North Island Holiday: Day 1 (March 31, 2012)

I love planning trips. Obviously, because I love traveling, but it’s always so exciting to have something to look forward to and think about and imagine where your next adventure will be. With the convenience and helpfulness of the Internet these days, it is very easy to become lost in research of planning and overwhelmed by the variety of options on where to stay and what to do, and good deals you can find as well. That’s how I felt when planning our “one year anniversary” trip. Stressed, overwhelmed at times, full of ideas and then just wanting to say, “Forget it! It’s easier to not go anywhere and just stay here!” I’m sure many can relate to this feeling, unless I’m just a stressed-out person who likes to have everything planned, but then again, not really because sometimes I would find myself just wanting to go and not think about it but figure out our plans when we got there. I think the majority of people and families get stressed out when planning their vacations. Except for hippies and backpackers, which I used to think that was me, but since coming here, I am not so sure if I fit into this free-spirited mindset as much I thought.

First of all, it was hard to believe that Josh and I were even thinking about the historical and monumental achievement of celebrating our one year wedding anniversary. It was quite exciting and we felt very proud and happy. You mean to tell me it’s here . . . already? We’ve been married a year??! Time has flown by. And, at the same time, it does seem like it has been a long year. A long first year of marriage. Haha. That is quite a feat, and we’d been told all along how the first year is the hardest, so we were quite happy to be approaching that hurdle. It was pretty tough, we ain’t gonna lie, haha, but Josh and I have grown so much closer and I think learned more about each other, in a faster amount of time even than we might have if we just continued on with our normal, routine lives in Tyler. I guess that might be an obvious observation and a no-brainer considering that it’s just been me and him, him and me, or grammatically correct, Josh and I, for the past four or five months. Every day. Together. Day in and day out. 24/7. Haha, just kidding, but really we have been pretty inseparable, which has been great, but of course, as every person knows and if we had been back home we might would have had more of that separate time apart that couples supposedly need, for “girl’s nights out” and “guy’s nights”. We have experienced a few of those times apart from each other with our new friends in New Zealand, but I assume it would have been a lot more by staying home and with our familiar circle of friends. With Josh gone at work all day, that’s our time apart also I guess, which is sometimes good, but sometimes I miss him a lot, and feel sad, especially on Sunday nights, that our fun is over together and he must go to work the next day. What am I going to do? I think to myself, biting my fingernails and twirling my hair. That could be because I’m not working, and have a lot of free time on my hands, but part of that is us being here in NZ, and originally wanting to have a lot of free time to do fun stuff together and travel around more frequently, which hasn’t been quite that way with Josh’s full-time job. However, as much as we inadvertently (or maybe intentionally) tend to annoy each other after awhile of being together all the time, and though a break can be good, I think I’d much rather have Josh around to mess with than be without him. I’ve learned a lot about him, and he knows me just as well as he knows the different hot sauces to put on his chicken wings at Wingstop. Most days. We’ve come a long way together; literally! Been through a lot of changes within our first few months of marriage, by moving to a foreign country far away from friends and family. It has had its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. I am very thankful to God for this adventure he has sent us on, and I feel that we have been very lucky to do this, and to grow closer to each other. I love him!

Anyways, so our plans and ideas changed from day to day of where we were going to go to celebrate our one year anniversary. It would have been cool enough to stay put in our flat in Wellington, because being here is basically a gift and wonder in and of itself! Most plans change, and we aim high first, and maybe others can relate to this as well. It went from:
“Baby, let’s go to Fiji!!!! And get a beach bungalow with rose petals on our bed, chocolates, and breakfast served to us in bed. Or . . . yeah, maybe we could even do that thing where you rent your own island!”
The next day, we’d say:
Notice the enthusiasm is no longer there. And then it went to saying it like:
Nope, sorry, couldn’t afford that luxurious, tropical island paradise, not yet. Then we lowered our expectations a bit and became more realistic, and said, “AUSTRALIA!” We became excited with this new idea, and even found an outdoor symphony concert they would be having outside the Sydney Opera House overlooking the harbor, complete with fireworks. That sounded awesome, and so romantic. Why not go there, either? We wouldn’t mind seeing Australia since we were currently so close, closer than we probably ever will be to the land down under.

Well, and then, at last, we realized . . . “New Zealand!” Woo hoo! Haha, that made the most sense, and we were relieved when we finally had it narrowed down, and realistically. We were here in NZ to explore THIS country, and it was time to do that now. Then we had to decide between the North and the South Island. Oh decisions, decisions; they can really drive you mad! Since we were planning our trip for April, we knew and researched that it would still be fairly warm up North, and I was desperately wanting us to finally be able to swim in the ocean together in this country, so we decided we would take a nice little tour of the North Island. Destination: Auckland, Northland, the Bay of Islands, and the Coromandel Peninsula. Once that was confirmed, I spent the next days typing my little fingers off and wearing out the computer looking for places to stay and things to do. The options were endless! TripAdvisor I love and I’d spend hours reading reviews and looking up vacation homes, hotels and Bed & Breakfasts. I wrote lists in my notebooks, confusing myself and filling my head all the more with choices.

Waiting for and planning our trip kept us excited for the next few weeks. It’s always great to have something to look forward to and we couldn’t wait to explore more of this country we were living in. I would like to be able to just sum up our trip in a paragraph, but if you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know me pretty well by now and know that is impossible for me. My family and friends have always laughed at me saying how long it takes me to tell stories sometimes, because I tell every single descriptive detail; I can’t just sum things up. I don’t like when people interrupt my stories with questions to get to the point or would make me have to go out of order with my story . . . it must be told in chronological order! That’s why I like this blog because I have the freedom to write however long I want to, no school assignment with a word count or page number limit. And I also want to remember all of this, and for you as the reader to hopefully feel like you are with me.

It’s funny because growing up, whenever our family would go on vacations, the night before my parents announced our departure time for the following morning. Without fail, we never made it. They’d always say, “We are leaving early this time!” That we would leave at like 6:00 or 7:00, but it was usually noon before we finally saw the tall buildings of Midland in our rearview mirror and drove into the discouraging endless horizon. In West Texas, the dry, barren flatlands, you had to drive days to go anywhere cool or pretty.
Well, this time I told Josh, with me being the wife now and telling my husband with whom I was celebrating our first year of marriage together (sometimes I just have to keep telling myself that to really take all of it in still) that we were leaving early because we just want to get to Auckland, no diddle-daddling. I said we are leaving at 8, the latest at 9:00 a.m. We woke up at 9:00. I had become my mother, and we were now waiting on me. Josh was slow getting around too, though, but we eventually got everything together and left around 11:00. I have really liked having Josh around, especially when I go to the store and the times we’ve gone on trips together; he is so handy! He helps carry the groceries and he loads all our bags and suitcases in the car, so I don’t have to lift a finger! That used to always take me forever and was my greatest grievance, like when I’d come home from college for the weekend . . . loading and unloading my car. My dad always did help me, though, do that whenever I would come home.

We were excited now! Here we were, on a road trip together again, in New Zealand, celebrating our anniversary, and about to drive down roads we had yet to tread. Driving in New Zealand sure ain’t like driving in Texas. There was no way I’d be sleeping. Too much beauty to behold, and changing landscapes within a few minutes. We drove north up State Highway 1, down a familiar road as we had been already been to the Kapiti Coast area before with Carl, Adeline and Abbekah one day a few months ago where we had gone to a famous ice cream and candy store and a chocolate factory. We had also been on that route before when going to Camp Kilsby in Palmerston North at a church camp back in January. When we had passed that turnoff and continued on the road we both exclaimed in excitement that we were finally on a road we hadn’t been on yet. That is one of the most exciting things ever, I think; a new road and a place you’ve never been before to discover and explore.

The max speed limit anywhere in NZ is 100 km/h, which is 60 mph. I guess this is one of the reasons any time we’d ever gone driving, especially on the South Island when we first arrived, that it took much longer than you thought it would to get to your destination. Plus, the roads are windy and curvy nearly everywhere and you have to slow down a lot through all the mountain ranges. We got held up in Ohakea, where there was an airshow and everyone and their pet rabbit obviously wanted to see the action, so we were stuck in non-moving traffic for nearly an hour.

Josh and I groaned and laughed at ourselves at what we had to resort to in order to save money and what we had vowed to each other we would never do: eat sandwiches. Eat sandwiches while you are on the road and traveling on vacation. We told stories of how we always loathed when our moms made sandwiches and put them in the ice chest along with bags of chips and bottled water, and the whole family would get out of the car at a Rest Stop and pause our trip to sit at a picnic table and eat a boring sandwich. We said how both our parents used to say, “Gotta save time and money!” as sometimes we wouldn’t even stop! We just ate in the car in order to get to our destination quicker. I don’t know which was worse, stopping and eating at a picnic table and feeling like we were the Griswolds in Family Vacation, or just having to stare out the window as you chewed on the dry bread. Josh said how he used to beg his parents to let them just stop at a restaurant and sit down and eat, or even go to a drive-thru. I know I can probably count on one hand the times we ever did that either.

I thought Josh and I would possibly have to succumb and dishonor our vow to each other and eat sandwiches in the car maybe one day when we had kids crying in the backseat and beating each other up. I couldn’t believe we were already doing this now! Here we were, grabbing our bread, lunchmeat, mustard and chips out of the Chilly Bin in the backseat, and eating our tasteless sandwiches in the car. We made a big deal about it to each other, and laughed and exaggerated about how horrible this was. I bit into the sandwich and acted like I was gagging and made a scrunched up, disgusted face. We had quite fun actually, our windows rolled down just sitting there laughing together and watching the fighter planes dance and dive through the air leaving behind colorful trails of smoke, and feeling the warm sun on my neck and face as we waited for the traffic to move.


At last we passed through the air show traffic, and continued on our way to Auckland. Before leaving, we had stopped by Jeanette and Antony’s house, who let us borrow their tent and gave us directions. We already had planned that we would be camping a few nights at a holiday park when we went to the Coromandel Peninsula, in order to save money and to “rough it” a little bit. I’d been wanting to camp for a long time, and we had yet to do that together.

Once we passed through Wanganui, which I thought was pretty with the river and cabins along the bank, we arrived to an area that really took my breath away and made me feel like a giddy schoolgirl passing a love note to her crush. That’s what God’s landscapes can do to me. He is quite the artist! We spent the next moments admiring what we imagined and love about the natural beauty of New Zealand as we passed through the mountain ranges known as the Parapara’s. Jeanette had told me I would love driving through these ranges, and boy, was she right! I thought we had stepped into the Shire, and we were both just amazed and happy and excited. We stopped several times along the road to take pictures and videos of the green rolling hills. The lighting was so perfect; just a few clouds and when the sun shined through them, the emerald color reminded of the rich green hills in Ireland. The grazing sheep completed the idyllic scene, and the shadows created by the sun shining on the hills made for a photographer’s dream.




There was so much beauty to behold on our journey. I just stared out the window the entire time, not wanting to miss a thing. We were starting to get tired of being in the car, though, once the sun went down and we hadn’t made it to Auckland yet. It’s an 8-hour drive normally, but with the traffic jam it had set us behind an hour. We were so eager to get to Auckland and stay in our hotel, and I know Josh was super tired from driving all day. It’s a lot different than a long stretch of straight highway in Texas where you can put your car in cruise control the whole time; you definitely cannot do that here.

Finally, around 8:00 p.m., we saw the bright city lights of Auckland, New Zealand. I’ve seen pictures of it before, and we had flown into Auckland, but didn’t get to see the city, so we felt quite privileged to be approaching our first destination. We were ecstatic when we faintly saw the glowing Sky Tower and realized how tall it really was, looming what seemed like miles above the other tall buildings. The roads were wider and more lanes and it felt familiar, almost like we were in Dallas or Houston. I don’t know why, but we didn’t print off a map to our hotel or even look up directions to where our hotel was, which was pretty dumb. We drove downtown aimlessly, just knowing the address and the street name, but no idea where, just that it was downtown. We felt alive and happy to see all the people out and about at night walking the streets; it was a hip happenin’ joint. I was like, “Woaahhhh!” when we passed underneath the Sky Tower; it was ginormous! Josh finally stopped at a gas station and asked a man in a nice business suit and a fancy car where the street was, and he was kind enough to give us directions. We knew it; the only road we had seen that we had passed along the way and wondered about that didn’t have a street name on it, haha.

I am always ready to stay in hotels, I just think they are fun and it’s someplace new to lay your head; and usually a heavenly mattress and pillows. I had been researching where to stay and we had booked our nights for Auckland and another place for the Bay of Islands later in the week. The plan was to stay in the Copthorne Hotel downtown our first two nights, and then there was actually another Copthorne Hotel Harbour City on the waterfront, which was for our third and final night there. We had a pretty good experience with this hotel chain as we had stayed in one our first night in New Zealand, in Wellington. So, we finally found the hotel, which looked so pretty and had rod-iron balconies. I have usually stayed in the car when Josh goes to check us in places, but this time I wanted to go inside. I was so anxious to get inside and see this place. I walked in and it wasn’t too fancy or anything, but it was still quite nice. The reviews on Trip Advisor had all been pretty good for this place, and like it was kept up well and modern. We got to the front desk and the reservationist said there had been a problem. Maybe that’s why you don’t book through a third party that promises you cheaper rates; guess it causes problems. He was very nice about it, and explained that they had overbooked, and so someone else was staying in the room that we were supposed to be in. That was disappointing. He said what they could do for us, and Josh and I were just like, “yeah, okay that sounds great!” when he said they would send us over to their sister hotel, the Kingsgate. He made it sound like a better deal when he said they had upgraded us to a suite and that we would get a complimentary breakfast and free parking (not very common in the big city). We should have known right there, and I did think to myself, well I wonder what the other place looks like if they are upgrading us to a suite, meaning it probably wouldn’t be as good as this one. But I just hoped for the best and was still excited to see where our new hotel would be. We got in the car and were saying “Wow, we’re gonna be in a suite! Awesome, I bet it will have a big spa bath, too!”

Well, we finally found our new hotel, and pulling up to it, I was just like, “Oh no…”, you already got the feeling this was some kind of joke. It was definitely no Hilton, and then when we walked inside it was even worse. The carpet looked old and stained and it had an odd, funny smell. My mood had instantly changed, “I knew this was gonna happen, something like this” I said. But I was hoping somehow our room would still be nice. We walked into our room, and it was like stepping back in time and that they hadn’t changed the décor since the 70’s. I did not like it and was not happy. It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal, I guess, any other time we would have been thankful for it, but we were both disappointed with what we had been expecting and what we should have had, which was a night and day difference when comparing the two hotels…the other was modern and renovated, this was like a motel from a horror film. And we were on a trip to celebrate our anniversary, we wanted a place romantic, and that felt like home and was clean, but I just felt like “Ewww”, with stains on the carpet and fabric couches that look like they came from a nursing home. One of those places where you just don’t want to touch anything because you get the feeling it’s not clean. Oh yeah, and it was a suite after all because it had two rooms, the bedroom and living area and a kitchen. I shudder to think what the normal rooms looked like. Man, that place is in need of a renovation, or just tear it down. I would like to say I put on a smiley face and was a happy camper, I guess we were tired too, and I hate when you have high expectations and you are let down, so I griped about it for quite a while when we first got there to Josh. It wasn’t his fault of course, and he just let me vent and he felt the same way, too, and wanted this trip to be just perfect for us celebrating our anniversary. It was kind of back and forth, I guess, because then I’d try and have a better attitude about it after I felt bad for making him feel bad, haha, and said it would be okay. The Kingsgate was away from the city, so we weren’t in that feeling of the connect that we like so much. Josh called the reservations guy at the Copthorne and tactfully told him the problem we had with this place and if we could get our room back at the Copthorne for the following night, instead of a second in this place. It was several calls made between the two hotels, and the guy told Josh that he was sorry but he couldn’t do that since we had already went ahead and booked this hotel for our second night due to the overbooking. That made me so mad, and I was just ranting in the background when he was on the phone; it was a good thing I wasn’t on there, because I wouldn’t have been as nice as Josh was. Or maybe I should have, and then we would have gotten our way and stayed in the Copthorne the second night, in a suite with a spa bath J Josh really did try though, and one can see how that can happen sometimes; an honest mistake and especially with all the different booking sites. He made sure the guy would talk to his manager, though, and call us back to see if an arrangement could be made, so that was good. Eventually, we got over it, and knew we would just have to make the best of it. Josh is really great for me, and tries to get me back in a positive mood so we can both be happy. We’d had a long day, and it was time to rest our weary bodies. Oh yeah, after a late night room service snack; that will do the trick to cheer anybody up! I had a chocolate cake that was heavenly!

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