Lucky for us, Auckland is a short 4 hour swim from Brisbane so with a $99 seat sale taunting us, we couldn't say no.
This was my first international flight with a prosthetic leg, so I really didn't know what to expect. By all reports, I was going to be asked to take my leg off, put it on the belt scanner and hop through the metal detectors. This was not a prospect I was looking forward to.
Fortunately, this was not the drill. I was allowed to walk through like everyone else followed by a quick run by with the "wand".
The second challenge was travelling without my crutches. Not for normal mobility, just for those pesky middle of the night wake-up calls and for getting in/out of the shower. Enter the collapsible hiking poles Matt gave me. When taken apart, these fit neatly in my travel backpack. When assembled, these allowed me to get around with ease after my leg was off at night.
Auckland is home to the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere, the Sky Tower. We woke up on the first morning looking out at this huge monolith from our hotel window less than a block away. As you can imagine, that was one of our first and last stops of the day!
From the top, Auckland's city scape is incredible. The food in the revolving restaurant is even better. From the top you can see the whole city stretch out beneath your feet.
Auckland also boasts several volcanic islands within a stone's throw of the city, great for quick hike on a chilly day! One of these is Rangitoto, easily accessible by a short ferry ride. On a very cold day, we went up Rangitoto and walked the rim of the volcano then hiked down to the lava caves below. These were really cool!
The caves were tens of meters in length and cartoonish in appearance. They were straight out of an Indiana Jones movie with vines and a tiny speck of daylight indicating the far end of the tunnel. At several points along the way, we had to crouch down to get under the four foot high (meter and a half) tunnel ceilings.
One cave tunnel was long enough that we had to take a real leap of faith that it would have an opening on the other side! Enter handy leg-bag flashlight to guide our way. We wouldn't have gone far without that handy bit of MacGuyver-tech.
Quick facts about New Zealand:
New Zealand was the first major nation to have universal suffrage. In 1893 it became legal for all male and female citizens of New Zealand to vote.
It was also the first country to have its three top positions of power held simultaneously by women: The Prime Minister (Helen Clark), the Governor General (Dame Silvia Cartwright), and the Chief Justice (Sian Elias).
Lake Taupo, the largest freshwater lake in Oceania, was the source of the largest known eruption in the world in the last 70 thousand years.
New Zealand was the last major landmass to be populated (with the exception of the polar regions).
Nobel Prize Winner and New Zealander Ernest Rutherford is known as the father of nuclear physics for his orbital theory of the atom.
Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest was born in Auckland and his face is on the New Zealand $5 bill.