|September 24, 2011
Today was spent entirely on the bus to Auckland, which seemed to take forever. We got up at around 6am and headed to the train station where the buses left from. The wind early morning was horrible and Elizabeth and I both struggled on the 20 minute walk to the bus stop. We made it in plenty of time and soon boarded. There were not too many people so we both had a double seat each and it gave me a good chance to catch up on some long overdue sleep. In fact, it wasn’t long before I woke up and we were a couple of hours in, ready for a stop. To be totally honest, pretty much every couple of hour section in between stops was taken up by me sleeping. I can’t read on buses and so that only really gave me my iPod to listen to and listening to music invariably sends me to sleep!
Once in Auckland, the bus dropped us at SkyCity and we had about another 20 minute walk to the hostel. We were booked into the YHA hostel which was up a very steep hill and by the time we reached the bottom of the steep bit, we were already both knackered from going up thje not-so-steep bits of Queen Street! The walk up the hill to hostel is only about 50m, at most, but it took forever and my calf muscles were crying for mercy by the end!
The staff at the hostel weren’t overly friendly, welcoming or helpful but as we were so tired we didn’t care. We dumped our stuff in our dorm room and decided to check out the TV room. The TV was showing the match tonight so we decided to head out and get some snacks and watch the NZ v France match on the sofa! As we left the hostel I started to smell noodles so we ended up getting some Korean takeout, some Macs cider and we made ourselves at home in front of the TV, the two of us being the only ones there!
The hostel was supposed to have been refurbished but the work was still in process which meant the hostel was still quite a mess. We’d stayed here for one night last time around and I remember it being OK but this time it looked like it had aged a fair bit. The carpets were well worn and the paintwork was scratchy but that didn’t excuse the fact that this hostel was just not very clean at all. Our dorm room, and the corridor outside it, stank of dirty clothes and foul body odour even with the windows open. The bathrooms were worse, with the bins overflowing with dirty hand towels and the showers and toilets really filthy. The kitchen wasn’t much better as it seemed no-one was willing to tidy up after themselves. This wasn’t helped by the staff reaction to anything, which ranged from shock, horror to pity but still didn’t result in anything improving! Oh well, we only had three nights here so how bad could it be?!
September 25, 2011
We woke up this morning to pretty heavy rain and the hostel was still filthy, even after the cleaners had supposedly gone around. Buying food to cook in was not an option and I didn’t even bother having a shower – I probably would’ve come out dirtier! There were a lot of French people here due to the match last night and many of these left today, thankfully, although the trail of mess left in their wake was pretty bad. We went out and got some lunch at a nearby café; I was finally able to get a decent cooked breakfast and Elizabeth had a Mexican style wrap. We were going to the match at Eden Park today, Fiji v Samoa, but given the weather was so bad we decided to hold off on going to the stadium until nearer kick-off. Auckland has a FanWalk leading from the wharf to the stadium and they have entertainment along the way but given the weather today, there was not much going on. Back at the hostel I managed to write a few days of my travel journal whilst watching the rain fall.
The match started at 3.30pm so we decided around 2pm to walk towards the stadium. The rain was not as heavy now but it kept coming and going and we got a bit wet as we walked to the stadium. The FanWalk approaches the stadium from one direction and we of course needed to be on the opposite side of the re-designed stadium. It seemed to take us almost as long to walk around the stadium as it had to get to it in the first place! We soon found our seats and were thankful for being under the roof. I popped out to grab a beer and get a programme. We have bought a programme from each match now but at $15 each I’m not sure it was totally required!
The stadium was packed with Auckland being home to many Fijians and Samoans. Most locals had picked a side, too, and it made for an entertaining, vibrant atmosphere, with lots of flags and face paint on display. I have both a Fiji and Samoa t-shirt so Elizabeth wore the Samoan one and I had the Fijian top. When the sun came out, we were actually able to take off some layers and show the tops we were wearing. Unfortunately, the sun didn’t arrive early enough to provide us with a flowing rugby match and the struggling Fijians soon found themselves a couple of scores down and fighting to get any points on the board. The Samoan team won quite comfortably in the end and it was a shame as we’d hoped for a close, bruising encounter between the two island nations. This was our fourth and final match and they’ve all been very different but very entertaining. It is a shame we are having to leave so soon but the allure of somewhere warm is definitely too hard to resist right now!
On our walk back into the city we stopped at a bar called the Thirsty Dog and watched the first part of the Ireland v Russia match. We were also able to replenish our ever-enlarging stomachs with another pie and another micro-brewed beer. This bar brewed its own beer and Elizabeth tried their cider and I had the IPA. We only stayed for the first half before heading back to the hostel, dumping some stuff off and then heading out. We hadn’t planned on going out so soon but our choices were fresh air and more walking or lazing around in a stinky, sweaty dorm room!
We walked right the way down Queen Street looking for somewhere to have dinner but before we knew it we were at the wharf and the FanZone. The Ireland match had just finished so the FanZone was quite empty so we had a walk around before deciding to go elsewhere for some beer rather than pay over the odds for bloody Heineken. I mean, really, Dutch beer at an NZ World Cup? I felt almost as angry as seeing Budweiser served in South Africa last year!
We went to a bar called Northern Steamship which was a Macs Brewery bar. There were no tables free so we grabbed a beer and got chatting to a couple of local guys, an older man and his grandson. We looked at the menu but nothing took our fancy so we ended up just standing and watching the Argentines beat Scotland whilst drinking more beer and chatting some more. Everyone here is so friendly, which makes the attitudes of those working in our hostel so much more noticeable. If everyone was ignorant and dis-interested, then you wouldn’t notice it so much but they aren’t. And for that we are grateful as we’ve had a great time in NZ yet again.
On the long walk back to the hostel, we stopped for some “dinner”, a lovely, chilli-covered kebab for me and falafel for Elizabeth. It’s just perfect post-beer food and made the walk back almost bearable, although we still had to stop halfway at McDonald’s for a burg… no, just kidding; it was just for a pee stop!
Back in the room, the smell seemed to have gone but it still lingered in the corridor. Most people were in bed at a reasonable hour so we were able to get some decent rest although some arsehole decided to open the windows and freeze us all…
September 26, 2011
So, our last full day in NZ and just two days before we are due to go diving… and I wake up with a throat which feels like I’ve swallowed razor blades and a nose streaming faster than Niagara. I’ve no idea where it came from as I felt fine yesterday and it was only about 4am that it hit me. I couldn’t even be bothered finding my shoes to go to the bathroom so I just used my sheet to blow my nose on! I’m hazarding a guess that the open window and Arctic temperatures didn’t help but who am I to blame some other inconsiderate idiots…
We decided to get dressed and get out and get some fresh air (and medication!). We stopped in a few shops along the way, too, including Cookie Time and Kathmandu. I had managed to make a hole in both of my fleece jumpers while we were here so I needed another replacement and we went to Kathmandu as they still had their crazy cheap offers going, plus we had a $25 discount voucher because we spend so bloody much there. Seriously, a company only in NZ and Aus and we’d spent so much we were entitled to a rewards voucher?!!! Anyway, for about $25 we were able to get me another top and a t-shirt for Elizabeth so it was quite a deal.
We grabbed some pita breads and headed back to the hostel. As the French guys had left the day before the kitchen appeared to be much cleaner so we decided to make use of our remaining food stores and get some laundry done. Of course, with the refurbishments ongoing at our hostel the laundry wasn’t working so we had to go around the corner. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the facilities are so much nicer and cleaner and the staff are a hell of a lot friendlier! While doing laundry we had our pita breads with leftover cheese and chorizo and a potato salad we had. It wasn’t haute cuisine, but it was good enough!
Two loads of laundry later, we plodded back up the hills to the hostel and got our bags mostly packed up. We were leaving tomorrow but our flight isn’t too early so we weren’t in a great rush. We hung out at the hostel and eventually when we were hungry we went to a place nearby for pizza. We ordered a large meatball pizza to share and this thing turned out to be HUGE! We could only manage a couple of slices each and took the rest back for breakfast. We returned to the dorm to find a weird Asian couple had arrived and everyone in our room was busy catching some zzz’s by about 9pm!