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Published: March 12th 2016
R: LAN airlines scrutinised our travel documents harder than anyone I have ever seen before. Our onward flight was checked. Our permission to stay in both New Zealand, and Australia (including our eVisitor) was asked for. We had to bring out the iPad several times to prove it. They checked in vain for a paper visa for New Zealand in our passports before agreeing that the British didn't need these to get into NZ! after looking it up. Begrudgingly, after 20 minutes (no exaggeration) at check in, they gave us a boarding pass. Which put us right next to Shelley, my walking buddy from Pucon, on the plane by complete coincidence. Well, after we moved the Chilean man who thought he could sit wherever he wanted. The flight departed at 00.05 on the 8th March.
We arrived at 04.20 on the 9th March, having lost practically an entire day due to flying across the international date line. Having no where to go until our Airbnb would accept us, we hung out in a coffee shop at Auckland airport until about 8.30, and then we got hungry and went to KFC for breakfast... A short bus trip took us to Mount
Eden in Auckland, and a short walk took us to our newest Airbnb - a bedsit in a historic old house. However we must have looked hot... A police officer in an unmarked car pulled along side us and asked if we wanted a lift! The room wasn't quite ready, so we headed to Newmarket, a shopping district nearby our place where we sought refuge, wifi and more coffee. The afternoon was filled with a short nap for me, a longer nap for Cate, and a hike up Mount Eden - an extinct volcano that makes up part of the Auckland volcanic field... The city is built on the space between several small volcanoes. Mount Eden is the highest at 196m. From the top I had a great view over the modern city, the bay and islands around.
Next day was the big city exploration. We followed Lonely Planet's walking tour which took us via various city buildings, parks, university precincts and the Wynyard Quarter which is the regenerated docklands area. Interesting fact we learned: New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote. The city is very modern, clean, efficient and tidy and
couldn't be further from our experiences in South America. The docklands area has been done out with loads of green space and we laughed as we saw one of the old gantry ways for the ships having been converted into a two story jogging apparatus for city workers. We ended up grilling our own chicken skewers and prawns for lunch, washed down with a $9 (£4.50) beer. Ouch! Another thing that couldn't be further from South America. Cate also found a source of Prosecco for the first time in the trip. So now her trip is complete!
New Zealand are currently undergoing a referendum to decide the future of their old flag which has the Union Jack in the top corner. Many think this is outdated and a new flag, which is blue and black with the silver fern in it, is more appropriate. Kiwis have until the end of March to decide, and opinion seems to be split. It will be interesting to see the outcome, but personally, I'm backing the new flag. We have seen several of them flying here already.
We headed over to Devonport by ferry which is 12 minute ride to the other
side of the bay. It's a calm, Edwardian seaside town over there. We wandered about and into the North Point, a hollowed out cliff filled with military installations and guns from the 19th century which form a labyrinth of tunnels in the head. After a quick "long black" (known as americano to most UK coffee fans) we headed back along, peering into what we assumed to be extremely expensive beach front houses, and headed home. On the way back we looked into the rather impressive Catholic cathedral which was all wooden beams and bright red feature walls (grand designs had obviously been in) and the rather dull Sky City casino. We shuddered, thinking back to Vegas, and got out of there.
Today the weather was terrible when we got up. So we went to the beach. Pretty much as soon as we got there we decamped into a coffee shop. One of our cravings when we came to New Zealand from South America was Indian food. In Mission Bay was a place that did an express lunch (curry, rice, naan, poppadom and drink) for $10 (£5). Best curry we'd had in at least.... 4 months. After a brief look
A reminder of the Volcanic field of Auckland
at the Art Deco fountain, we plodded back towards town and headed for Ponsonby, an area known for restaurants and bars. We had a look around this and the nearby western park then headed onto Auckland Domain, the largest outdoor space in the city's centre which has a Wintergardens and is home to Aucklands largest museum. As we approached the Wintergardens, a pair of hot houses with beautiful plants within, (and aubergine plants, for some reason), we could hear music. It turned out that an event was called "Music in Parks that evening", and the band Paper Cranes were just doing their sound check. We listened for a bit, then headed to the nearby University student union to get a beer before waiting for returning for the main event. Although we felt a bit old for the student Union, ironically we seemed to be the youngest people drinking there...
We headed back after getting briefly lost on a random forestry trail and caught the second half of the first act, a kiwi/Brit duo. And then came Anthonie... Yes, Anthonie. With his fresh sounding vocals, guitar and synth combo that reminded us of Ross from friends flaying keyboard. Then he
With the tide out
got up to dance during the instrumentals on the steps behind him. And then I realised I was in New Zealand watching music so bad it was funny. I was disappointed when there wasn't a binary solo. We didn't get to Paper Cranes. He was simply too bad. But it was a great place to people watch.
We hearded home and caught the end of Masterchef Australia. Now don't say we don't know how to have a good Friday night.
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