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Published: January 12th 2018
Nicole Kidman's othe half!
Well, here we are, on the other side of the world! Over 11,000 miles from home, 13 times zones ahead of the UK and absolutely no idea whatsoever, what day of the week it is!! But, here's the good news for all those budding cartographers among you................we have a new map for you to ponder over. I do so like a good map!!
Now, New Zealand is famous for many things such as, the number of sheep (30 million at the last count!), the All Blacks Rugby Union team, Sir Edmund Hilary (the first man to climb Everest, of course) and the Flight of the Conchords, for those lovers of very off beat humour amongst you! But, to Mandy and I, one of the most famous sons of this fine nation is a certain Keith Urban, born in NZ, but now a major Country Music star in the US and also, married to one Nicole Kidman.
But what has any of the above got to do with this blog, I hear you say? Well, if the truth be known, absolutely nothing. However, since arriving in New Zealand a couple of days ago and being totally disorientated by being 'half
Skytower No: 1
Auckland and the harbour from the Skytower. Sorry about the blue tinge, but was due to the windows!
a world' AND 'half a day' away from home, this has sort of reminded me of a couple of Mr. Urban's best known songs, namely 'Days go By' and 'These are the Days'. AND, just in case you didn't get the way my oddball mind works, you see, both songs are about 'Days' and......being here in New Zealand TODAY when it's YESTERDAY back home, has really messed with our heads and totally screwed up our 'days'! Especially when we all talk to the family back home and the day that we're already enjoying hasn't even started there AND the day that they're on back home, finished for us yesterday!!
I don't know if that makes any sense whatsoever, but hopefully, you can understand how my brain feels a touch fried at the moment!! But before getting to the real point of this blog, I suspect that many of you may not be familiar with Keith Urban's fine body of work and to ensure that you don't miss out, I attach links to YouTube clips of both tracks for your delectation! Enjoy people!!
So, let's get back to the blog and our first 3 days
Skytower No: 2
in New Zealand. The flight from Singapore was pretty much uneventful. Another A380 Upper Deck, but this time the four of us in the seats across the middle - definitely less room than the two and two seating we had on the first leg. So, please bear that in mind when choosing seats on this type of aircraft in the future. However, at least we were together AND glory upon glory, this is the last flight of more than 5 hours that we have to suffer on this trip, until our very last flight home from Singapore to London. Yippee!!
We landed on time in Auckland just before noon, sped through Immigration, although Sue did get blocked by the electronic passport gates and had to go and see a 'person' instead. Whilst this delayed her a bit, by the time Tim and Sue joined us, we had collected all the bags and.............were ready to roll.
Not so fast, a voice in my head seemed to say and it was right! It took us over two hours to clear Customs; not that WE had any problems as such, it was just the length of the queue, coupled with New
What might have been!
The boys with 'Coast to Coast' markers near Mount Eden.
Zealand's very strict approach to any drugs (including medicines), food and parasites (particularly on any dirty outdoor hiking or sporting footwear) entering the country. This meant that, contrary to what occurs in most other countries, everyone seems to go through the Red Zone (something to declare) as opposed to the Green Zone and although I have absolutely no problem with the policy, having a few more Customs' officers on duty at busy times, would be really helpful.
Anyway, after checking into our hotel, the Adina Apartments Britomart (clean and comfortable kitchenette rooms, in a handy location), and although feeling a bit jaded, we hit the streets, with a visit to the top of Auckland's highest point, the Sky Tower; 1076 feet high and well worth a trip, with 360 degree views around the city and even a far off view of the Coromandel Peninsula, our next stop in a couple of days. We then strolled back through the main part of the city, before having dinner in one of many waterfront bars - the Monday night special of 'half a kilo of pork ribs and a beer' for $15 or about £8; great ribs and great value!
Mount Eden 1
The Auckland skyline from Mount Eden.
an early night, we had planned to walk NZ's version of the Coast to Coast trek on day 2, from Waitemata Harbour to Manukau Harbour, from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea, a distance of about 16km, but we realised we were simply being too ambitious - we were just too weary! So, we went for the more sensible option of Auckland's Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tour instead and well worth it, it was. We saw all the key parts of the city, including the Waterfront, Bastion Point (a high point to the east of the city), Auckland Museum and the Winter Gardens in the Domain area (both worth a visit, especially the Gardens which are free!) and Mount Eden (the high point to the south and an extinct volcano, with stunning views over the city and the sea beyond).
The tour also included a ferry trip over to Devonport Island, a very quaint place, even more back in time than mainland NZ! Devonport is well worth a visit and we even trekked up to North Head, a headland protecting the bay with a network of tunnels used by troops manning the battery that was first there in the 1880s......well
Mount Eden 2
The girls atop Mount Eden.
worth a visit.
While at the Winter Gardens we met up with Roz Fielding and her two beautiful little girls Molly and Annabelle. Roz is one of our friends' Chris & Jackie's three daughters and she has lived in NZ for around 6 years...........and loves it! We haven't seen Roz for about 11 years and it was great to catch up with her over coffee and cake and, of course, to meet the girls.
We actually weren't blown away by our first impressions of Auckland, which seemed to be just like many other cities around the world. However, the benefit of the bus tour was in taking in the wider city and the overall lifestyle of this place, which is predominately 'outdoors based and so relaxed’ and, I'm pleased to say that the city really grew on us.
After two nights, we were on the move again and this time we picked up our first car - a monster SUV Toyota Prado; ideal for the travelling Kilborans! After loading the car, we set off to the Coromandel Peninsula and, in particular, the very pretty seaside town of Whitianga (pronounced Fitianga; apparently 'WH' is always pronounced 'F'). Our
Mount Eden 3
The boys doing the same!
plan was to drive south to the town of Thames and then up the west coast of the peninsula to the town of Coromandel itself, before working our way round to Whitianga. However, a sub-tropical storm decided to scupper this plan, hitting New Zealand a couple of days before we arrived, before clearing by the time we got to Auckland.
Now, don't panic anyone, NZ is pretty used to these storms, even if this one did put the UK's little old Storm Eleanor into perspective, with hurricane force winds battering the whole country, particularly the west side; there were no casualties, but there was plenty of storm damage and the road between Thames and Coromandel was badly affected and only passable as we found out when we reached Thames..........with a police convoy!! So, exercising the caution of the elderly, we turned around and went the other way, up the east coast and there were absolutely no problems.
Whitianga was a lovely spot. We stayed at the Admiralty Lodge, which although a little tired, had lovely rooms, with a beautiful sea view.......and what a sea view it was! We arrived early afternoon and our main plan was to join
The Auckland skyline from North Head, Devonport.
one of the cruises to take in some of the incredibly beautiful and historic coastline of this part of NZ. On the advice of our hotel, we went with Brian at Ocean Leopard Cruises; 14 of us altogether in his 300bhp, very zippy little vessel and two hours or so of great fun it was too, including time for some snorkelling by Tim and I - the girls thought better of it and although it was pretty 'fresh' when we first took the plunge, it was actually a really enjoyable temperature. We saw hundreds of fish, but without my glasses I didn't have a scooby what they were!
As for our Suzie, she proved once again that she can sleep anywhere and under any conditions, managing to snooze her way through a big chunk of the trip despite a massive outboard motor roaring away in her ear and a howling gale blowing in her face and through her hair, when the boat was travelling at full pelt!
Whilst not unlike much of the Dorset coastline, the difference here is in the nature of the cliff faces, which were formed millions of years ago from the ash and lava
Mercury Bay from our balcony.
of volcanic eruptions. This makes the rocks very soft and results in the cliffs (and individual rocks away from the main cliffs), being carved by the wind and sea into some very unusual shapes. These shapes include the iconic Cathedral Cove (not unlike Bedruthan in Cornwall), which apparently featured in one of the Narnia films.
The historic bit, involves Captain Cook, the first European to discover New Zealand in 1769 (before moving on to Australia soon after!). Not only, did he spend 6 months sailing around the whole of NZ (both islands) mapping the coastline and producing maps which are remarkably accurate, even when compared to today's versions; but, while he was here, he also observed the 'transit of Mercury' (an event where the planet Mercury passes between the Earth and the Sun, appearing as a black dot moving across the Sun), an incredibly rare event that, believe it or not, will not be seen again from this spot in NZ until the year 2052!! How on earth he knew that this was going to occur, with the rudimentary tools they had at their disposal nearly 250 years ago, is totally beyond my understanding.
Anyway, this event occurred
Sunrise over Mercury Bay!
at the aptly named Cook's Beach, which we saw on our cruise and Captain Cook himself, named the bay Mercury Bay after this historic event. AND here’s the best bit (for me anyway!), this is the bay we look out on from our hotel room balcony! Ihave been told that I have a tendency to prattle on about all things historic, but that’s just me I suppose and no apologies, I do love a bit of history!!
The cruise was a fantastic way to round off our first 3 days in New Zealand and after a lovely meal, it was off to bed to prepare for our next leg tomorrow, driving down to Rotorua.
Before I finish, I suppose I ought to explain the title of this particular entry, 'The Garden of Eden or a little bit of Home'.
Well, Auckland itself was named in 1840 after one George Eden, the Earl of Auckland in Britain and the First Lord of the Admiralty. And, to show once again that, despite years of British colonial rule, many countries concerned (in this case NZ) do not necessarily wish to trash that history, and numerous places in Auckland still celebrate
Brian's mighty vessel!
the 'Eden' name. These include, Mount Eden (the highest natural point in Auckland), Eden Park (the national sports stadium and home to the All Blacks Rugby Union team and the Black Caps cricket team) and Glen Eden (a residential suburb of the city) to name but a few.
As for the 'Little bit of Home' reference, I'm certainly not the first to say this, but New Zealand is so much like England, maybe part Yorkshire Dales, part Lake District and part Hampshire/Dorset. It's just a mirror image of the 'Old Country', but on the other side of the world and hence, the Little bit of Home!
So that's it folks. Another episode over and next we start wending our way south. But, before I go, I suppose I should try a few more questions, although I am slightly worried that my efforts so far are not really perking your interest!! As far as last time's answers are concerned, the banned fruit is the Durian (because it has a disgusting smell, although does taste pretty good!), the fourth language is Tamil and the toilet activity that can be a criminal offence is.........not flushing the toilet!! As for today's questions,
• Captain Cook not only saw the transit of Mercury, he also saw the transit of another planet a few months before while in Tahiti. Which planet was it?
• What was the name of Captain Cook's ship? and
• Where did Captain Cook land when he discovered Australia in 1770?
That's all folks! TTFN
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