so we took the bus instead (requiring us to buy transit cards and load them with money, making us feel like true Aucklanders!)

Over the next three days we made multiple trips to the Countdown grocery store, which is oddly housed on the third level of a high-end mall. And fitting with the heavy-immigrant population of the area, got dinners at an Indian place and a ramen place. I needed to do some electrical work on my bike (the spade connectors that connect my dynamo hub to the lights/charger had essentially rusted apart), and Jaymarket turned out to be the perfect Radio Shack-type place to get the 6.3mm spade connectors, wire, and heat-shrink tube!

One time (but only one!) when I was riding back to the AirBNB, I turned down the side street and there was a car coming directly at me. “Oh shit, I’m not supposed to be on the right side of the road!” It was no problem, they just went around me American-style on my left (probably thinking I’m just one of those cyclists who goes wherever and doesn’t really follow the rules of the road), but it was a reminder of how conscious we still need to be during every turn. Just as we had heard from peoples’ warnings, it happened in a situation where I didn’t immediately see any other traffic to clue me into where I was supposed to go. We’ll get some more tests soon!


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