Our Qantas plane touched down in Auckland after midnight, two nights ago. Poor Darwin. The rest of the band grabbed their luggage from the conveyor belt, but Darwin’s was somehow left in Sydney. This makes the third time that Darwin’s suitcase was lost by Qantas. It must have some sort of Qantas curse.
We learned an interesting fact from the customs guy at the airport. We were asking him stuff like, “is it okay for us to bring Vegemite into your country?” “Would it have been okay for us to have brought the Nutella that we threw out?” It turns out that New Zealand is pretty relaxed about bringing in food items. The one thing they are strict about his honey. Apparently, New Zealand is the only place in the world that produces disease-free honey. Their bees gather the nectar of a special flower, the Manuka, which is super high in antioxidants. The result goes beyond a simple sweetener. New Zealand honey apparently has special healing qualities. Hospitals from around the world order New Zealand honey and apply it to ulcers. Apparently it can heal wounds that no artificial or chemically-based drug can.
Australia had been warning us that an Arctic breeze blows from Antarctica into New Zealand, and that we should pack warm clothes (too late for that). Fortunately, the temperature is not extreme here. The air does have a noticeably fresh quality to it, though. Crisp, cool, as if it was sterilized by mother nature herself.
Greg and I embarked on an especially long run to Mission Beach on our first Auckland morning. We asked a pedestrian if he could tell us how to find Quay Street. “Why? Are you guys looking for McDonald’s?” he asked us. It was the first of many signs that, despite how far we were from America, we were still not all that far.
We roamed off-road in the hills. I continue to wear the neon dinosaur-tail shorts given to us by Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, and we’ve noticed they have a disarming quality to them. People that otherwise might be leery of two strange dudes see my neon orange tail, crack a smile and offer us helpful directions. As we traversed through tall grass and ditches, Greg and I laughed about how if I was bitten by a snake, it would be best to give Greg the dinosaur shorts, because he would have an easier time fetching emergency help.
Our New Zealand tour manager, Julian, took Darwin Deez up a winding road to the top of Mt. Eden, a volcanic crater. It’s long been inactive, and overgrown with tall, wavy, green grass. The aforementioned Arctic breeze was blowing strongly, causing gigantic green grass ripples throughout the deep volcanic basin. Beyond the crater lay the stunning city skyline.