There is a massive feeling of deja vu as we are dropped off at our Heathrow hotel by our good friend Tim. We have been here before. Just under a year ago we embarked on our first big Australian adventure and here we are again. Same hotel, same bar but one year on. This trip is slightly longer and much further as we are taking in New Zealand as well as revisiting Melbourne.
On Monday, feelings of excitement bubble up as we make our way to check-in and after a coffee in the same seats at the same cafe as 2017 (more deja vu) we board and are airborne on time! Regular readers may recall we endured a 5 hour delay last year owing to a technical snag. What to do with the next 12.5 hours? Watch films, listen to podcasts try to sleep……oh and eat. We caught up with the sunset over southern Hungary at around 3pm UK time and the rest of the flight was in darkness until we witnessed sunrise about 1 hour out from Singapore.
Sunrise as we approach Singapore (shot on my I-phone)
After quickly clearing Immigration (that is a first too for Singapore) the heat and humidity become apparent. What a lovely feeling after the cold and damp of UK. The local newspaper is full of pictures of flash flooding around Changi following a heavy downpour on Monday. It seems a months rain fell in 3 hours and caused some problems! seems we don’t have monopoly on flash flooding! Not much sightseeing for us though. Sleep beckons, a restful day before another flight to Auckland.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Auckland, where the time is 2350.” After three days of travelling we are finally here. After immigration and entry procedures, including a face to face with a customs man asking whether we had any fruit, honey or meat in our luggage, and if our boots were muddy, we walked through to find a taxi to our hotel, check in and hopefully a decent nights sleep.
After a long sleep and a late breakfast it is about time we got out and about into some fresh air. After a quick visit to the Tourist office, known as the I-site underneath Skycity (more of which in a future blog) we walked down towards the waterfront to stretch our legs and see what Auckland has to offer.
Much of the harbour area is built on reclaimed land. Early settlers found that the waters around the bay area was too shallow to take their large sailing ships so they set about building a deep water harbour by blasting a nearby headland with dynamite and using the resultant rock and rubble to fill in the shallow areas in order to build a port that would take their ships. The whole process took around 50 years and what is there today is largely as a result of those efforts.
Top: Looking back on the city skyline with Sky Tower prominent.
Below: Lyn rests on one of the harbour-side sculptures
As well as massive cruise ships the harbour area is home to boats of all shapes and sizes from the massive luxurious floating gin palaces to the ocean racing yachts. The harbour front has been re-developed from warehouses and factories to bars and restaurants and a lively entertainment area of Auckland. This development is still going on.
Some of the sailing hardware docked at Princes Wharf and Wynyards wharf Auckland
Us at Wynyards Wharf with the city behind us.
Sailing is a massive sport in NZ and our next stop, the Auckland Maritime Museum reflects this in some of its exhibits. The museum also plots the development of New Zealand from its initial discovery by Pacific Island explorers around 800 years ago, though it is thought that explorers from Taiwan area found these island over 1000 years ago, to its discovery firstly by Abel Tasman and later Captain James Cook (he of Australia fame).
A large part of the museum is given over to the memory of New Zealand’s greatest sailor, and one of the worlds finest, Sir Peter Blake. Blake was already an established Ocean racer, having won the Round the World Yacht Race and set record times in doing so, and winning numerous ocean races. However, in kiwi eyes his greatest achievement is winning the Americas Cup for the first time in 1995 and again in 2000. On 5 December 2001, whilst he was on an environmental exploration trip in South America, monitoring global warming and pollution for the United Nations he was shot dead by pirates. The museum has his first cup winning boat “Black Magic” on display, albeit the 20 ton keel has been removed and the mast, in excess of 100ft high is shown separately!
Two views of “Black Magic”, Sir Peter Blake’s first America’s Cup Winner
There were also a large section on new immigrants coming to NZ and how they got here, giving some idea of the conditions they endured during a four month journey through a mock up cabin shared by some 50 migrants at a time. The pioneering spirit of these first settlers is reflected in todays New Zealanders who share their determination and “can do” attitude to life.
In the harbour is a small memorial. In 1985 NZ suffered the only terrorist attack in its history when the Greenpeace ship “Rainbow Warrior” was attacked by French Secret Service divers. One man on board was killed. The reason? Rainbow Warrior was in the area to protest against Whaling. The French took umbrage and placed a mine on the ship with tragic results.
A sobering end to the first blog. More soon.