Nearing the End of New Zealand

We've arrived at our final stop in New Zealand: Auckland, the largest city in the nation. The bus ride up this morning was efficient though not quite as scenic as the south island. Having just wrapped up four nights in Rotorua, we found it to be mostly hits with a miss or two. Highlights since we last checked in included many a free geothermal park, the tallest geyser in the southern hemisphere, and the adorable kiwi birds (not pictured, because they live in nocturnal habitats).

Rotorua is a curious place. It has a nighttime (and daytime) lit-up luge course, a mini golf course where there are bunnies to take photos with, and skyline gondola with a winery that as far as we can tell you cannot hike up to without paying a fare. There are however some attractions deserving of their prices: We very much enjoyed Te Puia which provided a cultural Maori experience, aforementioned geysers and kiwis, and an awkward encounter with a tattoo parlor (we were offered free face tattoos, we declined).

Pōhutu Geyser
Te Puia

Our motel where we spent the four nights provided some great amenities including a kitchen where we saved a ton of money cooking the same meal three nights in a row. It also provided a private thermal pool full of mineral water and sulfuric scents.  We're not sure if the claimed circulatory benefits have made an impact but we sure hope so given our upcoming flights.

Today in Auckland we arrived to another day of lovely cool weather. Much like the capital, Auckland isn't very photogenic but we did cover a lot of ground today. Its centerpiece Sky Tower is visible from almost everywhere thanks to the height disparity of the buildings.

Auckland Sky Tower

America's Cup Yacht
Lunch was great but it was dessert that needs its own discussion. We visited Giapo, an instagrammable paradise for ice cream. It was a real experience complete with tasting every available flavor before choosing how we wanted it presented for consumption. Options included wearable cones, a sky tower cone, a 3-D printed squid, gold plated waffle cone, and with a donut.

Our Selection

All the options!

For dinner (honestly, after the ice cream even eating dinner was in question) we went for the specialty of the country - lamb. Pedro's House of Lamb specializes in one thing - braised lamb. We opted for two individual portions rather than gorging ourselves with the recommended full size. This was a great choice as we will still have leftovers tomorrow.

Tomorrow we have a full day to explore Auckland before we take off Saturday on our flight to Doha (and then on to Budapest). The mental preparation for the 18 hour flight and all its promised luxury is real. Brendan has been looking forward to this one for a while but we shall see if the #1 commercial airline in the world lives up to the hype.

[[This post was co-authored by the both of us]]

p.s. there was a beard trim and haircut today for those who noticed growing facial hair it will sadly not make it to three months.