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Published: March 30th 2016
Today's journey was just a short-hop journey-breaker compared to other distances we had covered so we took the opportunity for plenty of stops. For the first time since we had started our adventure I had woken up really tired - and I mean REALLY tired not just I-need-a-cup-of-coffee tired. Luckily, the countryside was tempting and the weather was good! We partially retraced our steps from Waitomo as far as Cambridge and I just loved the gently rolling hills and 'soft' scenery. We arrived in Hamilton in time for a short walk around the town before having lunch at a small cafe around the town square. A lot of the shops were empty, with many 'For sale' and 'To let' signs but a singer was performing in the square and there was plenty of passing pedestrian traffic. This was, however, the first place we really saw any signs of unemployment, with lots of youths sitting under the trees being watched over by a 'Safety' (aka 'Security') officer. Trouble at t'mill, maybe??
We checked into Room 18 at the Fountain City Motor Inn, which was huge. I was still soooo tired so just had to have a nap and we spent a
lazy evening just slobbing around, resting. Our room overlooked a park and a golf driving range which was well-lit and busy until well after 9 pm, so some people in the town had money or time a-plenty on their hands. The following day was spent doing the necessary domestic tasks (laundry, etc) in anticipation of our imminent travels to a different country where such facilities were an unknown quantity. We heard on the news that Christchurch had suffered another earthquake but, thankfully, it was much, much smaller and damage was insignificant in comparison.
We set off for Auckland early the following morning, needing to be there before noon to return the car (which had been absolutely fine, by the way, covering over 1000 kms for us, trouble free). Driving in New Zealand is a bit like a throw-back to the 70s. There's not much traffic, there's plenty of road and drivers are courteous. So why do they persist in sticking so close to your bumper, even when there's just your two vehicles on the road? It gave 'tail-gating' a whole new meaning. And it's not as if they want to overtake you or go any faster. We slowed down
at many passing places to let them by but no, they just slowed down too and carried on at our speed, behind us. It was almost as if they wanted the reassurance of another car in front of them but it was so annoying, especially as we often braked suddenly for those unsigned viewing places!
We made perfect time, arriving in Auckland at 11.30 am, returning the car and getting a lift from the rental company up to our hotel, the Auckland City Hotel. We were too early to check in but we left our luggage and went out for a drink and a meal at the Shakespeare pub before having a walk round the city. We watched some people doing a controlled bungy-jumping thing from the Skytower which is part of a big casino-type complex currently undergoing renovation (I hope!). It all looked a bit tawdry and seedy.
We immediately noticed the litter. It had been completely absent in other parts of NZ so it was quite a shock to see it in the streets of Auckland. The streets appeared dirty, the rubbish bins were overflowing and there was a certain 'smuttiness' to the place. In contrast
our room at the hotel was clean, big and bright with a dual aspect overlooking two tall, grey, high-rise apartment blocks. It was very central and conveniently located. Auckland is very densely populated, with little opportunity for personal space and the noise was constant. I recalled our Wellington guide telling us they were trying to get a longer runway so the airport could get some of the Chinese and Japanese planes to land there. I thought it a pity that the first impression these tourists currently get is of a city which is atypical of the rest of the country. I don't know why that's the case, but it's a shame.
We arranged a city bus tour for the following day. Before we checked out of our hotel, I chatted with one of the hotel staff members in the smoking area. He was from the Philippines and was really homesick. He was very unhappy in Auckland and he said there was a lot of racism in the city which quite surprised me at it struck me as a very cosmopolitan place, though I hadn't really been there long enough to form a sound judgment. As we checked out of
the hotel, I confessed that I had broken a plate in our kitchen area, while washing up. I was concerned that the cleaner might cut herself on any rogue shards of crockery. I was amazed that, instead of sharing my concern, the receptionist wanted to charge me $10 for the 'damage'! A broken glass in another establishment had been quickly replaced and put down to 'wear and tear'. Not in Auckland ..... next time I'll leave the dirty pots in the sink! Maybe they were trying to cover the costs associated with the removal of the safe in our room. It had started to make a loud beeping noise at one point and our efforts and those of a staff member to silence it only resulted in it beeping louder. In the end the chap had to literally rive it from the wall and bodily remove it. Thankfully it had nothing of ours in it at the time. We could hear its diminishing protestations as it went down in the lift - goodness knows what they did with it in the end to shut it up!
I always judge a city bus tour on the amount of information I
remember and the number of photos I take - the more the better. All I remember of the tour is that it cost a lot, we seemed to go up and down the same streets again and again and I can't recall much else about it. It was very disappointing. Indeed, we decided to spend our time waiting for our flight at the airport, rather than in Auckland city, so that about sums it up.
Nevertheless, we wouldn't let it tarnish the rest of our experiences in and of New Zealand, which we had thoroughly enjoyed. I will remember it for many things, including the dreadful weather and the amazing scenery but especially for ticking off some of my wish list!
Final observations about New Zealand in general? (Again, these are MY views, in no particular order):
* It has some out-of-this-world scenery;
* The weather can throw four seasons at you in one day;
* It looks and feels very British;
* Supermarket trolleys are called trundlers, which is a much nicer word;
* They still operate a dog registration process, which is a good thing in my view;
sort of luminous orange paint is used on their Belisha/Belicia? beacons which literally glows in the dark and means they don't have to flash, annoyingly;
* They produce drinkable lemonade but their lager is dreadful.
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