Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 2009 Everybody!

Actually, this is in Macau, but it suits the themeOf all the party cities we’ve been through (Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok, Sydney) we probably  hit the one dull one to spend New Year’s in. Luckily Julie was thinking ahead and booked us into a hung-over harbour cruise so the scenery made up for it. 

We started off the evening at the Patio Cafe whose patio overlooks downtown Auckland’s main drag – Queen Street.  It was fun people-watching as the crowds moved up and down from the harbour into town. We weren’t really that hungry so we just kept ordering rounds of appetizers after we discovered the biggest mussels we’ve ever seen – NZ green mussels are nearly 10cm long!  Since we didn’t have anywhere to go, we sat in the restaurant for hours, outlasting the other guests and waiting for the drizzle to end.

Auckland’s got it’s own version of the CN/Calgary/Sydney Tower, the SkyTower, and that’s where we wandered over to after dinner. There was a big crowd milling about and if you had tickets to the party then you were in, but we were denied at the door. We’d been through here earlier in the day and had spotted a small chapel that had been set up in the foyer where Elvis would be later. Julie got the great idea that we should go and get pictures taken in the chapel and send them home saying we got married by Elvis!  Unfortunately, like I SkyTower Cadillacsaid, we couldn’t get in the door. So no fake marriage to fool all you folks back home! But we did get to have our picture taken in the ol’Caddy parked outside that was to be used for the wedded people to “drive away in”.

Auckland plays host to some elite sailing competitions, and for one of them (the America’s Cup) the city revamped its harbour front and built it into what is now called the Viaduct. It’s a nice place, with a fancy Hilton hotel built over the water, loads of restaurants and bars, and parking spots for all of the big and fancy yachts that sail in here.  The Viaduct’s also got a reputation for being the place where young “bogans” hang out and cause a ruckus, so “mature” people tend to pass it off. But every time we’ve been there it’s been the “mature” people causing a ruckus. Go figure…

Anyhow, I digress… We found a small pub down there that had a live Ringing in the New Year with Lindauer bubbleband and no cover charge, and they were serving Crown Royal for the same price as Canadian Club (that’ll make any Canadian’s day!) so we hung out for a bit. Julie smuggled in a small bottle of champagne that we uncorked as we watched the fireworks go off from the SkyTower.  Happy New Year!


The next day we played tourist and went on a harbour cruise to Rangitoto Island. (Fullers Rangitoto Volcanic Explorer)Cruising Auckland's harbour on New Year's day It’s the youngest of the volcanoes in and around Auckland at just over 600 years old, which means that the Maori people who were living here at the time saw it erupt.  The island is essentially uninhabited now as it’s been turned into a park. That and there’s not much to do there since the ground is not dirt but crumbled lava rock.  the native Pohutukawa trees seem to grow quite well though and at this time of year they are blooming there bright red flowers, hence their nickname of “Kiwi Christmas tree”.

Oh, and I managed to catch the highlights of today Canadian Junior victory over the Americans on – Sweet as!  (Kiwi slang for “good”, “great”, “right on”, etc)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kia Ora! Welcome to Auckland!

A short trip across the Tasman Sea, or the “ditch” as they refer to it here, and here we are.  I had no idea what to expect when arriving here. As we flew in I saw the coast and beaches and then some trees and suddenly it was the city and we were landing. I had done next to no research on New Zealand before coming here, relying entirely on what Julie knew from her last trip here. So I didn’t even know where Auckland was situated, which would’ve explained why we saw beaches and then landed. Auckland’s located on a narrow isthmus of land between the Manukau Harbour and the Waitemata Harbour, or the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  Realistically, if you flew in to almost any Kiwi city you’d land soon after seeing the beaches since the country’s just not that big. 

We were booked into a downtown hostel (Nomad’s Fusion Backpackers) and were treated to another uber-tiny room with a bunk bed. We’d also learn quite quickly that we were right above a couple of bars, so at night you either roasted in the sealed room, or slept with earplugs depending if you had the window open or shut.  Julie wanted out of there pretty quickly so she got right on task for finding us a place to live.  New Zealand’s answer to eBay – – provided most of our leads while scanning the bulletin boards at the surrounding hostels also gave a couple of clues.  In order to visit these places we did get to see a variety of neighbourhoods, learned that Auckland’s public transport system is annoying to use as Winnipeg’s and had to smile while backing out of a couple of places.

IMG_0014 It’s New Year’s Eve tonight.  We didn’t plan ahead and therefore missed going to the big party out in Gisborne. The Rhythm & Vines Festival is where you go if you want to be the very first in the world to ring in the new year.  Beyond that we couldn’t really find much to do and did feel quite isolated since we didn’t know anyone.

* “Kia Ora” = Maori greeting, literally “be well”