|It was a bittersweet 2 hour drive to Auckland (our final destination in NZ) for many reasons...
I was not yet ready to abandon the magnificent landscapes, so I tried as much as possible to burn the pictures in my mind.
We were also about to say goodbye to our second home on wheels, Louie. We will certainly not miss assembling the bed every morning and taking it apart every night, or walking outside in the cold to get to the toilets and showers - but we will miss the freedom of waking up in the morning and driving to wherever looked like a nice place to stay.
We stopped at one of those signposted picnic areas that boasted the Giant Kauri Tree. Walked into the forest on a path for 5 mins and saw some very tall trees, but nothing that we hadn?t seen before. Walked out slightly disappointed until L stopped me and said, "Look at THAT!" And there it was. The biggest tree I had ever seen in my life. Giant was an understatement. Must have been about 20m in diameter, or we figured it would have taken 10 adults holding hands to hug this thing. It was massive! Apparently it is now a protected species in NZ as you can imagine how many houses that one tree could build!
In the end, L drove us 4,800K around NZ. Between there and Aus, we worked out we could?ve driven from London to Singapore! Impressive, right?
Anyway, we drove to the Britz dealership, said our final goodbyes to Louie, thanked him for keeping us safe and took a taxi to the Hilton Hotel.
Talk about night and day. We had a lovely room overlooking the harbour, a huge, comfy bed - and most importantly - a BIG bath! No, most importantly, it was FREE, thanks to Bloomberg forcing me to travel all those years. Points mean prizes!
Auckland is yet another big city, so we weren?t over anxious to play tourists the whole time. We did take the mandatory ride up to the top of the City Tower. Fortunately, it was a perfect day so the visibility was amazing.
I was tempted to do the Sky Jump 140 meters off the tower, but I decided against it. If I was going to risk my life, I decided it would have been better and more scenic to bungy off a bridge. Had the opportunity a couple of times, but L wouldn?t jump for a million bucks (not that anyone offered it to us) and I didn?t want to jump alone... (I know I will regret it, Kachoo. You?ll always be cooler than me...) But as one observer said when we watched people jump in Queenstown, "why would you pay that much money for something that lasts less than 30 seconds??" Ah well, will just have to leave it up to the imagination.
We read about a place called Epicurean, a cookery school/ kitchen store, to see if we could steal any ideas for our future business. The store itself was the perfect size and in a great location. It was nice enough, but we decided together we could do it much better. The store manager was eager to answer all of L?s probing questions and she even gave us a tour of the school and printetd . It was set up more for presentation rather than hands on, but the kitchen was big with huge mirrors over the counters so the audience can see exactly what?s cooking.
We left there and headed to the Auckland Museum. It was L?s idea, believe it or not! I thought it was going to be an art museum. But it turned out to be more of a history of NZ/ Natural History museum. Very impressive, the top floor was a tribute to all of the wars NZ had fought in. The second floor contained all Maori crafts, weaponry, jewelry, etc. And the ground floor was a tribute to animal life in NZ, from the dinosaurs to the kiwi bird. It also had a giant kaori tree but not nearly as big as the one we saw on the road. The whole thing was educational and very well done.
Believe it or not, we had no desire to go out at night, so we had room service and watched cable in the evenings (we finally got to see Hitch in its entirety). The restaurant in the hotel was reputed to be one of the best in the city, so we decided to splurge on a nice meal. It was called White, so you can imagine the decor - reminded us of a trendy restaurant in NYC.
For the money we spent there, the food was most disappointing and the service was substandard. I ordered a fillet which came out cold, sent it back and it came back again luke warm. The only decent part was the wine. Oh well, can?t win ?em all.
Auckland had a very high population of Asians, thus a lot of Japanese, Chinese, Thai restaurants decorated the streets. The sushi in the mall was excellent and cheap.
Other than that, we spent a lot of time at Internet cafes and did a lot of walking. Was good to strectch the legs properly after all those days in the camper van.