Our first two days in New Zealand have been full of final preparations for heading north to the trailhead at Cape Reinga. We landed in Auckland at around 7:00 AM on October 17th and made our way through customs and biosecurity.
After exhanging currency and SIM cards at the airport, we headed up town to check into our room at Auckland’s YHA International Backpackers hostel, where we met a warm welcome from the kind group of folks behind the front desk. A heads up, check-in begins at 2:00 PM the day of a booking.
The YHA hostel system seems really great so far: a full service kitchen where guests can prepare food, free wifi, showers, laundry, and warm beds. The four of us paid $22.50 USD each for two nights at the hostel.
Our first day in Auckland, we picked up our DOC hut passes at the Department of Conservation office by the water – beautiful blue water, even in a city marina. For $92 NZD you can buy their 6-month pass that allows you access to any of the huts in the high mountains of New Zealand. The huts are a series of sturdy wooden shacks across mountain ranges that will keep you dry and warm (via woodburning stoves) far away from towns. There are enough of them in the NZ mountains that the hut pass will prove to be an essential purchase. We got lunch at the NZ car-themed fast food joint “BurgerFuel.” Afterward we went around town picking up some final items before heading to the Countdown grocery store to outfit for our first 4 days on the trail. Hopefully our outfitting speed will increase as we continue along, because almost 2 hours in the grocery store nearly drove us insane. Now we have packs heavy with food, ready to last us 90 mile beach to Ahipara.
We packed up our bounce box of shoes and maps and shipped them off to Taumarunui, a town just after the 1000 km mark on the trail. I shipped a pair of shoes to Kerikeri, as I suspect my current ones will give out just after the big 3 forests after Ahipara.
We decided that our second visit through Auckland in mid-November would be the best time to visit the top of the sky tower, a celebration of two successful regions completed. In the meantime, tomorrow at 7:45 AM we head north to Kaitaia via an InterCity bus, where Arthur will be picking us up to finish the drive to Cape Reinga.
It still feels so surreal, that so much planning is coming to fruition. Tomorrow we start Te Araroa, the culmination of several months of planning and the beginning of a brand new journey for the four of us.