First day in New Zealand!

Rugby fever has definitely gripped New Zealand – I could sense it before the plane even took off. The airline magazine, the posters on the jetway, and even the safety video features the All Blacks. In Auckland airport, you could buy a full size rugby ball for two dollars – from a vending machine!

I got bitten by the fever myself, and decided to head down to Hamilton to try to obtain a ticket for this afternoon’s match between Wales and Samoa. Unfortunately, there were no tickets to be had, the match was completely sold out. I did, however, run into a bunch of guys from the Wales team at their hotel, where I had stopped to ask the concierge about tickets. But that was it… so I had some coffee and then hit the road.

Speaking of coffee, I am definitely taking advantage of the fact that New Zealand has a thriving coffee culture. Starting from the cappuccino I got from the Airstream trailer parked right outside baggage claim, all the coffee I have had has been excellent – and not a Starbucks in sight! Thank goodness, too, because I certainly need it.

After giving up on the rugby game, I decided to head up to the Coromandel peninsula. The drive along the coast was outstanding, and I had some grilled local oysters for lunch. After yet another coffee (something they call a “flat white”, which seems to be somewhere in between a cappuccino and a latte) I continued my drive, up over the spine of the peninsula and over to Cathedral cove, which is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in NZ.

Cathedral Cove was a forty-five minute walk from the parking lot, through meadows and a semi-tropical forests. The beach definitely lived up to its billing. On the way back, I got caught in a downpour, while my raincoat was staying nice and dry in the car.

Fish and chips in the motel room for dinner, rinsed down with Speight’s New Zealand Ale. Early bed time tonight!

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