OK, OK. So I’ve not posted for a while and I apologise. I have my excuses. The main one of which is that I have been a little bit poorly – a hangover from the tummy trouble in Hanoi. Thankfully I am now able to last more than 20 minutes without a toilet trip so have actually started to enjoy myself in Auckland at last!
The flight was enjoyable and uneventful – as all good flights should be. I watched Fun With Dick And Jane and Casanova, both of which I’d recommend. I also saw most of The Longest Yard again, which wasn’t a bad thing. The girl sat behind me, a Dane with red dreadlocks, had me taking pictures out of the window for her at various points as she had one of those annoying “window seats without a window”. I was wanting to watch the FA Cup final with, believe it or not, was possible onboard as they’re now offering broadband during flights. Thing is, it would have cost me more than flying back to the UK and buying a ticket from a scalper 10 minutes before kickoff. When I finally heard the result I almost wish I had.
Finally, New Zealand hove into view off the starboard bow. Wing. Side. Whatever. Lovely and green in the early morning sunlight (I landed at 10:30am), we could even see the Sky Tower in the centre of Auckland’s Central Business District. Lou lives a stonesthrow from there.
The Danish girl (“P” to her friends) asked very nicely if she could possibly share a ride into Auckland with me. Knowing Indy, who was picking me up, and how nice he is I said “probably”.
Border control was pretty much as thorough as I’d heard, though the staff were by far and away the most pleasant I have ever encountered when entering a new country. Most passport checkers are… quiet, to say the least. They usually just take the paperwork, stare at you, rustle things for long enough to make you nervous then hand the stuff back and point at where you should go next. I got a “How are you this morning?”, a cheery “Work or pleasure?” and a final, polite “I hope you enjoy your stay in New Zealand” with a very genuine smile.
Even the scary Bio-Diversity Control wasn’t as bad as I’d heard. Strict, yes – but friendly. The forms we had to fill in on the flight asked questions such as “have you been in contact with any animals other than domesticated cats and dogs in the last 30 days”? Now, if I answered honestly, they might think I was taking the Michael… Snakes, elephants, tigers!
However, I was waved through with no problem, just asked to have a second x-ray of my luggage in case the chocolate I bought in Hanoi Airport was loaded with tarantulas or something, then home free. P had to go through the third aisle so they could check her boots as she’d been trecking in such foreign climes as… erm… London.
Indy was waiting for me with a cheery grin – almost four years since I’d seen him and he’s not changed a bit. Except for the manic look of an expectant father surrounding him like a panicky cloud, prodding him from time to time. We headed into the CBD via a Buddhist hideaway for P to drop her stuff off (including a rather wicked snowboard) and located Lou’s little hideaway, just off Queen Street.
Nice pad, as well. This ain’t no hostel! I have yet to find out how much she’s paying for it – I think she’s rather embarrassed. Two doors up, there’s a hostel for $NZ15 (£5) a night and I promise before 6 weeks are up, I’ll have her sleeping in a dorm room somewhere in New Zealand! Even if just for a night! Indy stayed with us for an hour or so (during which I made full use of the bathroom. Several times) and then dragged himself home to his better one-and-a-half.
It was barely lunchtime and despite the toilet trouble, I felt fine. No sickness or anything, just an inability to wander more than 100 yards from a lavatory. A couple of Imodium put that problem to bed and we headed out so I could stretch my legs and see what Auckland has to offer. Rob’s heard it described as “Manchester by the sea” and I can see where people are coming from with that. Certainly where we are now, it’s very much a town centre with a fairly British feel to it. This includes the weather which verges on the cooler side, but can throw three different weather patterns an hour at you.
Lunch was at Wendy’s which will make Chris very jealous indeed. And it’s just round the corner. I didn’t have a big meal, though, as my stomach just wasn’t up to it. Best fast-food burgers, though. I have no idea if there is an A&W anywhere, however. I haven’t seen any root beer yet, though NZ has one drink unique to it called L&P – Lemon and Paeroa – which I have yet to try.
Partly due to the bad stomach and partly due to sharing a flat with a health-mad woman, breakfast and lunch has been from a place round the corner called Zest which sells soups, juices, smoothies and the like. Frankly, I’m happy with this, though, I’m now spending as much on early morning food as I did on my entire food and drinks for a day in Hanoi. Of course, this is to be expected given that I’m in an entirely different country. On an entirely different continent.
The last photo up there on the left is of the Sky Tower. If you look closely to the left, you may be able to see what looks like a pair of cables coming down from it. This is so that insane people can jump off the damn thing (it’s 328m tall at its peak – the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere). Kiwis pretty much make a habit of things like that. If it’s high up they’ll find a way to jump off it. If it’s deep, they’ll work out how to dive down to it. If it walks they’ll have some plan to either get it on a plate or into bed. Disturbed people.
One treat awaited me for dinner though. Something I’ve been craving more than decent chocolate, English-speaking television and wireless internet. Yes. Beans on toast. The nectar of the gods when they’re on a budget and want something filling after a night out on the cellestial booze-wagon.
I also had some proper deep-fried chunks of potato (Americans pay attention – these are “chips”, not those crunchy things you get in bags) when we headed up to Lisa and Indy’s for dinner. On Wednesday night, I joined them again for a pub quiz (where we didn’t come first though this wasn’t a surprise – winning would have been) and sampled four different local brews. Thank you to their friends for dropping me back “home” afterwards. I’m sure I’d have found my way, but my visa would likely have expired by the time I’d staggered there.
Plans are afoot for the next few weeks, but we’re currently biding our time in Auckland until little Megan decides to invite herself into the world. She’s due on Wednesday 24th, but we all know what first-borns can be like!