day forty-three: november 11, 2015: auckland + sky tower

The airport shuttle picked us up at about nine and we were pleasantly surprised to see another set of friends from the Milford Track on the bus. It was so nice to see them and say our proper goodbyes before they headed to Nelson to do another multi-day hike, troopers! We're looking forward to visiting them in Tasmania one day. As we took off we waved bye bye to the Remarkables in the distance.

We arrived in Auckland at about 2pm and went searching for food in the nearby neighborhood. We stumbled along this cute alley, lined with different eateries and outdoor seating. So happy we found this place or else we would have ended up at some fast-food burger joint. 

We walked into the downtown area for dinner then made our way to the Sky Tower for sunset. It felt so strange to be back in a city, with so many cars and so many people. Jonathan and I got really used to the laid-back atmosphere of the South Island, with little to no people around.

**Side story: Couple years ago, I was in Sydney, Australia, for work and my co-worker and I took a taxi to Bondi Beach for lunch. We hit pretty crazy traffic and it felt like we weren't moving at all. I looked out the window and saw a girl walking down the street that looked like a friend of a friend, named Andrea. I thought to myself,"There's no way that's Andrea.". Then, I quickly remembered that she moved to Australia recently so I called out her name and it was her! We ended up spending the whole day with her and she showed us around Bondi, had lunch at a fish and chips spot, and took us to the Sculptures by the Sea exhibit. We couldn't believe that we ran into each other on the other side of the world. 

We didn't have anything planned for Auckland so I posted on Facebook asking for some suggestions. Andrea was one of the first to respond and said that she would be in Auckland for work!

We were sitting outside the hotel when a familiar face approached us and was like, "Jonathan, right?". Darren and his wife, Millie, are friends with Jonathan's old roommate from LA....and happened to be staying at the hotel attached to the Sky Tower. What are the chances? They have been traveling for two weeks and it was their last night in Auckland. Then, we were taking photos to send back to their friend, when another guy came up and was like, "Hey, you're Jonathan, right. I'm friends with your cousin in SF." Soooo crazy! Preston went to school with Jonathan's cousin and we actually met him a year ago at her birthday party. He was traveling with his cousin and it was their last night too! 

Such a fun surprise to run into people we didn't expect to!

day forty-four: november 12, 2015: auckland war memorial museum

We didn't have anything planned while we were in Auckland, so we tagged along with Darren and Millie to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The museum consists of a war memorial recognizing the fallen New Zealand soldiers of the 20th century and exhibits of New Zealand's history and natural history.

Walking between two of the exhibits was the view of the globe from a Kiwi's perspective.

Before humans arrived in New Zealand, no mammals lived on the islands. Because of this, there were birds that took their places in the food chain. The largest of those birds (now extinct) was the Moa. Below you can see the varying sizes of the different species of Moa. The largest was the largest known bird to live. Unfortunately, the Maori later hunted it to extinction.

While some of the bird life on the island has vanished after the introduction of small mammals to the island, some are still scraping by on the endangered list. Below is a Kiwi which is on that list.

The Maori history and artifacts on display were pretty incredible. In the middle of the museum was a traditional Maori community hall that was being restored. Every column of the hall is a different figure that represents an important family member or an ancestor that passed. There was also great history on the Polynesian people exploring and moving from island to island as far east as Hawaii and as far south as New Zealand. They did this all very deliberately with boats that could hold everything they needed to survive and build new homes at the next set of islands.

On display was an original war canoe or a waka. The state this boat was in was very impressive given its age. It was also HUGE and all the carvings were very intricate. All in all, the Maori artifacts in this museum were definitely worth the visit.

After the museum, we wandered back to the downtown area for a snack then made our way to the harbour area.

We joined Darren and Millie for dinner at The Depot, before they headed out to their flight back to LA. If you're in Auckland, you have to try this place! We got a bunch of shared plates and were impressed with plate after plate. We ate bone marrow, fried snapper wings, squid ink pasta, and king belly. YUM!

After dinner, we headed back up to the top of Sky City and watched our last sunset in New Zealand, for now anyways! We will definitely be back!