Leg 1: June 21 - June 23

In which Andre and Sarah discover the truth about Auckland, eat kebab sandwiches, and spot their first rainbow (of many).

Here's the view out of our room at our first backpackers. (The New Zealand word for "hostel" is "backpackers," the first of many seemingly unnecessary pluralizations that we would encounter.) Of note is the general degree of wetness that has accumulated on this window, setting another precedent for the trip.

Kiwis are nuts for Asian foods, and this steep block of Queen St. in Auckland seems to have a representative from every Asian country. It's tough to see how steep it is, but if you look at the staggered levels of the shop fronts you can see that, indeed, this block is very steep! (Also, look at how much that dude is sweating walking up the street!)

An irresistible (yet poignant!) juxtaposition of old and new. Read into it what you will...

New Zealand euphemism. (Everything's better in New Zealand!)

So... Auckland (the self-proclaimed "City of Sails") constantly reminds visiting Americans of its multiple America's Cup victories by putting boats and stuff all over the city. Here, Andre appears overwhelmed next to the gigantic keel (21 ft. draft!!) of NZ1, the first Kiwi (unsuccessful) challenger for the cup. We had the last laugh, however, as New Zealand failed to recapture the cup from Switzerland while we were there (I don't think Switzerland even has any oceans!).

Three levels of people as Andre snaps a shot of a person jumping off of the Sky Tower while a plane flies overhead.

Apparently, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand... We had no idea...

Despite their bizarre Tolkienesque pizza menu, this place made some pretty tasty kebab sandwiches. (For some reason they pronounce the "bab" part of "kebab" like the sound a sheep makes. Maybe because Andre's sandwich, in the foreground, is filled with tasty sheep meat.)

Sarah is not sure what a "Smasha Smurf" is, but she was soon to find out.

Backlit houses on our epic march to Ponsonby St. in hopes of finding delicious food. Despite the growing darkness, however, no restaurants were open yet and we went hungry until we found a little Hare Krishna restaurant with cheap eats.

Noisy the Seagull.

Alright, I have to get this off my chest. If I never see another fucking rainbow in my life it'll be too soon. New Zealand is just infested with them. Here's a double one over Auckland. Yuck.

Auckland, despite being a nice, clean city, was kind of a drag (it just wasn't very different from any other world city). The best part of our time there was taking a little ferry out to a volcano in the harbor: Rangitoto Island. Andre was delighted by the unique vegetation!

As you can see, Rangitoto Island was far from immune from the persistent precipitation that plagues New Zealand. Fortunately (despite the many warnings of his stinky-footed father), Andre was well equipped with waterproof boots. Sarah's boots were waterproof-ish too, at least for this part of the trip. (Not pictured: Andre's hip kilt fashioned from a plastic garbage bag and Sarah's accompanying shame.)

Cool tunnel made by the lava flows on Rangitoto Island...

...and looking up through a hole in said tunnel.

Triple-treed view looking South from the summit of the volcano.

We got back to the ferry dock early, so we decided to explore this coastal walkway. Here, Sarah chooses not to wait as Andre dilly-dallies with his camera.

Andre was here too. But he didn't bring a Sharpie with him.

Field of lava rocks with Auckland ("Auck! Auck!") in the background.

Aesthetically pleasing path amongst said lava rocks.

Straying from the path, we found a neat little lagoon, where the sky was this weird blue color (a dramatic departure from the grey to which we had quickly grown accustomed). We thought that it might be flooded since the trees were partially submerged, but an informative plaque informed us that these "crazy" mangrove trees actually grow out of the mud and rocks underwater. Now, I've seen it all!

These fantail birds come right up to you and do their weird tail dance. It's mildly lewd, but minimally offensive.

Leg 2: June 23 - June 25

In which Sarah and Andre discover the aesthetic joy of coach bus textiles.

Two cocky birds that were after our PB&J at the appropriately-named Bay of Islands. (There were more than just the one pictured. I promise.)

One of the supreme delights of the inter-city bus system was the wealth of whimsical textile patterns adorning the seats, floors, ceilings, and any other surface they could stick cloth to. (Mixed media. Auckland to Kaitaia bus. 23 June, 2007.)

Our next, totally bitchin', backpackers in Ahipara. Though you can't tell from this picture, the hostel was right on the water at the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach. We were in the room at the top left.

We also saw a mailbox made out of an old outboard motor. Hearty New Zealanders seem to have persevered through a potentially crippling mailbox drought.

Andre's first encounter with one of New Zealand's epic left-hand point breaks. You can barely see one guy riding in the center of the picture. Not pictured (and unbeknownst to us until Leon brought us down to check out the waves) are several more points lined up behind this one, all of which can connect on a big swell for a ludicrous ten-minute ride. There's also a cool rock shelf at the bottom of the cliff that braver drivers can take their 4WDs out on to ferry their surfing friends back out to any of several lineups (it's too damn far to walk and Andre has a couple scars on his unbootied feet to prove it!).

Some tasty looking grass above the beach at Ahipara.

A growth on top of a lichen-covered fence post.

This is a serious shark.

Andre and Sarah, clearly impressed with the lovely fabric decorating this bus. (Mixed media. Kaitaia to Auckland bus. 25 June, 2007.)

Bus fabric no. 3. (Mixed media. Auckland to Hamilton bus. 25 June, 2007.)

Leg 3: June 26 - June 28

In which Andre gets in over his head (so to speak).

Raglan. Holy shit.

Like the point at Ahipara, the left at Raglan on a good day (such as this) is unfathomably long. These pictures are all from Manu bay, the last of three large sections of the point at Raglan. Word on the street was that Raglan is the longest left in the southern hemisphere. As shown above, the lines stretch for miles across the bay and peel flawlessly right around the boulder-covered points.

Andre couldn't resist this world-class wave and rented a board. Despite a couple of epic rides, he spent most of his time watching from just outside the line-up as wave after wave each had a surfer tucked deep inside a perfect, stand-up barrel. It bears repeating: holy shit.

Andre contemplates his entrance strategy from within the safety of the Nissan March.

Good advice!

The surf dropped significantly later the next day. Boy, you guy's really missed it! Should'a been here yesterday!

A hush fell over the darkening jungle. Somewhere in the distance, a twig snapped. The trees looked familiar. Although they looked spindly, Sarah and Andre both knew they were capable of supporting the full weight of a grown gorilla. Another snap... this one closer. Then it dawned on them. This was definitely Donkey Kong country.

As the bottle is quick to point out, L & P (Lemon and Paeroa, whatever that is) is world famous in New Zealand. And for good reason! Here, Andre squeezes out the last few drops from his lunch-time ration.

There was a great little hike up the mountain behind the backpackers in Raglan through a cold wet jungle filled with kauri trees and silverferns (the revered official plant of NZ, which Andre and Sarah blasphemously decided to call "Donkey Kong trees"). At the top there was a rock that one could stand on and just barely make out the little village and harbor of Raglan.

Green tube.

A weird wind sculpture on the road leading up to the backpackers.

Even though the surf had dropped considerably, there were still a few nicely tailored lines wrapping around the first point at Raglan.

Nice sunrise on our last day at Raglan, but the return of the clouds was bittersweet. This would be the last blue sky we would see for a while.

Andre discovers a neat way to waste water.

The jungle-cabana style hostel at Raglan.

On a further exploration of the point at Raglan, Andre spies a break far off in the distance. This wave was at the bottom of a huge cliff, however, with no apparent way down.

Leg 4: June 28 - June 30

In which Sarah glares at the local animals and Andre pauses for a refreshing beverage.

Cousin Itt stares down a llama.

A futuristic looking thermal power plant outside of Taupo.

Huka Falls, outside of Taupo, is actually just a narrow section of the Waikato river where the whole thing is forced into a narrow, 30 ft. deep passage. Check out the dude at the top left. That's a lot of damn water!

Pausing for a refreshing beverage. Also, in the parking lot next to this scenic vista, there was a pile of pig feet.

McEuphemism No. 2. (I should explain that this little clean-up cart was in Napier, a city on the Pacific coast that happened to be completely destroyed by an earthquake during the 1920s and was then rebuilt entirely in the Art Deco style.)

Waist-high close-outs coming in to the pebble beach at Napier.

One of several factories (fertilizer, I think) along the otherwise scenic State Highway 2. More importantly, this picture represents the beginning of Andre's foray into while-driving-photography.

The ram stared back at me, his power and confidence almost overwhelming. Further along, a female paused warily by the fence. I kept the camera rolling. They were beautiful, those 'Sheep in the Orchard'."

Proof that we were, without a doubt, tourists. ("Hey! A cow!")

Another aptly-named New Zealand landmark (Stoney Ridge).

It was a steep, one-lane road.

Dramatic lifeguard stand at Ocean Beach, south of Napier.

This rock floats.

This is the beach where we found the rock that floats.

At first glance, Sarah thought this store sold perennial fashions, such as jazz. But it did not.

Irresistible photo opportunity along Marine Parade in Napier.

Continuing his investigation into photography-while-driving, Andre snaps a picture of a large container ship basking in moody lighting.

Variety.

Leg 5: June 30 - July 2

In which Andre and his juvenile perspective misunderstand the username of a computer.

Andre spots a handsome gentleman reflected in a window outside the grocery store where Sarah procured some snack bars and takes a picture.

Desperate to give their shitty rental car a break from the endless, wet gravel road, Andre braves the elements (rain not visible) to capture the dramatic cliffs on the southern shore of Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera National Park.

A colorful truck, but one that has seen better days. (Though arguably in better shape than the upside-down car whose rear bumper is visible to the right.)

At first we weren't sure about the ridiculously high sheep to people ratio we'd heard about in New Zealand, but going into week two we were becoming convinced. (It's a little creepy how there's always at least one sheep looking at you.)

It's on the bottom left.

So... We had arranged a couch-surf with this couple from Rotorua/Taupo, but found out that evening that they weren't actually going to be around. They were kind enough to let us stay in their camper (pictured) in their back yard. Not visible are the cow, loud teenage girl party, lack of toilet/sink, or the landlord living in the shed a few feet to the right. It was a little weird, so we moved on.

A pretty nice bathroom, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

Cafes in New Zealand are apeshit over these little number stands. Sarah and Andre agree, however, that they are a good idea and quite effective. Furthermore, the consistent availability of delicious coffee, even in remote regions, is certainly commendable.

Several people had recommended the hot springs in Turangi (A.K.A., "The Trout Fishing Capital of the World"), so we decided to give them a try. Thanks to the heavy rain, the private tubs were closed. They had a hot pool that we could have tried, but it was treated water, and didn't seem very hot/worth-the-money. Not all was lost, however, as there was a short hike where the newly rain-pantsed Sarah and Andre could explore some of the natural pools. There wasn't anyone else around, and it was actually a pretty neat little walk in the rain.

A small pool of boiling mud on abovementioned hike.

Andre and Sarah were impressed with the "natural" hot springs, until Andre discovered the pipe behind some bushes. "They're pumping the hot water in!" he exclaimed, "What a gyp!" (Sarah maintains that the pipe was used instead to carry the water from the springs to the pools/tubs nearby... Andre is dubious.)

Andre, who had never slept in a princess bed until the Hostel at Paekakariki, shows how excited he is.

...

Princess bed aside, the Paekakariki backpackers was actually very nice. Here's the view from the porch with Kapiti island visible in the distance.

Sarah unloads the rattly but trusty Rent-a-Dent Nissan March as we bid it farewell in Wellington. (We were hoping to pick up some hitchhikers to return the favor and up our karma, but there wasn't any more room it that little bubble.)

Leg 6: July 2 - July 5

In which Wellington is deemed "hippest city ever" and Sarah fails to improve human-guinea-pig relations.

Lewd panda graffiti in Wellington.

Alien orb, hovering above Civic Square in Wellington.

I have to admit, during our four days in Wellington, we didn't see one shitty piece of public art-a nice change of pace from the rusty-slab-on-lawn motif of most American college campuses. There was a lot of neat hidden art too, like strange staircases down into the harbor or slabs of rock with poetry carved into them on unexpected jetties.

...or this cool mural.

(I like taking photos at night.)

The first of our Wellington ducks. It looks like kind of a gross harbor in this shot, but otherwise we don't really remember seeing any other garbage during the whole trip. (Except for kiwi fruit stickers.)

A lot of bikers there too.

And here's a boat.

To get into this workshop, apparently, you need to go all the way around the block the other way and come in on a left turn.

Valley Girls like sales! (I know this because I live in California.) "Sale Sale Sale"s are, like, even better!

The girls in the middleground laughed at me while I was taking this picture. I had the last laugh, however, because it turns out they're all blurry.

We could have spent $15 each on a movie, ten yards to the right. But watching these fish was free!

This is what the inside of those Donkey Kong trees looks like. Also, I think there was a little bug swimming around in the water.

(see below...)

Alright, so we came across a duck pond in the Wellington Botanic Gardens. All fine and well, except that every sixty seconds or so about half of the ducks would just totally freak out. They'd be all flappin' their wings and splashing and shit, and then they would go back to being normal, well-behaved ducks. Sarah got swooped during one such freak-out when a duck decided to fly over a bridge that a normal duck would happily have swum under.

I had a close-up shot of Sarah sniffing this weird plant, but I wasn't allowed to post it.

So I posted this picture of her trying to figure out a weird sculpture instead. (Also in the Botanic Gardens.)

Gratuitous flower close-up.

There were a whole bunch of pitcher plants in the greenhouse at the gardens (as well as a host of tasty flies, also investigating).

These are lily-pads. (Sarah just pointed out that I probably don't need to be writing captions for all of these pictures.)

Sarah observes morbidly as another pitcher plant claims a tiny flying victim.

Vista time! This is Wellington harbor from the top of the cable car...

...and here's a tower with some dudes (on top of Mt. Victoria. You remember that scene where Frodo and the other hobbits are crouching below the roots hiding from the Black Riders? We passed those trees on our walk back down into Wellington!)...

...and here's the view East from atop Mt. Victoria. Note not only the excellent harbor but the completely undeveloped mountains just across from the city. What a town!

Sarah liked these Roseneath houses.

Wellington, being the prestigious capital city of New Zealand, is also home to Te Papa, the national museum. What better place to have a chiseled-out section of a road with a fossilized road-kill possum? (Aside from a giant floating granite sphere that you could spin, this was the first exhibit we saw in the museum... very much an Andre and Sarah type of museum.)

There were a bunch of juvenile messages written on the inside of this slide, but unfortunately none of them are legible in this photograph.

More excellent Wellington public art.

Andre kills time with his camera. Sarah plays along.

Our delightful hosts in Wellington had two guinea pigs (one of which looked like a beaver!). Here, Sarah tries to improve her rodent reputation (unfortunately with little success).

Leg 7: July 5 - July 7

In which clothing is soaked and bridges are crossed.

Bedspread with Sarah.

After a freezing 4 hour slog through the rain up a mountain, we arrived at the famed Pinnacles Hut in the Coromandel Peninsula. We came for the views, but didn't see much on the way up through the cold, cold, rain. (Not all of that is our stuff, there was another very damp couple staying there that night as well.)

Inappropriate outhouse photography.

In the morning, the rain had mostly stopped and from the Pinnacles Hut, we almost saw the eponymous geographical features.

Tasty apples, hot tea, and two bowls of New Zealand's finest gruel for breakie.

Check out all those awesome plants! (Oh, also, Sarah looks like a sherpa.)

We were very bundled for the hike back down, but we passed some guys in shorts on their way up to the hut who made us feel a little overdressed.

Octoplant.

Slimy venus-flytrap plant.

Sarah, a little blurrier than usual, peers through the hollow trunk of a felled kauri tree.

Another pinnacle-type structure. The plaque says that these things form when the lava from a volcano hardens inside the spout and then the rest of the mountain erodes around it.

These steps are certainly hewn into this rock.

Rain. In New Zealand.

Frogger.

These Department of Conservation signs never tell you how far things are. Just how long it might take some person to walk there. Interestingly the times are always the same, up or down a mountain. This made for interesting trail conversation.

Against my better judgment, I've included a picture of a waterfall. I think it looks dumb, but there it is. It's just too irresistible to not photograph (like windmills and rainbows).

Andre was enthralled with the lush vegetation. Sarah wants to call this picture "leafy things."

A better shot of the Donkey Kong trees. ("Really big leafy things.")

...

Green trunks and a trail marker, as Andre and Sarah take the flood detour back across the Kauaeranga river.

Sarah on the bridge.

Nobody on the bridge.

The bridge going back into the jungle.

Leg 8: July 7 - July 8

In which Sarah brushes her teeth, Andre takes advantage of endless "Kodak moments," and both avoid a multitude of stock effluent.

Post drenching, we opted to do a little motor camping instead and drove up the peninsula to the very tip. Grassy hills and pastures abounded.

Not very big, but perfectly tapered little waves just outside of our campsite at Fletcher Bay. Square Top Island in the distance with the Great Barrier Island barely visible behind it. We arrived in the dark, so it was difficult to determine where the pastures ended and the campsite began. Evidence found on the bottom of Andre's boots supports this claim.

Sarah prepares to brush her teeth.

The campsite at Fletcher Bay (shy livestock hiding).

Cathy Corolla totally forded the hell out of this stream. (There was a little steam/smoke coming out from under the hood indicating that it was probably a little too deep for such a small car. We did it twice.)

Weirdo sheep with tails.

Sarah at the beginning of the Coromandel Walkway.

Still life with sheep.

Andre takes a deep breath and prepares for some of the most scenic countryside of the trip.

Sarah knows where she's supposed to look. Andre does not.

I've never seen hills that were so begging to be rolled down. I would have, too, if they weren't speckled with turds. Here's a fresh one!

Furry stream bed.

Duckman trail marker.

Neat red dirt/mud with cliche boot prints.

See what I mean?

Andre and Sarah's instincts forbade them from investigating this box. They hadn't known that this was particularly dangerous terrain, but were comforted by the presence of such traps.

Sarah leaping to dry safety...

...and the result of Andre's less successful attempt.

Unreal blues and greens.

Unnecessary black and white photo.

Sarah wearing appropriately bright colored clothing.

Treacherous trail.

From-the-hill shot of Fletcher Bay. Note the gargantuan swell rolling in.

Leg 9: July 8

In which Sarah and Andre brave the perils of the Coromandel, fighting off giant flora and fauna alike.

New Zealanders are very cautious when it comes to American-made automobiles. (Which, apparently, are so slow that they warrant the erection of a street sign.)

Windows-desktop-esque road.

So... sometimes cars do drive off of dramatic, ocean-side cliffs. Bad news for surf-hungry adventurers like Andre, who can't seem to keep their eyes on the road in these types of scenarios.

Aside from sharks, the only dangerous animals native to New Zealand are the spiders.

NZ's answer to the sequoia: the mighty kauri. (It's not quite as big...)

Leg 10: July 8 - July 9

In which Andre and Sarah burn their feet, ride a ferry, and become increasingly disgusted with the frequency of rainbows in New Zealand.

South of Hahei (where we spent our last night) there's a beach with a thermal spring right underneath the sand. You can go down and dig a hole, let it fill with water, and then sit in your own private hot-tub. There were a bunch of people standing around looking disappointed until Sarah and Andre went a little further down the beach and started digging. When the others saw them running into the ocean to cool their tootsies, they came over and everyone had a great time burning their feet.

I'm not making this up.

Sarah cooling off once it got too hot in the kitchen.

The crowd at the appropriately-named Hot Water Beach. (With another damn rainbow.)

Actually, it turned out to be a double rainbow.

Eight bucks for a two minute ferry ride to Whitianga. (Weirdo New Zealanders pronounce "wh" as "f.")

Nice little sailboat parked right up against some cliffs in Whitianga.

Andre waited for three and a half hours for the clouds to line up just perfectly for this shot.

Sarah in the cathedral at Cathedral Cove. (That weird island in the middle is also in the next shot.)

Italian architecture inspired island.

Waterfall/roots at cathedral cove.