I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Englishman who went up a volcano and came down a volcano

So after a day of not great weather and a lot of walking on Saturday I figured it was time to take to the seas. Auckland's on the coast, there's loads of islands around, the weather was glorious, etc etc. Got up early, had another buffet breakfast with cold scrambled eggs and pineapple juice -- because they'd swapped the position of it and the grapefruit juice and I wasn't being alert enough -- then went down to the ferry building. It was the last day of Heritage Week and because of that the trip to Rangitoto Island was meant to be cheaper than normal. Somewhere I'd read it was going to be $50, somewhere else $47.40.
Auckland - 166
$40 later I had my ticket in hand, got a Diet Coke and hung around for the boat. A heaving vessel, I think I'd made a good choice by getting the ticket a little bit early, in fact I'd been surprised that there was space on the volcanic explorer (boat+guided tour) and I hadn't had to settle for just a boat ticket. Turns out though that most people wanted to walk up, so the 4-wheel drive thing that took us around and almost to the top was nowhere near full.

Not sure what our tour guide's name was because the Kiwi accent he sported was a little umpunutrubble (NZ for 'impenetrable'). It was either Glyn or Glenn, although I suppose it could conceivably have been Glunn. Anyway, he was a good guide, giving us a decent commentary as he drove us through the lava flows spiralling centrewards until we reached the bottom of the steps climbing to the summit. A few facts stayed long enough in my mind that I managed to scrawl them down, for example: there are 200 types of plant on the island, but no soil; there used to be wallabies and possums but they ate so much the government didn't like it, so killed them all (there are now no animals other than birds that come over to nest); there are no bins and no shops; and that's it really. The view was pretty spectacular and it was a grand trip. Lava is cool, the plants were cool, etc etc. I took way too many photos of very very samey things.
Auckland - 245
Back down and on the way round we got to stop off in a lava flow and play in it for a bit before being dropped off near the ferry terminal with about halfy an hour to wait. I wandered around the coastline a bit, almost going into one of the holiday homes ("bachs"), but I didn't bother in the end. Got a decent window seat on the ferry back because I made sure to be near the front of the queue, then took a 10 minute video of the view out of the boat's window as we went from Rangitoto to Devonport (a stop on the way back to Auckland proper). It's a very very boring video.

Off the boat at 1330 or so IIRC, I went straight to a different ferry company's office and bought a ticket for their 1530 afternoon cruise. That gave me a little under 2 hours to get some nosh and stuff, so I nipped into the supermarket and grabbed a sarnie and a diet coke. Went back to the hotel and discovered that neither of the 2 keys I had for my room would operate the lift. Handed them in at reception and got given a new one, fuck knows what happened there. Grr. Blogged (IIRC), ate, then went back out for the cruise.
Auckland - 280
On this boat I blagged a great seat -- top deck, back right, in the open, facing forwards, perfect for taking photos -- and spent an awful lot of time holding onto my hat because the wind was fucking mental. Ended up with wind burns on my right hand's knuckles FFHS! Still managed to take a bunch of photos though, innit. Also managed to learn yet more about Auckland courtesy of another decent commentary.

  • The Rainbow Warrior was sunk in the sea by Auckland by the French secret service or summat. This is the only bit of terrorism ever to have taken place in New Zealand.
  • One of New Zealand's largest imports is onions.
  • The NZ navy is based in Auckland. In fact it only has one dockyard. And it's bloody tiny.
  • Auckland has the biggest marina in the southern hemisphere.
  • The superyacht 'Kokomo' is moored there atm; it has a gold stripe down the side which was orginally done in 18ct gold, but they decided it wasn't good enough so redid it in 24ct gold. It costs a fortune and can do all kinds of things (eg: go a long way).
  • At least one Americas Cup winning yacht is in the marina and you can go out on it, help sail it, etc. If you like sailing. Well, even if you don't, I suppose. But I wouldn't.
  • Switzerland won the Americas Cup recently. Not bad for a land-locked country, albeit one that did it by buying the services of most of the New Zealand team that won it previously.
  • A boat called the Atlantic Trader is moored in Auckland. It was bought for NZD1,000,000, sailed to Auckland and boarded by the maritime police who slapped a "not fit for purpose" order on it. It remains moored from that day, over 4 years ago, and costs $200/day to keep there. The owner is a fool.
  • 50 years ago, Auckland museum was the biggest building on the skyline.
  • Viaduct Quay, an area with 56 or so bars, clubs, and restaurants, has only been there since 1995. Next to it is a building done up to look like a huge cruise liner, poking out into the sea. Half of it is the Hilton Hotel, the other half bars and stuff. It doesn't look much like a huge cruise liner.
  • 1 in 5 Aucklanders has access to a boat.

Back off the boat with barely any feeling in my wind-fucked arms I went straight into the nearest bar, ostensibly to note down all the things I'd tried to remember from the trip (ie: that stuff above) but also to have some alcohol. Turns out it was selling Heineken for NZD3 (aka GBP1.20) a pop, happy hour. Drank, wrote, and looked at my photos. At that point I had taken 326 in the previous 48 hours, which translates to 6.8 per hour or 9.6 per waking hour. Eek. I also found myself leaving marks on the bar where I leant, since over the course of the day I'd applied my Dubai-busting factor 50 sun cream about 8 times. It hadn't been the hottest day ever, but the ozone layer over the Antarctic had slipped a bit and plonked itself over New Zealand, making protection in the atmosphere 25% worse than normal for the time of year. I was greasier than Michael Portillo.

The irony of having had a chat over SMS with Mark earlier while he was in a pub called "The Ship" came to mind. Not that that's very interesting. Also not interesting was the egg chasing on TV, but egg-chasing was almost impossible to avoid in New Zealand. LIFE IS RUGBY - LIFE TAKES VISA 'n all that. I left the pub after whatever the music source was offended me by playing Coldplay, then a Crowded House song being covered by some whining bint.
Auckland - 326
Changed me shirt back at the hotel and went out on the hunt for another pint or two, and something to eat. Found the former but nowhere that tempted me with solids, so I ended up buying a Subway. Not that I should feel bad about avoiding whatever classes as traditional New Zealand cuisine: if my experience in Auckland was anything like the rest of the country, Subway is traditional NZ cuisine. There were branches of it like I couldn't believe, an even higher concentration than in the streets around Yahoo!'s offices (and it's mental around there!). But it's not like Subway in the UK. The bloke looked confused, asked me to repeat, and finally laughed at me when I asked for sweetcorn. It doesn't seem to exist :-(

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