Friday 15 May
It’s 4 a.m. in Sydney and where do all these cars come from? My plane leaves Mascot at 9:30 a.m. but I have to check in three hours so the 5:30 a.m. shuttle bus is the one I have to take. Four and a half hours and three cups of coffee later we all stagger, bleary eyed onto the plane.
The trip to Auckland from Sydney is only three hours so in no time at all we arrive and during the dying stages of a deluge. As I write this I am sitting at the airport again waiting to get onto my flight to San Francisco and the heavens have opened up again. It is bucketing down. The last time I was surrounded by this much water I was snorkeling. Nowonder Un Zud is so green. The weather in between has been perfect.
After arriving on Friday I took the shuttle into town and got off at in Queen Street as instructed by the ticket person at the airport. ‘It’s not far from your hotel’ she told me. She was right, it wasn’t far, about a kilometre but it was up a hill that would challenge a mountain goat. This is where Sir Edmund Hillary did his training. There was a dearth of sherpas and taxis at this time of the day for some reason so I trudged on. Eventually I got to my digs, totally knackered and suffering from altitude sickness.
Leaving Sydney Halfway there First sight of NZ
After settling in and exploring the mysteries of my hotel room (you know, all those little bottles of stuff in the bathroom and the thimble sized containers of ersatz milk) I ventured out for a brief tour and in search of food. I spotted a good sized queue outside an interesting place thinking, ‘if there is a crowd it must be ok’. The Auckland city mission however had a limited menu so I soldiered on. I couldn’t come at Chinese from a restaurant called Wongkok nor did the $150 a plate fare at Skytower temp me so I settled on a little Thai place called, My Thai. My Thai was packed to the rafters so, take away in a bag I fled past the Auckland City Mission clutching my dinner to my hotel (via a grog shop for a bottle of NZ red) where I settle in to watch the hapless Brumbies go down to a Kiwi team. You have gotta love the kiwi sense of humour – within a stones throw if the Auckland City Mission are no less than 4 grog shops and two pubs.
Saturday 16 May
Today after a slow start I walked the town exploring and blowing a bit of cash on some new duds at Kathmandu and a T- shirt with a motif that says ‘I’m not forgetful I’m just having a senior moment’. The treat for the day was a three hour ferry ride that did a slow loop of the Harbour. What a beautiful place it is and it reminded me a lot of Rabaul where I lived as a child – volcanos and all. There were so many sailing boats on the water so it is easy to see why Auckland is called the city of sails.
I checked out the Skytower Jump and decided that it was a bit over the top to pay nearly $200 for about five seconds plummeting earthwards on a wispy thin cable from nearly 200 metres up. I only had one pair of dry trousers anyway. The Skytower though, is rather an imposing sight in a city that doesn’t boast too many sky-scrapers. It is a bit lost on me why the first habitable room in buildings like this are on the ground floor and the next habitable room is somewhere in the stratosphere with tons of concrete and steel separating the two.
I had walked about 10k’s today so I headed off home to leftover Massaman Curry and yet another game of Rugby on the tele (pronounce Tili apparently). The NZ Cab Merlot wasn’t bad so I finished of the bottle.
Sunday 17 May
I had to be out of my hotel by 10 a.m. so I had to scurry around to fix breakfast, do all the morning stuff, repack and cart my worldly possessions into the Tardis like lift for check out. All of which I did just in time. I spent the rest of the morning looking around the waterfront and drinking coffee.
Time to head out to the Airport for my flight to San Francisco. After collecting my bags from the hotel I had to walk back down to Queen Street to meet the airport shuttle which was the reverse of my uphill trudge on Friday. Let me tell you, taking two bags with a combined weight of 40+ kilos down a hill is like walking a bull mastiff on caffeine.
I had a few hours to kill before I had to board the plane, walking outside was out of the question because the heavens had opened up. I found a decent coffee shop so spent a while there, reading and drinking coffee. The duty free shops were a real treat so that filled in a couple of hours. I bought a few things that I convinced myself that I needed and went to the departure lounge for the call on board.
Alas the flight is delayed because there is something (hopefully innocuous) wrong with the plane. Finally we are called on about ten minutes late but then had to wait in the plane (sans cooling system) for an hour and a half. While we waited the cabin staff kept offering glasses of water, so you can imagine the stampede when we finally got airborne and the seat belt went out. We lifted off sometime after 9 p.m. My biggest problems during the flight were, how the hell do I go to sleep and how do I pick a movie to watch from the 76 on offer.
City of Sails