FEB 2 // DAY 4

We landed at 7:30 am and were greeted by an intense, fresh, alive smell that my meager vocabulary cannot do justice. As we meandered through customs, we encountered friendly people who politely asked what the hell happened to our country, the first sign that our Grand World Tour 2017 might very well become a Grand “We Don’t Know What Happened Either and Hope It’ll All Be Okay” Tour 2017.

An unremarkable, spindly little spider attempted to stow away in our tent and the biosecurity agent–fabulous job title, by the way–was kind enough to not incinerate the whole thing–I guess they can do that–if we promised to do a better job of shaking out our gear next time we visit.

You guys, we have the raddest car. No really. The Nissan Wingroad is the most fabulous road tripper I have ever had the pleasure of driving. Added bonus is the fact that we can sleep in it comfortably and the five million different well-designed compartments. It’s heaven. This may be the best two weeks of the trip, thanks to this vehicle.

First order of business was breakfast at cute cafe in New Market neighborhood of Auckland, folllowed by a walk up Mt. Eden and a trip to the grocery store. Those in my generation may recall the Tamagachis–little computers that you need to maintain on an hourly basis to keep the “creature” alive. Tiffanie is a human Tamagachi. She must eat every two hours. If she doesn’t, we have a serious system malfunction: slurred speech, inability to think and, in extreme cases, whining.

We bought a lot of groceries.

After driving on the left side of the road in city traffic for about twenty minutes, we decided it was time to head to the sparsely populated coast. A two hour drive east of Auckland are two much-blogged-about destinations: Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. We arrived at Hot Water Beach first and, if you’re in New Zealand during the tourist season, we highly recommend skipping it altogether. It consisted of a large mass of scantily clad humans laying on the sand in shallow pools dug with rented shovels. The similarities between these humans and sea lions basking on California beaches is uncanny. We were, however, delighted by the free cold showers, given that we hadn’t had one for far too long.

If Hot Water Beach was a disappointment, Cathedral Cove was its complete opposite. The 45-minute walk through lush, dense jungle down to the beach was filled with chirping birds and spectacular views. Since we visited in the evening, we were unhampered by the crowds that arrive via boat from a nearby beach during the day. The beach is superb and its namesake–a giant opening in limestone cliffs–was breathtaking. After a long day of flying and driving, relaxing here was the highlight. Highly recommend.

The next four hours was spent driving in the dark, and occasionally the rain, to Waitomo. We found a free camp area about ten minutes away, trsnsformed our trusty Wingroad into its sleeping configuration and passed out in seconds flat.