Auckland, New Zealand
Well Friday dawned bright, sunny and clear, hurrah! A bit of a shock to draw the curtains and find someone has parked a new skyscraper over the road during the night. More accurately the ocean liner “Princess of the Seas” has berthed at the pier. Jeeze, that is one big ship – when I say skyscraper I mean it. Obviously it’s disgorged loads of tourists, hopping on our buses and filling our shops, but at least I’m not the only guy with a camera now. A lot of people off the boat seem to be Americans with Hawaii bags and San Francisco sweatshirts – anyone want to google it and see where the Princess has come from for me?
But anyway, keeping with a nautical theme and running with the good weather, we decided to have a crack with the harbour cruise. This turned out to be good value at $25 each for well over 90 mins round Waitemata harbour. The boat first went back out the way we had drove the day before; past Kelly Tarlton’s, past Mission Bay and St Helier and then turned back to do the harbour from the other side. We had a race with an America’s Cup yacht, (we won, yah boo), then went under the Auckland harbour bridge. The bungee people demonstrated a bungee jump for us from the underside – Kiwis seem to have a bit of an obsession with it, eh? From the bridge we went for a chug round Westhaven Marina, which is absolutely packed with yachts – hundreds upon hundreds. Seems every Aucklander has a leisure boat in there. from there is was an even more sedate chug round the very exclusive Viaduct Harbour. This is where the really big yachts are – the 60 foot upwards blue water boats capable of crossing an ocean – all overlooked by some very exclusive apartments. According to our skipper one of the mega-yachts we passed was leaving for a pleasure cruise to Alaska right then. Bear in mind it has to cross the Pacific Ocean to get there, that’s some journey. The boat was called “Ulysess” and registered at Georgetown M.I.. Anyone want to google that and find out which billionaire owns it?
After lunch we drove out to something called the Auckland Domain, which is like a big park, botanic garden, war memorial and city museum complex. Apparently it’s built high on the caldera of a volcano, either dormant or extinct, I forget which, but I was hoping the latter! We had a wander round the Winter Gardens, which has the usual cool and hot glasshouses, plus a fernery (ferns being big in NZ). Quite interesting but Wendy complained that a) they hadn’t labeled the plants enough and b) there weren’t that many varieties. You know how she is with varieties, sigh… is there anywhere in the world with more varieties that the garden at No19? But I must agree with her on NZ labelling and signposting in general – it’s incredibly haphazard and sporadic. I recall speaking to a couple of Aussies touring the UK and I asked how they were getting on finding things. They said how easy it was as everything was so well signposted. I never thought I’d miss our brown tourist signs!
After a bimble round the park roads, we then had a quick look in the museum, which was of course dedicated to NZ stuff in general and Auckland stuff in particular. Quite interesting and I got to see a some Kiwis and Kakapos (alas stuffed). With rush hour starting we got in the wrong lane coming back and ended up heading out instead of in. A couple of quick right turns and we were on a familiar road in minutes. It’s actually very easy to navigate round this place once you have your bearings – a good job because there’s no bloody signs!
This evening the city fathers have decide to have a light show in the harbour – I am not sure quite why, but as it’s right outside the door we trotted along. Hell of a lot of people there and it was quite good really. Got a nice view of the light show on the old harbour ferry building.