Auckland, New Zealand
Well this morning is Wendy’s birthday so Happy Birthday Wendy! Carried some cards and some pressies all the way from the UK and she was happy to have them. I am happy now too ‘cos they aren’t in my case anymore. This is the last day in NZ, but we don’t fly out until early evening and so don’t want to get back to the airport too early. It’s a beautiful day (typically) so we decided to investigate the Hamilton Gardens by the river for a couple of hours. This is apparently famous, though as always, fame is relative.
It’s located just off Hwy 1 about a mile south out of town, so is easy to find. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of entry charge, so that’s gratifying at least. We wander round the gardens for a bit. Not many labels, not many varieties again, though the different types of gardens are lovely to see. Weirdly it sort of turns it’s back on the river and we can’t do more than get glimpses of it through the trees and from the follies. All too soon we have to make tracks north for Auckland. It’s about 100km from Auckland, but once we leave the urban sprawl it’s fast expressway or motorway, so you can do it in a little over and hour. Before heading in we stop off at a service station for a bacon roll. Well, this is prime pork and ham country, so it seems unfair not to.
The car is dropped easily with just a cursory check that I haven’t turned it into a typical Kiwi car. I’ve not mention these before ‘cos I might start ranting, but basically I haven’t found rural New Zealanders to be the best drivers in the world. Essentially their philosophy seems to be that as the country is so empty, I am therefore unlikely to hit anything – yet car after car (inevitably a white Japanese saloon which appears dubiously maintained) will have dents and scrapes on it, which sort of spoils that theory. All over the roads are signs telling them to slow down. The typical Kiwi driving technique seems to be get on to the unrestricted road and hold it at 110km/h (speed limit is 100km/h) regardless of obstacles or how wet the road is, etc, etc. If they come up behind a slower-moving car (usually me at 100km/h) they will park their car 5 feet from the back bumper (or ‘the full Audi’ as we like to call it in the UK) and hold it there until a passing place presents itself. I’d love to look up their accident rate – I bet it’s not edifying reading given the low traffic density.
(Note: I looked it up. According to the World Health Organisation the UK has a road death rate of 3.7 people per 10,000 of the population. New Zealand has 9.1/10,000. That’s more than double the rate in a country roughly comparable in size but with less than 1/10th of the population. I told you they were **** drivers).
OK, sorry, I also told you I’d rant. Change of subject. Even though we’re a massive 5 hours before our flight and it’s not even up on the departures board yet, because we’re Premium Class they let us check in and offload the cases. Both are 21Kg, within a whisker of each other which is well within our 30Kg long-haul quota. We may have to ditch some stuff before attempting to board the Manchester shuttle. Ominously the girl attaches ‘heavy’ tags to them both, so that’s our warning, eh? However, Wendy’s carry-on luggage is tiny compared with the stuff some of them take (I have a laptop and a camera rucksack, so I’m guiltily as anyone). I reckon there’s room for manoeuvre there.
Well, looks like we’re being called up to go through security at the gate. Ah well, Hei konā rā Aotearoa (or goodbye New Zealand).