Hello from the future! We left New York on a Thursday, and arrived in Auckland on a Saturday. How trippy?!
After an incredibly smooth flight on Air New Zealand, we landed in the Auckland Airport. There are a few things you should know before your arrival:
- You can clear customs immigration via electronic scan if you’re from NZ, Australia, USA, or Canada. It is a similar process to that of JFK or other major airports.
- New Zealand asks you A LOT of questions in regards to declaration, and if you don’t declare your items, there’s an on spot $400 NZD charge. So what may you have to declare? Medicines, any outside food, nuts or plant-based materials, diving equipment, hiking boots, tents, etc. That’s what we had to declare. First, we had to get cleared at one desk to allow our medications to enter the country, and then we had to go to a different area to get our bags scanned and our tent checked by the biodiversity lab. 5FT Tip: They will also check your hiking boots, so be sure the soles have been recently cleaned! We were told to wait ten to fifteen minutes for them to examine our tent and deliver it back to us. Twenty minutes later, we were given back our bag, and it was returned like this: Seriously Auckland? I so loved having to lay out my whole tent to re-roll and re-pack it in a rushed environment. Everyone else in the same situation were less than pleased, and it became a joke as we saw one tent after the next be returned with no sense of respect whatsoever.
- You can get a SIM card in the airport. Spark and Vodafone are located right next to each other and offer the same deals. While I cannot speak as to which is more reliable in New Zealand, since I use T-Mobile’s fantastic Simple Choice plan, I can say that we chose to buy David a Spark SIM Card and he's had no issues with his service.
- If you’re renting with About New Zealand/APEX rentals, exit to the left and you will find a van waiting for you. Luckily, this was a very easy process, and we were at the APEX office within minutes. There was quite a bit of a wait once at the office though, as there were many groups waiting to be helped and only two customer representatives visible, despite there being something like eight to ten desks in the rather large office. At last, we received our car with no issues. If you enjoy music as much as we do, be sure to bring your own portable speaker, as our Ford Focus did not have a USB or AUX port, despite saying so. Thankfully, David thought ahead and had one on hand! 5 FT Tip: Remember, Kiwis drive on the “wrong” side of the road! Pay extra attention when pulling out of the parking lot, and enjoy your first “backwards” roundabout right away…
Be sure to leave yourselves with far more time than you’d think when arriving in Auckland. It took us two hours from when we landed to when we left to airport, excluding the whole rental car process. We were just thankful that we had scheduled a relaxed day and that it wasn’t cutting into our plans.
Running on very few hours of sleep, and following this frustrating process at the Auckland Airport, we had the keys to our car and were finally on our way! After a shaky start driving on the left hand side of the road, we managed to make it to our first stop of the day: One Tree Hill. One Tree Hill is an important memorial place for both the Maori and other Kiwis. The tree itself was attacked with a chainsaw by a Maori activist in 1994, and again in 1999. Sadly, it eventually had to be cut down, and now just a memorial to John Logan Campbell, one of Auckland's founding fathers, sits alone atop the hill.
For me, One Tree Hill is special because it’s a U2 song that I’ve known for virtually my whole life. Bono wrote the song in memory of Greg Carroll, a Maori man from New Zealand who became first a roadie for the band, then very good friend and assistant to Bono. Tragically, he was killed in Ireland in July of 1986 in a motorcycle accident while running an errand for Bono. The band members were devastated, especially Bono, and “One Tree Hill” reflects U2’s emotional reaction to his funeral, as well as the memory of being shown One Tree Hill by Greg Carroll two years prior. The lyrics describe the traditional Maori burial that Greg Carroll was given at One Tree Hill. Their hugely successful 1987 album “The Joshua Tree” was dedicated to him.
Despite the somberness of “One Tree Hill,” we so enjoyed sitting there, listening to the song, and soaking in the stunning views of Auckland from atop the 182 meter (597 foot) volcanic peak that is One Tree Hill.
**Special thanks to Air New Zealand for sponsoring our journey. As always, all opinions are my own. Photographs taken by David M Gallo Photography.