Post-Africa Trip: Week 1: Sydney, Australia & Auckland, New Zealand!!

Well, we’re off!! We flew from Johannesburg to Sydney on Qantas Airways (a first time for us) and got in to Sydney late afternoon, the next day. (This was the furthest east we’d been and we were trying to figure out the time adjustment!) So, we got to our hotel – a super hipster hotel near Darling Harbor – and checked in, enjoying the complimentary candy in the lobby (gummies!), the frequently-restocked complimentary mini bar and cute touches in the room. We got lost on our way to the restaurant the hotel recommended (man, we’re so reliant on Google Maps and when you don’t have the internet, you get lost!), so we went to a random place we found along the way. The next morning, we took the ferry from Darling Harbor to the Circular Quay (the main hub in the intricate ferry system) and waited for the ferry to Manly Beach. On the ferry, we met a UNC alum (she recognized Jon’s shirt!) and we walked around Manly together! We had lunch at a Mexican place Chica Bonita, walked to Shelly Beach and got tea at a beach-side cafe. It was beautiful there! We headed back to the ferry,  took it back to the Circular Quay and said bye to Hanh. We ate dinner at Malaya, an awesome Malaysian restaurant in the harbor. YUM. (9.7 miles walked that day!!)


The next morning, after having a terrible night’s sleep (and watching “Great British Baking Show” all night), we ‘woke up’ and went to breakfast at Muretto & Co., a yummy place in the neighborhood. Then, we walked to the Sydney Fish Market and saw amazing, fresh offerings; wish we’d just had breakfast there!! After, we went to Woolworths – NOT as good as the SA one – and joined a free walking tour around the center of town. We saw the Town Hall, St. Andrews Hall, the Rum Hospital, Sydney Tower, Hyde Park Barracks, Queen Victoria Building, The Rocks, etc. It was a great tour! After, we went to get sushi at Tago-an, a place our tour guide recommended. Yum. We then walked off lunch by going to the Barangaroo Reserve to see views of the harbor. We took a break at a swanky area by the docks, with condos boasting private yacht parking spots outside and sat at a cafe called Bar Cycle (a bike-themed coffee shop). It was fun! After, we went to The Rocks Discovery Museum to learn about the early settlement of Australia. We headed to Chinatown and settled on the place that was the busiest, thinking that would be the best bet. It sure was. And I got a bubble tea for dessert, obviously. They didn’t speak a word of English at that shop so it was a little different than I expected, but still good! (We walked 10.5 miles!)

The next day, we got up after sleeping much better, had breakfast in our room and then headed out. We took the ferry to Millson’s Point (which contains a super-creepy carnival-type park) and walked up to take the Sydney Harbor Bridge across to the main part of town; it was gorgeous! We walked over to look at the Opera House more closely. It really is incredibly stunning! Then, we went to have lunch at Australia Square, a place with lots of different stalls and ate lunch outside, which was just lovely. After, we walked to the Royal Botanical Gardens and took in the great views of the harbor. We finished the day at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and saw art from all over the world. We had some really good Thai food at Spice I Am and then another bubble tea, obviously. Our hotel had laundry facilities so we did a load and went to bed. It was a great day to end our Sydney time with! (And we walked 8.5 miles!)

We got to the airport and checked in for our Virgin Australia flight to Auckland. Virgin Australia is… fine. We’d had it built-up in our heads that it’d be really nice but it might just be that ‘real’ Virgin (the English branch of the company) that is the nice one…? But, it was short and easy. We landed in New Zealand and started the immigration process: they were very explicit that everyone declare any food products they have and Jon was stressed about the pack of nuts we had brought for hikes, etc., since NZ is so expensive. He decided to toss them because we didn’t know if you have to pay a fine, even if you declare. The immigration agent ended up saying that he shouldn’t have tossed them, that they were fine. Oops! We got a cab and headed into town. The hotel was nice and centrally-located, so we got settled and walked to dinner nearby, at an awesome restaurant called Coco’s Cantina. We had to wait awhile but they had a great system where you start your bill at the bar, enjoy a drink, they put your food order in and then the food comes once you sit down. Yahoo! We explored the neighborhood for a bit and went to bed. The next morning, we got ready and headed out to an awesome bagel shop, Best Ugly Bagels, where the workers called out the orders to each other, really loudly. It was yummy. We walked around the shops nearby on our way to the Auckland Museum, which was super cool. It has a strong focus on Maori culture, something we tried to be exposed to as much as possible. We saw a show that exhibited important aspects of their traditions, including the haka (seriously, Google this – there are so many amazing videos of groups performing them, including NZ’s rugby team), a poi, etc. It was great. We then got lunch and walked downtown, stopping at random stores and coffee shops along the way. (Including a really cool bookstore called Unity where Jon got a book on NZ birds.) We walked to the quay, explored the shops on the coast and then went to play Blackjack at the Sky City Casino, so Jon could add to his collection of chips from around the world. Naturally. We ate at a super random Chinese restaurant that was a hole-in-the-wall and completely packed. Yum. We then made the mistake (/brilliant move?) of going to The Pie Piper on the way back to the hotel. It is a ‘North American-style’ bakery that had insane desserts. I got a s’mores donut and Jon got a pecan pie, in honor of Thanksgiving. Right?? (We walked 8.7 miles.)

The next day, we slept in a bit, walked to a market, got fruit and tea/coffee and sat in a courtyard to relax and read a bit. We then went to the Auckland Art Gallery and joined their free tour, where the guide covered really interesting parts of the museums, especially the Maori portraits. We took a break from the museum to have lunch at No. 1 Pancake. Verdict: they were good but not sure if they were #1. We went back to the museum and saw their Monet and their amazing gift shop. We then took a 10-minute ferry ride to Devonport, the oldest Auckland suburb, and walked along the shore to the Torpedo Bay Naval Museum. It focused on NZ’s efforts in various wars around the world and was really touching. We took the ferry back and had dinner at Ima, an Israeli restaurant! (We thought it was tasty but the lunch menu looked better – falafels, hummus, shakshuka, etc.) We walked back, packed up and went to bed, as we were heading south out of Auckland the next day, to the center of the North Island. (We walked 6.7 miles. Respectable.)

Next up, I’ll cover week #2, which includes our time in Rotorua, Martinborough and Wellington! Stay tuned!
– By Naama
**We walked 44.1 miles this week!**

2 thoughts on “Post-Africa Trip: Week 1: Sydney, Australia & Auckland, New Zealand!!

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