March 13-27, 2010
Our first trip to New Zealand was in 1983 at the end of a round-the-world trip starting and ending in Hong Kong. As we got closer to Auckland on our current trip, we started discussing the memories we had of the place and wondering how accurate they would turn out to be. Well, of course, they weren't accurate at all. Auckland has undergone such a radical restructuring in the intervening 27 years, that it was nigh on impossible to relate our remembered images to the real city of today. We now look forward to the day when we can unpack our old photos of that trip and compare them to the thousands that Gerry took this time.
We arrived in Auckland in such a rush, of course, that we didn't even go to our chosen backpackers' until three hours after we rolled into town. That was all because of working to sell the Serena.
We managed to check in in the middle of the day, but it was only much later in the day that we had time to really get our bearings and settle ourselves in. We weren't really thrilled at first by our room in Bamber House, because it lacked anywhere comfortable for either of us to sit and work on our computers. But as time went on, we came to feel very comfortable in this big old rambling victorian house. It had a big, high-celinged entry hall with a grand staircase and lots of polished wood, that just made you feel at home. The staff were down-to-earth, capable, and unfailingly friendly. We spent two weeks here, so we had plenty of time to see them in action. There was also the balcony outside of our room that we shared with the neighbors either side, and that we appreciated for its shade and view of the garden. It didn't have free wifi, but the costs weren't enormous, and it was on a pretty frequent busline into the CBD.
The parking lot at Bamber House was always crammed full, mostly with cars and vans for sale. It was after all the end of summer and most travellers were moving on to warmer climes. Some travellers were less lucky than we had been and didn't manage to sell their vehicles before their flight deadline. We never discovered how they disposed of the vehicles, but suppose that they were parked on the street to be picked up and towed away by the municipality. How happy we were not to have to resort to that.
Having sold our van, we had two weeks to take it easy, get to know Auckland, get some exercise on our bikes and in the nearby swimming pool and finally get prepared for our fast-approaching visit to Japan. In Auckland proper, we went to the Sky Tower for lunch one day, treating ourselves to a slap-up meal on the proceeds of our Serena sale. After eating, we spent some time on the panorama deck watching bungee jumpers and sky-walkers get their thrills. Gerry got some great shots of both thrill-seekers and the fantastic views.
One fine morning, we took a bike ride over to the Auckland Anglican Cathedral. It is a rather unusual building, being in two halves. We liked both halves of it, but weren't sure they belonged together. We should explain. The first half of the cathedral was started in the late 1950's and completed in the early 1970's and is in neo-gothic style. The second half dates from the 1990's and is modernistic, with a flying roof that produces a very large, uninterrupted worship hall, and that has nothing at all in common with the neo-gothic half, to which it is perpendicular. And indeed, the church does seem to operate as two churches. Large services take place in the modern hall, as do concerts and musical events. Jan loved the stained glass windows in the modern part. They were very colorful and very representative of New Zealand, its plant life, bird and animal life, and cultural life. The real gem, however, was next door. The colonial era St Mary's Church, which served as a a cathedral until Holy Trinity was built, was not only preserved from the wrecker's ball, but moved across a street and rotated in 90 degrees to sit adjacent to the cathedral. This means that the Anglican community of Auckland have three churches at their disposal on one and the same site. Quite special.
We went for a ferry ride over to ??? and then a jaunt by bus out to the farthest edge of town to the north. We spent a day exploring the War Memorial Museum, a bit repetitive after the history museums of Australia's big cities, but interesting nonetheless. The big art museum downtown was being refurbished and we made the mistake of buying a ticket to see a temporary exhibit in one of the museum's annexes. It was so awful, that Jan felt that she just had to make a comment about it, which more than surprised the staff, who didn't quite know what to say. We also made use of the big city library to catch up on foreign newspaper reading.
After a week of relaxing and enjoying being in one place, we had to start thinking about selling our two bikes. Our first attempt was to put them on Craig's List, a site that we use a lot. But the Kiwis don't know it that well and so we weren't getting any good response. Our second bet was to try and use one of the Kiwi auction sites, gumtree. In the end we got one customer from Craig's List, at a fixed price, and the other from Gumtree after a mini bidding war. The auction gave us a slightly higher price than we had expected, but in the end we just broke even, which from our point of view was just great. We managed to keep the bikes until just a couple of days before we left and enjoyed riding around the Mt Eden neighborhood.