I waited next to the line of cars picking up and dropping off for nearly an hour, checking my phone for the time every few minutes. I had no service of course now that I was international, and no wifi signal seemed to be in the area for me to check the messenger app I used to contact my ride. Finally, I hauled my 49-pound duffel bag (just under the limit, thank goodness!) onto a trolley and wheeled it inside in search of a phone book, hoping to use a payphone to contact my ride. Maybe she had slept through her alarm, I thought, or perhaps the time difference and crossing the date line had skewed my dates for when I would arrive.
I wheeled my trolley to an airport information desk and began flipping through the Auckland white pages. Just as I reached the appropriate entry, I felt an arm slip around my shoulders. “Morgan! You made it!”
I whirled and found Hannah, my ride and Auckland local, beaming at me. It turned out that she had been there as long as I had, yet we had somehow missed each other as I walked out of the baggage claim and customs. I had looked through the crowd and paused inside for a short while to see if she was there, but I hadn’t seen her and instead walked straight outside. Turned out she had sent me a message several hours before telling me where to be and her phone contact information, but due to my lack of service I had never received it.
We drove for a short while. I had grown somewhat accustomed to the idea of driving on the left as I watched the line of cars dropping off and picking up passengers, but it was a completely different experience when actually in the vehicle. I learned that there is no ‘left on red’ in New Zealand (we have ‘right on red’ at home), and that New Zealand drivers are – there is no better term than this – completely crazy. Watching them drive felt like watching a Nascar race. They sped around blind turns as though the hills were invisible, and had no problem pulling into a miniscule break in traffic when there was a much safer break just a few moments away. Thankfully, Hannah wasn’t as reckless on the roads and we reached her house safely.
The moment we opened the door we were greeted by happy whimpers and soft ‘woofs’. My legs were buffeted by tails wagging at a hundred miles an hour. Their names were Bruno and Tonka, both males, and a black lab and golden retriever respectively. You can’t help but fall in love with their goofy grins and big brown eyes.
Hannah showed me my room and I dropped my things to the carpeted floor. I kicked off my shoes with a sigh of relief and went to join Hannah as she showed me the bathroom. Within a few moments however, to my surprise, I was nudged in the leg by something solid. I looked down to see Bruno with my shoe in his mouth, offering it up as a gesture of friendship. It was almost painful to make him drop the shoe (he was so happy!). However, the key word there is ‘almost’… I learned quite quickly to leave my things on high shelves or zipped up where Bruno couldn’t reach.
After a warm shower and a change of clothes, I joined Hannah and her husband Paul upstairs for a cup of coffee. Paul and I got along right away, and as Hannah showered I helped Paul reattach the door to ‘my’ room and clean his golf clubs of sulfur-rich soil. When Hannah reemerged, we discussed taking the ferry out to Rangitoto, but the skies were darkening in the windows behind us. The views would have been subpar, and so we decided instead to take the dogs to the beach.
It was a 45-minute drive along winding country roads, heading south from Auckland. We stopped within an ancient caldera. Peaked hills loomed over us, and a small river ran across the beach to the rough waves beyond. The sands themselves were a dark tan, with black sands scattered throughout. In all technicality it would be labeled a black sand beach, and that is indeed what Hannah and Paul called it. I do not remember the actual name of the beach, unfortunately… it began with a B. Breakers Beach, perhaps? I will have to look it up.
The dogs were in heaven. Paul threw the ball into the river and both dogs sprang to reach it before the other. Tonka was faster than Bruno on land, but seemed incapable of doing the ‘doggy paddle’. He preferred to leap through the water like a jumping dolphin, forcing his way through as quickly as he could. This technique beat out poor Bruno’s 8 times out of 10.
The area around the beach was gorgeous. Pyroclastic deposits dominated the cliff faces. Erosion took off ash and pulled blocks out of the walls and left lava flows poking out laterally. The river and waves had pulled material out of the cliffs, creating small caves that narrowed the further you went. The floors of these caves were covered in soft sand that coated your feet. The largest of the caves had fallen victim to bright red graffiti, but for the most part they looked pristine.
After a few minutes I reluctantly picked my way back across the river in my bare feet to where Hannah and Paul waited. The dogs bounded alongside me, thrilled to be in the water whenever possible. We meandered down the beach to where a large hill, eroded to bare rock and volcanics on all sides, stuck out of the beach sand. Hannah and I went to investigate while Paul entertained the dogs. Rain began to fall lightly on our heads, but we ignored it. The beach and the walls surrounding us were too cool.
Crossing the 'river'
We moved out from under the shadow of the looming hill and glanced around to the side, where waves beat the rocks into submission. Thankfully we were there at low tide, and we picked our careful way across the barnacles and mussels that lived there to the edge of a large rock. Paul and the dogs went up first, as he still had his shoes on. Almost the moment he reached the edge, a large wave rushed the rock, splashing foam and water all over him and the dogs. The dogs couldn't have cared less. Paul, however, was soaked.
Paul on the rocks
Hannah and I took the opportunity and snapped a few pictures before moving up to take his place. Paul snapped a picture of us as we were rushed by yet another wave. The combination of the wind, rain and waves nearly knocked us off the rock, but we stood our ground until Paul had the picture, then quickly scrambled back to the safety of the sand.
By this point, the rain and wind had picked up to a brutal level, stinging our faces and soaking us through. Thankfully I had remembered to bring an extra pair of jeans which sat, safely dry, in the car. Tonka and Bruno were starting to tire. Tonka kept trying to lie down with his tennis ball prize, but Paul urged him on. We made it back to the car, soaked to the skin and freezing cold, just in time for the rain to die down some.
The dogs leapt into the back of the car and, sitting on our rain jackets, we drove away from the beach. A brewery nearby was our next destination. It boasted of good beer and good food, and had heating lamps above the tables - a welcome addition for our wet selves.
We changed in the bathroom and sat down at the last available table in the restaurant. In a few minutes, we were joined by a few friends of Hannah and Paul. We shared an enjoyable lunch, followed by homemade gelato at a small stand nearby and a quick stop at a grocery store. We then turned back to the house.
The beer paddle
Hannah and Paul took a nap while I tried my best to stay awake and beat the jet lag. Around 5:30pm, they awoke and began getting ready for a party they were to attend that night. I found myself drifting. After they left, I took up their suggestion and sat in the hot tub for a little while, letting the jets massage the travel knots from my neck. Soon, however, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I rinsed off in the shower and drifted to bed, where I was joined by Tonka and Bruno. By 8:30pm, I was blissfully asleep. Tomorrow, I boarded the R/V Revelle.