I’m sitting at a table in the New Zealand Public Library with a girl I just met, from Korea. Her name is Grace, and she’s one of my hostel roommates. There’s a bit of a language barrier between us, but she’s working on improving her English skills while she’s in New Zealand.
I understand her better than one of my other roommates, a girl from China. Yesterday, she asked me if I had eaten dinner yet, and I replied yes, and asked what she usually eats while she’s here. In response, she told me that she had just come back from the post office and had sent a package home to China. I didn’t ask any more questions.
I’ve been in Auckland for two days, and I’ve been exploring solo for most of it. So far, so good.
On Saturday evening, I arrived in Auckland from Sydney. After dropping my bags in the hostel, I walked around the center of the city, in search of somewhere to eat. I tried to find the busiest restaurant, since that’s usually a sign that the food is good. It took me a long time to find a place that was actually busy. Surprisingly, Auckland is pretty dead at this time of year, despite being the biggest city in New Zealand.
I found a cozy little restaurant that looked semi-crowded, and walked in. I asked the bartender for a table for one, and he pointed to an empty booth. I picked up a menu from the bar and flipped through it, only to find out that the bar didn’t actually serve food. I put the menu back and left.
Next, I found a Lebanese restaurant that looked promising. I walked in and asked for a table for one. “Is it just you for dinner?” The host asked. I said yes, and was told to sit down and wait for a table. As I was sitting in the lobby area, one of the waiters walked by and asked if anyone else was joining me. “No, it’s just me.” After a few minutes, the host brought me to a small table with one place setting. I sat down and started texting my friends back home, who I knew weren’t even awake.
I slowly became more comfortable with being alone. I took my time eating, and made conversation with the waiter. I relaxed and looked around to see what other people were eating and drinking, and how they were dressed and what languages they were speaking. I paid a lot more attention to what was happening in the restaurant than I would have if I had been with a group.
I spent the next day roaming about the city at my own pace, and wandering through the Auckland Art Gallery—New Zealand’s largest gallery. I took the time to read the descriptions of the pieces, and I listened in on what other people had to say about the art. One girl, who was about seven years old, was speaking to her mom in a mix of English and French. “Mom, I really like this one! I really really like it! Regarde!” I’m not sure which piece she was referring to, as I heard her shout this from the next room.
Later, I stood in front of Monet’s Le Pont Japonais, featuring his iconic water lilies. There was a family next to me with three rambunctious boys, and their mom had them stand in front of the painting and read the description. She told them it was a famous painting and they should appreciate it. I stood next to them and read about Monet, too.
That night, I hung out in the hostel tv lounge, where I met a group of guys from Germany. They came to New Zealand on a working holiday visa and have been here for a few months. We talked about school and travel and hostels, and one of the guys told me the hostel was an upgrade for him after having lived in a van for six months in another part of New Zealand. I put We’re the Millers on the tv and we all watched it together.
Today, I tried figure out Auckland’s public transport system. It took me a little while to find a store that sold transit cards, and I thought I was all set as soon as I bought the card. This was not the case. I walked around for nearly 20 minutes trying to locate the bus stop that would take me the two miles to a nearby village, called Mount Eden. Eventually, I realized the time I was spending roaming around to find the bus stop could be better spent exploring. So, I started walking in the direction of Mount Eden. There was a sidewalk that continued the whole way, and the path was easy to follow. When I made it to the town, I strolled around for a bit and stopped to take a few pictures. On the way back, I hit the town’s main attraction—the volcano. It was a fairly easy hike up to the top, which offered views inside the crater and a stunning view of Auckland. It was nice to be able to relax and enjoy the scenery.
I originally planned to take the bus back, but I decided to walk back instead. The sun was out and I was happy to do a bit more exploring as I walked. Back in the hostel, I talked to my roommate, Grace, who invited me to the library. I enjoyed being by myself for the past couple of days, but it was great to talk to someone other than groups of tourists who asked me to take their pictures.
Stay tuned for more about my solo adventure in New Zealand! I’ll be visiting Hobbiton in a town called Matamata, seeing some more art, and checking out a volcanic island off the coast of Auckland:)