Auckland, New Zealand
Well we made it safely to New Zealand the proof that we really are in the ‘City of Sails’ is right outside our hotel window where large racing yachts are chasing each other round Auckland harbour in training for their next America’s Cup challenge. The only downside is that we don’t seem to have brought the sun with us ‘cos it’s raining again. At least the temps are much more normal to us Brits.
But before that Tuesday had ended with another Air NZ evil red-eye flight through the night, most of which seemed to be spent flying over Australia. Wendy managed to sleep through at least half of it, which makes me very jealous indeed. I’m a bit disappointed ‘cos we crossed the equator (a first for me) whilst all the lights were out and the aircraft ‘asleep’ and the only way I knew was by following the aircraft’s track on the TV monitor. I Eventually we landed at Auckland and first impressions were how small it was compared to not just Hong Kong, but even puny Manchester. Bearing in mind that there aren’t many ways of reaching NZ apart from flying, I was a bit surprised to find the largest international airport in the country looks to be about the size of Luton Airport. The immigration guy gave us a further clue as how far we’d come by being cheerful, chatty and friendly – doesn’t he know he’s supposed to scowl and be forbidding? I thought it was in the job description?! I made us go through the red channel at customs because Wendy picked up a couple of carved African nuts on some HK market or other (a long story) and NZ has a REALLY strict control of biological substances regime. As it happened the customs guy wasn’t even slightly mithered by our tale, but it’s the only place where I have seen all the passenger’s luggage X-rayed after leaving the aircraft. IMHO, it was better to be safe than sorry tho, since they have a habit of fining and deporting people they catch breaking these rules.
The rental car people picked us up from the arrivals hall and took us round to their lot to fill out some paperwork. A quick 5 mins orientation with a map and a highlighter pen and we were on our own in a shiny red Ford Focus heading 20km into an unfamiliar city – eek! As it happened it was pretty easy. The hotel directions saw us slip up only once when a road sign was covered by overhanging branches. A quick U-turn put us right though. The hotel is right n the harbour – only the Hilton is closer to the water by virtue of being built on a pier – and the views are pretty ace. This hotel is almost exactly 1/2 the price of the HK one. OK we lose the chrome and glass, but we gain a much better view and a much bigger room. I am happy with the trade.
Since we’ve checked in we haven’t done much. A walk round the some of the harbour and downtown shops and that’s enough for me today. I need to claw back some of that sleep cruelly robbed by flying. Tomorrow, however, is going to be a busy day…