Auckland, New Zealand
Well today dawned bright and… pouring with rain. Apparently this is very atypical weather for this time of year and all the Kiwi’s are moaning about it. You can tell they are unprepared just by the number of people getting wet on the streets. As for us – we’ve been on holiday to Wales, so this doesn’t faze us.
First up was a visit to Kelly Talton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, which is not something you can say easily after a couple of Steinlagers. But only an Antipodean could be called Kelly Tarlton, eh? I can’t imagine someone from, say, Tunbridge Wells, with that name, could you? But I must stop mocking because the whole thing was actually quite good. It was a 15 mins in the car along Tamaki Drive, which is where a lot of rich people live. You can see why with amazing views towards the city. Anyway, back to Kelly Tarlton’s. You enter through a reconstruction of Ernest Shackleton’s hut and followed by an Antarctic museum, and from there then board a ‘snowcat’ which travels through a penguin enclosure kept at freezing temperatures and with real snow. Oh and lots of penguins. I mean who doesn’t like penguins? That was the cold bit done, next up was the wet bit. First they have this big tank of stingrays, (plus some fish and and turtles), which a keeper gets in to feed by hand and talk about. Finally, you know those vast aquariums which you travel through underneath in a perspex tunnel? Pretty common these days, eh? Well this one was the first ever and indeed where the concept was invented. Being NZ the whole aquarium was big on local marine life and that includes lots and lots of sharks – Connor, you would have liked it!
For lunch we drove further out to a small town called Mission Bay, which had a very Californian coastal feel, albeit with added Welsh rain. From there we came back downtown to visit the Maritime museum. That turned out to be quite excellent as well! It was of course big on the NZ nautical history, but they had lots and lots of exhibits ranging from Polynesian canoes to modern ships and boats. Lots of Captain Cook stuff (he set off from Whitby, did you know?). Of course there was a lot of Americas Cup stuff as well. Did you know they have won the AC a couple of times? Well you would after visiting here! I know that sounds like sour grapes since that’s exactly 2x more than we Brits have won it in all it’s 160-odd year history, but honestly I am chuffed when someone takes the trophy off the Yanks. Except maybe the Swiss.
Final visit of the day was to the Sky Tower, which to my mind was the only less than excellent thing we’d done so far. I am not a fan of heights and frankly once you’ve been up one tower, the only difference is the boast about the height. It wasn’t cheap either at $25 each! This purports to be the highest tower in the Southern Hemisphere, which at 328m it probably is. It has all he usual checklist; glass elevators and glass floors, (plus a new twist, glass floored elevators.) Oh and and panoramic views. I say panoramic views, but when we got up there it was completed encased in cloud. Luckily that mostly cleared after a few mins, so we spent an hour or so quaking at the view whilst watching the bungy jumpers hurtling past the window every once in a while. Actually they don’t hurtle really – they are on a kind of guide wire system that halts them right outside the window so we can see their naked fear for a few seconds before resuming the plummet. I don’t fancy it myself, in fact it takes me a while before I am braving the lift back down.
And that was the first full day in NZ. It’s nice. I just hope the weather picks a bit soon.
Before I go, I have to say something about the TV here though. It seems to consist entirely of:
1. British programmes (I’m typing this as Corrie is on TVNZ1)
2. American programmes (The Simpsons is on TVNZ3)
3. NZ copies of British/American programmes (pretty sure “7 Days” is a direct lift of “Mock The Week”).
The local stuff is slightly twee, as if everything were made by BBC Regional TV stations. The news hour was funny, being 15 mins of local small-scale politics and people stories, followed by 15 mins of British news (George Clooney at Leicester Square, the empty plinth at Trafalgar Square and the British economy for God’s sake!) finally followed by 30 mins of sport, which mostly means lots of rugby, however I see England won their World Cup match. I know this sounds very patronising, but it’s not meant to be. I just heard that Kiwis in the UK play a game where they score points every time their country is mentioned in the UK. Apparently it’s a very slow game. It’s a bit of a shame it’s not true the other way round.