We almost missed our Auckland flight after going a little crazy with our last minute shopping back in Hong Kong, but thanks to the power of the world’s most efficient transport system, we made it just in time. Once onboard, I was absolutely enthralled by the BBC Planet Earth series about the Kalahari Desert they had on the in-flight entertainment. If you ever get the chance, watch it. The BBC has completely outdone itself in this mind-blowing documentary that injects humour into an otherwise harsh ecosystem. A funny behind-the-scenes clip for a taster:
Side note: I wish all airlines had BBC Earth on their in-flight entertainment! It reminds you of how amazing a world you’re flying over.
The plane landed just in time for a sunset stroll by the port. After that, we made a beeline for Aotea, which sells a huge variety of everything New Zealand.
Aotea very kindly sponsored the $1,000 shopping spree as part of the Air NZ competition prize, so we went crazy over manuka honey, skincare products, and merino clothing. I’ve gotta say, this merino stuff is AMAZING. The material is thin (read: not bulky) but kept us unbelievably warm and toasty throughout the trip. It’s no wonder the kiwis swear by merino wool. Look at our haul!
They’ve got outlets in several places throughout the country, so check them out for souvenirs if you come across the green and red logo!
Free/cheap wifi is hard to come by in NZ, whether you’re in a hostel, hotel, or public space. If you’re here for more than a week and don’t want to be cut off from the internet, buying a prepaid SIM/nano SIM card is a great option. We got ours at Vodafone for $30, which provides 500MB of mobile data, 50 mins of local calls, and 5,000 text messages. This was handy when we had to check weather forecasts, destination info, or make phone calls for last minute changes to our travel plans along the way.
Most cities and towns in NZ are a few hours’ drive apart. Many people opt to rent a car to travel around but this could be costly. A great alternative to driving is to buy a bus pass. That way, you can nap and rest as you travel between destinations and just wake up for the fun. We’ve tried a few tourist-oriented bus operators. But our favorite option by far is InterCity Coachlines, which is what the locals take to go between cities here in NZ (always follow the locals; they know what they’re doing). We got the InterCity Flexipasses [http://flexipass.intercity.co.nz/pricing], which don’t tie you down to a specific itinerary and you just go wherever you want and pay for the total amount of time you spend on their buses. A huge plus: InterCity bus drivers are really friendly and informative. In fact, the commentary and stories they provided about the places we passed were often more detailed than the tourist buses! We got a 20-hour Flexipass, which was more than enough to take us around 7 cities/towns during our 2 week trip here for $156 per person. For comparison, a fixed-itinerary travel pass for the same 2-week duration with a tourist bus operator (who shall remain unnamed) will cost just under $700. I kid you not.