Crossing the International Date Line (the longest day of our lives)

From Auckland, we flew halfway across the Pacific to Honolulu and crossed the International Date Line. We woke up on Tuesday in Auckland, spent our entire day there and boarded a flight at 22.40, had a night on the plane and then woke up as we landed in Honolulu on Tuesday morning (again). This was a first for both of us, and meant that:

  1. We were irrationally excited
  2. Our spending against budget on Tuesday 30th was a bit of a disaster since we lived the day twice over
  3. Despite point 1, we forgot to book accommodation for our second Tuesday. Whoops!
  4. Our photos look like absolute chaos, flipping wildly between being in Auckland at 11am and Honolulu at 11.01am. This gave us the idea that we could do a time-travelling diary of our two Tuesdays…

So, here’s how our two Tuesdays unfolded, arranged by local time in each destination.


🏢 Auckland: We checked out of our hotel and left our big bags with the front desk, before walking through Auckland Domain (via many closed paths and diversions) to the Auckland Museum, which sits right in the middle. We actually came here on our very first day to watch the sunset, so it felt like nice symmetry to revisit on our last day.

🌺 Hawaii: Meanwhile, in Hawaii, our flight landed and we cruised out of the airport at record speed. Who has ever got through US immigration in under five minutes?! There was no queue whatsoever and while the officer initially seemed slightly concerned about our plans to stay in the country for nearly 50 days (well within the permitted 90 days, but admittedly still quite a long time), he soon got distracted by his absolute horror that we might consider crossing the country by train!


🏢 Auckland: Inside the museum, we met Peter and Barbara, two rare T-Rex skeletons (not casts!). These were very cool and we were particularly pleased to meet Barbara, as she is one of only three female T-Rex ever discovered. It blew my mind that Palaeontologists could tell she was female not from her size or shape, but through tiny chemical differences in her bones because she was pregnant at the time of her death. Meanwhile, we could see Peter’s injuries that likely resulted in his death.


🏢 Auckland: We began looking at exhibits on Māori and other Polynesian culture, but really spent most of our time dodging huge school groups before we realised just how much museum there was upstairs and so headed up for some peace and quiet. In the Natural World section, we laughed a lot at this quote on an exhibit about Charles Darwin:

His visit to New Zealand was brief, confined to the Bay of Islands, and made little impression on him

Auckland Museum

Poor New Zealand!

🌺 Hawaii: We arrived at our hotel (a last-minute interim when we realised we had nowhere to stay on our extra Tuesday – we’ll move to an apartment tomorrow). Our room wasn’t ready but we commandeered the ground floor bathrooms to change and freshen up, then set off to explore Waikiki.


🌺 Hawaii: Within minutes, we came across a very public Hula lesson in the street. We did not join in!


🏢 Auckland: After exploring a First World War exhibition together (fascinating to see it from New Zealand’s perspective), we parted ways. Oli spent some time in the Second World War exhibition, where his top sight was an anti-aircraft gun that had been bought from the US Navy after the war for two bottles of gin! Meanwhile, I headed to the Robin Morrison Road Trip exhibition, which featured photographs that he had taken on a seven-month trip around the South Island in 1979. I loved this – the use of colour and the composition of his photographs were beautiful and really did serve as a time capsule of the late seventies. It felt wrong to take photographs of his photographs to put on the blog but I do keep thinking about them – I’m going to have to buy the book!

🌺 Hawaii: We took a walk on the beach and the promenade, soaking in the buzz and feeling intense culture shock. We weren’t in sparsely-populated, low-key NZ anymore! We saw surfers catching waves further out to sea, body boarders closer to the beach, people playing in the shallows and even a man using a metal detector in the water – I wonder whether he found any treasure.


🏢 Auckland: We met up for a (mediocre) lunch in the museum cafe. We arrived and ordered separately and then staff definitely suspected that I was stealing Oli’s lunch when it came out and I claimed it while he was in the loo!

🌺 Hawaii: After a long time in the same country, we were ready to embrace a new cuisine so we headed to Five Star Poke, which served (you guessed it) poke bowls (containing marinated raw fish, rice and sometimes other vegetable goodies, such as seaweed and edamame beans), pretty much the only thing we knew about Hawaiian food.


🏢 Auckland: We walked across the city in the sunshine to the 328m-high Sky Tower, an iconic part of the city’s skyline and the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere.


🏢 Auckland: From the tower, we had beautiful views of the city, the harbour, multiple volcano cones and the outlying islands. It was only slightly disconcerting having orange-suited people hurtling past the window as they base-jumped from the level above us!

🌺 Hawaii: We checked into our hotel the moment our room was ready and promptly fell asleep.


🏢 Auckland: We had a very early dinner at Bona’s Thai, served by the loveliest husband and wife team, before heading back to the hotel to pick up our big bags and say farewell to Auckland.


🏢 Auckland: We walked to the central station, where the chap at customer services joined us in our confusion about the best way to pay our fares without buying two transport cards (which seemed a bit ridiculous, as we were on our way out of the country). I’ll just say this: if your ticketing structure is so complicated that even your own employees don’t understand it, then it probably needs a bit of work… Anyway, at length we managed to buy tickets and took the train to Puhinui and a connecting bus to Auckland International Airport.

🌺 Hawaii: We rushed out of our hotel with just minutes to spare and arrived at the beach bang on 6.30pm (having read that people normally set up chairs several hours before!) to watch a Hula performance while the sun set behind us.


🏢 Auckland: Even with our ticketing adventures, we still arrived at the airport SO early that we had time to kill, so we set about trying to palm the transport card we’d just bought onto someone else. This was harder than it seemed! Eventually, we donated it to a newsagent who sold the cards and she promised us that she’d pass it onto the next people who came to buy one. I wonder where it is now!


🏢 Auckland: Once we’d passed through security, we set about playing a round of one of our favourite games: Leftover Currency Golf. This is where you try to buy as many tasty snack items as possible using any remaining cash, and then count up your change to calculate your score. Lowest score wins!

🌺 Hawaii: We joined a very long queue to try the most famous noodles in town at Marugame Udon. We were surprised to see such strong Japanese cultural influence here, but we read that Japanese people were actually the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii, a result of the long tradition of relations between the two. Anyway, the food was delicious and tasted just like Japan.


🏢 Auckland: We boarded our flight and Oli took full advantage of the New Zealand wines while I watched Nomadland. Then it was time to try to get some sleep before beginning our Tuesday all over again in the morning…

🌺 Hawaii: We arrived back at our hotel, exhausted from our two Tuesdays.

New Zealand roundup 🇳🇿

We completed a wonky figure-of-eight across New Zealand’s two main islands. Starting in Auckland, we traversed the North Island via Waitomo’s glowworm caves and Tongariro’s volcanoes en route to the capital city of Wellington. We then crossed the Cook Strait and after a brief tandem-shaped detour to Nelson, we headed south through the vineyards of Marlborough to the newly-rebuilt city of Christchurch. Next, and probably our top highlight, was four days of cycling through the Central Otago region. We then stopped in Dunedin for penguins and street art on the way to our southernmost point on Stewart Island, before turning north to beautiful Queenstown. At this point, we picked up a camper van and detoured to moody Milford Sound before driving all the way up the wild west coast. We then crossed the Southern Alps at Lewis Pass and made stops in Hanmer Springs and the coastal town of Kaikōura en route to Christchurch to return the camper. On our way back to Auckland, we revisited Wellington before tracing a route through Art Deco Napier and geothermal Rotorua.

Carbon 🚆

The 8,000 km flight from Singapore to Auckland dominates our carbon emissions for New Zealand, and is solely responsible for our highest single-country total to date. There’s no getting around the fact that New Zealand is a long way from everything, including its closest neighbour – Auckland is well over 1,000 km from Sydney! We agonised for a long time about whether flying to NZ was the right thing to do, but we absolutely loved every moment of our two months there, so we got good bang for our buck carbon! And, to compensate for our emissions, we’ve prevented 3 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere by offsetting with Gold Standard. As always, we would have preferred to avoid these emissions in the first place, but when there’s no low-carbon mode of transport available, offsetting is the next best thing.

The other part of our NZ travel that was less than ideal was our camper van adventure, which emitted almost twice as much carbon as our journeys by bus, despite covering a similar distance in total. While literally driving the kitchen sink around the country isn’t exactly travelling light, it did afford much more independence than we could have achieved on NZ’s limited public transport network. Camper vans probably compare more favourably to public transport if you manage to fit four people into a single vehicle, although that would have been quite a squeeze in our little Toyota HiAce!

Cost 💰

New Zealand was the most expensive country we’ve visited to date, surpassing even Japan in daily expenditure. We started to notice that no matter what we did, everything always added up to NZ$150, so we joked that this was a “unit of NZ”. It was both infuriating and very funny every time it happened!

While transport seems (and to a certain extent, was!) quite expensive, it’s worth noting that we classed the camper van as “transport” rather than “accommodation” in our cost tracker, although it obviously served both purposes.

Cats 🐈

As previously discussed, New Zealanders have something of a love-hate relationship with cats. While on one hand New Zealand has one of the highest cat ownership rates in the world, these invasive mammals are making short work of the country’s much-loved flightless indigenous bird population. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that NZ came in last place with 1.15 cats per day, although its total would have been even worse if we hadn’t spotted 15 cats in one fell swoop as we passed the window of a cat cafe in Rotorua shortly before leaving the country.

Our bad cat-spotting luck means we’ve expanded the scope of our cat awards to cover other species, which is lucky really, as NZ was great for wildlife spotting.

🏅LEast evolved bird

Not many species evolve backwards, but we learned that kiwi have actually forgotten to fly as a result of having no natural predators. Instead, they forage at ground level, seemingly without a care in the world. Cute but totally useless!

🏅Absolute top number one friend

We met this little pirate in Central Otago, and I’ve never seen Sara fall in love so quickly. He even got out of his cosy bed to wave us off on a frosty morning before the sun had risen. That’s commitment.

🏅Saltiest sea dog

We met this lovely chap on the ferry from Wellington to Picton. He seemed more interested in making friends than exercising. We sympathised.

🏅Most distinguished bicycle attendant

This gentleman caused us to miss part of the vineyard briefing before our bicycle wine tour, but we regret nothing (they all made wine and that’s all we needed to know!).

🏅The aloof botanist

We found this chap enjoying the sun in Wellington’s botanical garden. He tolerated a few strokes, but we could tell he preferred keep his own company.

🏅Smallest bird friends

I just love how penguins hold out their wings while they waddle along. They were also never disheartened by their “two steps forward, one step back” approach to climbing the dunes.

🏅Behind-the-scenes photography award

This award goes to Mario, for exposing how annoying we are when we get distracted halfway through a conversation because we’ve spotted a cat.

Culture 👨‍👩‍👧

Despite being about as far away as it’s possible to get from the UK, we felt right at home in New Zealand. The people are low-key but friendly and kind, and this is the first place we’ve visited since leaving London that has a proper pub culture. We’ve missed ordering at the bar, it’s just so efficient! Some things were quite different from home, though, so in no particular order, below is a list of our miscellaneous cultural observations about NZ.

I mentioned how much we enjoyed going to the pub, but Oli did get upset every single time because there’s no such thing as a standard pint in NZ. Instead, you normally order a glass (small) or a handle (large), and these could be any size. I’m not sure if he’s going to complain more or less when he has to deal with U.S. pints soon…

You’d better bring your ID if you’re buying vegetables as it seems there’s such a thing in NZ as age-restricted carrots 😂 Ok, ok, I think this might have been a glitch at the self-checkout machine, but it really made us laugh! The staff might not have asked for ID for the carrots in the end, but they were extremely strict about checking when we bought wine…but we’ll take that as a compliment.

Cars are king in NZ. And not just any cars, but the bigger the better, which did seem somewhat at odds with NZ’s eco credentials. This drove us absolutely mad – many places were totally inaccessible without our own wheels and the idea that we would want to rely on walking or public transportation was met with puzzlement more than once. We thought this was really interesting because NZ seemed so similar to Europe in most other respects.

Buses are few and far between, but if you do manage to get on one, then you’ll probably be treated to a free tour guide commentary from the driver. Honestly, we learnt so much from them chatting away on the tannoy as they drove along, pointing out things like local landmarks, notable viewpoints, where we’d find the highest point on the road, braided rivers, interesting wildlife, conservation projects, which small towns have the best pies… NZ bus drivers must be the friendliest anywhere in the world! Well, all except for Brian. But we loved him anyway.

There’s obviously a lot of wildlife to be celebrated in NZ, and we really enjoyed the sheer variety of animal warning signs we saw, often in the most unlikely suburban streets.

We were really blown away by New Zealand and its been great to fulfil a long-held dream to visit. It’s a very long way away, but we’d heartily recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in the area! We’re very sad to leave, but excited to be planning our next chapter of travel, and more on this in the next post…

Auckland strikes back

We returned to Auckland on a trusty InterCity coach, and while these aren’t exactly tour buses, I’ve come to appreciate the freestyle commentary that some of the drivers take great pride in imparting along the route. Today’s driver Brian, however, gave by far the longest and most irrelevant spiel of all, which covered topics such as: yesterday’s weather, the seat belt configuration on buses other than the one on which we were riding, and how to load luggage on to subsequent connecting buses. He did his best to maintain order and keep to schedule on a very busy route, but we could tell Brian had accepted that some things were just beyond his control. This was summed up perfectly when a couple of guys arrived to board the coach just as it was pulling away, and Brian spent the next five minutes chastising them over the tannoy. To be fair to Brian, he wasn’t visibly angry, you could tell by the tone of his voice he was very disappointed. The irony of his next lengthy tirade about how we shouldn’t take phone calls on the bus in case we disrupted fellow passengers was not lost on any of us.

Having a second shot at Auckland gave us the time to visit some sights that were further afield and that we didn’t manage to squeeze into our first visit. The first of these was the suburb of Devonport, located on a spit of land opposite downtown Auckland and easily reached via a short ferry. The suburb itself looks like a very comfortable place to live, with the perfect balance of quiet local life and proximity to the city centre. We enjoyed strolling the sunny streets and browsing the shops, before settling down at Corelli’s for brunch. Here, Sara enjoyed a generous helping of bacon and creamy mushrooms on wholegrain toast, which has swooped in and stolen the top spot on her list of NZ brunches.

Just behind Devonport is Mount Victoria, which is quite an impressive-sounding name for a 66m hill. Still, it occupies a great vantage point over Auckland’s harbour and has long been used as a defensive fort, first by the Māori and later by European settlers. Today, the hill functions as a public park, so we joined in with what most other Devonporters seemed to be doing, and climbed it in an attempt to work off our brunch. It was a little breezy at the top, in case you can’t tell!

Having been feeling a little under the weather since arriving in Auckland, I took our first day to recover while Sara went out for dinner alone. She returned with such rave reviews of the Ramen joint across from our hotel that I was keen to make it my recovery dinner, meaning Sara had to eat there two days running. I could tell it must have been really good as she didn’t seem at all upset at the prospect! As well as offering a traditional tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen, this place also specialises in sesame ramen, which we both tried. This turned out to be a deliciously rich and salty broth – the kind where the first mouthful makes your tastebuds dance, but by the last mouthful you’re totally defeated.

We also failed to visit Auckland Domain’s Winter Garden on our last visit, having previously arrived too late in the day. This time, things were different (by luck rather than skill!), and we enjoyed a lovely stroll around two beautiful glass houses and a fernery.

It felt very fitting to end our nearly two-month trip to New Zealand in the same city in which we arrived. Auckland really grew on us too, I think helped by better weather and staying in a more central location on our second visit. Having said that, Auckland still felt worlds away from the rest of the country, and couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the desert-like mountains of Central Otago or the wild west coast of the South Island. We were very sad to say goodbye, but as always, excited about the next leg.