|February 15, 2010
Today we flew out of Australia and into New Zealand. The flight was only about 3 hours but with the time difference it was mid-afternoon by the time we landed.
We took the airport bus to close to our hostel and were surprised just how hilly the city was, the walk to our hostel including a very steep but thankfully downhill section! We checked in quickly and got to our room. We had a 4 bed dorm room which was nice and clean and tidy and a great change from the awful accommodation we put up with in Sydney. Even the bathrooms, toilets and kitchens here were clean as well as the staff being friendly and helpful. NZ is looking good already!
We headed out pretty much as soon as we got checked in as we were both hungry. One of the main areas in the city for bars and such like is K Road and we were just off that so we had a wander along there. We passed lots of Asian food places (Japanese, Chinese, Korean) but eventually found a pub which had a decent happy hour (NZ$5 for pints) and a decent food selection. It was only once we had ordered and taken our seats that we noticed that every person in the bar was male and it was quite blatantly a gay bar! Given our time in Melbourne with Dean, this didn’t bother either of us and even less so when the food turned up and it was excellent. I went with a lamb burger (given NZ has millions of lambs!) and Elizabeth had fish and chips, or “fush and chups” as the Kiwis say!
On the way back to the hostel we grabbed some pasta for dinner for the next two nights as well as some cereal for breakfast plus a couple of beers to enjoy back at the hostel.
We were sharing our room with a couple from Scotland who were really friendly called Lindsay and Lee. We were chatting to them about travelling and they were coming near to the end of their time, having spent six months living and working in Sydney before travelling Aus and NZ. It was weird talking to them because I am still loving travelling and moving around and seeing new stuff yet they were both getting tired of it and were looking forward to getting back and having somewhere they could properly unpack and hang their clothes up! For me, it is the opposite – I am almost dreading the day when we have to go back to the real world and find jobs but the way the time is flying, it is going to come around all too soon. Our current plan has us flying back to the US on August 16 meaning we have just 6 months left and over half our time has already whizzed by.
February 16, 2010
Our first full day in Auckland and we started with a bit of culture and the Auckland Museum. It is quite close to where we are staying and it was quite a pleasant walk to get there, crossing one of the city parks, The Domain, in the process.
Inside the museum was huge, split onto three levels. The lowest level concentrated on not just the Maoris but also other Pacific islands including Samoa where we are headed on Friday. It was really interesting to not only see the similarity in styles amongst islands which are so far apart but also to see the way the closer islands linked and traded in the past and present. It also had a large area showing Maori traditions and what life is like in a Maori village. The museum did do a special cultural exhibit but this was NZ$35 and we thought this was excessive so decided to pass.
The top floor was a history of NZ’s involvement in warfare including both the World Wars. This floor also housed NZ’s war memorial to all those killed defending this nation and others in these conflicts. It was very sad reading some of the stories about the soldiers who died but was interesting to read a different perspective. NZ had no reason to be involved in WWI other than being almost obliged to by Britain. At least in WWII the country was coming under threat from Japan so you could understand their cause.
The middle of the three floors was about the NZ environment and natural history. Here I saw my first proper kiwi, although it was a stuffed one! Hopefully we will get to see a live one of these somewhere although given their rarity now I suspect it will only be at a zoo.
After the museum we headed to the Winter Gardens in the Domain. Here we saw some amazing tropical trees, some even more amazing winter flowers brightly blooming as well as a wide variety of NZ ferns. Thankfully, the winter flowers area provided us an ideal shelter when the rain came but the heavy shower only lasted a few minutes. It is nice to be somewhere which is not quite so hot, humid and muggy as Sydney but I just wish the temperature would drop without the aid of clouds and rainfall. I shouldn’t complain seeing as we’ve chosen to head back to the tropics for a few days on our visit to Samoa!
Back at the hostel, via a beer stop again, we lazed around a bit with me trying to get our GPS to work. We had decided to buy a TomTom in NZ as it was actually going to work out cheaper than hiring one for the time we were renting a car for!
Having had pasta for lunch, I wasn’t looking forward much to pasta for dinner too but it was OK. I had forgotten what we had for dinner when we both ordered lunch but by the time we remembered it was too late! Oh well, pasta overload – maybe we’ll have energy to do lots of stuff tomorrow!
February 17, 2010
Today was a nice quiet day. We had planned to go to the art museum today but when we got there most of it was closed. There are two buildings but one is being renovated and the other is having the displays moved around. As a result, only one floor was open but this floor contained some interesting pieces from mostly NZ artists. Nonetheless, it only took us around half an hour to look around and we were on our way again.
We spent the remainder of the day just strolling around the city centre. Auckland is a nice, laid back city and although we’ve not been here long we both like it. We managed to spend some money during the day on some small souvenirs but held off on the bigger stuff knowing we will be here for another 2 months almost! We booked a trip out to one of the smaller islands for when we return from Samoa.
We haven’t done a huge amount here but there isn’t much we really want to do or can justify spending money on. The zoo and aquarium here look really cool but given we spent enough money on those kind of things in Sydney and Melbourne we decided to take a break from these, especially as aquariums in particular seem to be becoming more and more disappointing in the wake of amazing diving.
For lunch we stopped at a cool bar called Degree which is right on the quayside. They had some local beers here and had ones from the same brewery that we had last night. This time we tried the cider which was very good and had a nice, strong apple flavour. With the added plus of great food, our lunch stop was good for us both.
So, a couple of magnets, a bookmark and a t-shirt later, we headed back to the hostel and found we’d managed to spend around 6 hours just walking around the city. I can’t think of many places where we would do that anywhere in the world and that says a lot about Auckland for me.
Back at the hostel we looked at some diving options for Samoa and sent some emails and sorted out our bags for our trip there. We have decided to leave our big packs behind and try to pack all we need into the two small bags for about 6 days worth of travel. We’ve become good at clothes recycling!
For dinner, it was more pasta. I’m getting bored of pasta now but it is sometimes a little hard to be inventive in the kitchen with 20 other people trying to cook. I might expand to homemade curries and chilli at some point during our NZ trip, especially if the weather cools off a bit.
February 18, 2010
We had a really quiet day planned for today as we have a very early flight tomorrow. We had to change hostels this morning which was a pain. Because some of our flights had changed, we needed to change our reservation and extend by one night but our hostel didn’t have room but they booked us into the hostel around the corner. We left all our bags at the first hostel, our larger ones stored for the few days we are away and the smaller ones in a locker to pick up later this afternoon.
We had decided to go for a swim this morning and we visited the Auckland Tepid Baths. This was the YMCA swimming pool but was housed in a historic old building. We found out that the facility was due to close in April as they needed to do some work to the building. The building work wasn’t due to commence though until 2012/13 which seems like an unnecessary length of planning time, even for a historic building. Anyway, the building itself was quite cool but inside you could definitely tell the whole place needed a good overhaul. The pools were fine though and rather than just laze around, I actually set about doing some swimming and some exercise. Along with a brief stint in the spa pool and a stop in the sauna, I did 20 lengths of the 40m pool meaning I had swum around half a mile. Elizabeth managed 10 as well.
We were both quite tired when we finished but both quite hungry. We had a quite strange Kiwi guy in our dorm room but he had told us about a bar called Sale St which made its own beers. This was close to the pool so we headed there for some lunch. They had three of their own beers and we weren’t sure which to go for so the girl bought us each a sample of all three to try. They had a lovely, light pilsner; a heavy, yummy dark ale; and a summer beer, which was raspberry flavoured and much too sweet. Elizabeth had the pilsner and I had the darker ale. As an accompaniment to our pizza and huge portion of fries, they were spot on. A perfect counter-balance to our earlier exercise, too!
Back at our original hostel, we grabbed our small bags and headed around the corner and up the hill to the new place. The guy at the first place had managed to get us a two-bed room for the same price as a dorm room. This was quite handy as we had a 6am flight tomorrow which means a 3am start – having a private room at least means we can go to bed when we want without being disturbed and equally means we can get up early without disturbing anyone else. We got checked in, showered and got a few bits of laundry done before I headed out to get some pictures burnt onto DVDs. I hadn’t done this since Fukuoka in Japan which meant around three months and over 10GB of pictures. It took me nearly an hour to do and took up three DVDs but it was worth it to have an extra copy.
Back at the hostel we both just relaxed, drinking the lovely Monteith’s cider I had bought along with some noodle bowls for dinner followed by some cakes we’d bought earlier. Talk about extravagant – a meal with alcohol and dessert!