We arrive in Auckland early Wednesday morning. I am bright-eyed and excited; Mark is tired and sick. Still, he is patient while I purchase my new iPhone in the airport (can’t bear to walk by a Telecom store, and alas, the unlocked 4s phone is available here! Yay!). We are taken in a group shuttle to our hotel in the City Centre. The Bankside Waldorf is a great find! Very reasonably priced studio apartment with a kitchen (even a clothes washer) and a nice view of the harbor. We sleep for a few hours but then I can’t contain myself, and I leave so I can go explore. The city is easy to navigate and everyone is so darn nice!
I buy a few more gadgets to get us connected (we need adapters to plug in our laptops, plus a new router since I blew ours out by plugging it in without an adapter!). I also start collecting items to protect my iPhone from breaking. So far so good!
The next few days Mark recovers from his cold and starts playing Poker again. After three weeks of “vacation” in the States, he is enjoying being back to work and making money. The time difference makes the games a little tricky, since prime time starts around 3 in the morning and ends by 11 am, but he is sorting that out and finding new games to play.
On Friday we head over to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
It’s a nice 2k walk from our hotel and Mark’s first venture outside. The weather is a bit dreary, but changes by the minute, and we have cold winds, sunshine and rain on the way over. The museum is a great introduction to our tour of New Zealand, and we learn about the history of the country, the Maoris (the people who founded New Zealand, descended from ancestors from Polynesia), and the geography. We also enjoy a cool Volcano simulation—really awesome! Oh, and there is a great exhibit about the All Blacks Rugby Team and their integration of the Maori traditions. I am officially an All Blacks fan now—they are the coolest! Maybe I finally found my spectator sport! The Haka they do before the game gives me chills!
That night, after patiently waiting more than a week since the film came out, Mark takes me to see Breaking Dawn (the lastest Twilight movie). After a couple glasses of local beer and wine, we head over to the very modern cinema on Queens Street. The tickets are pricey–$16 NZ each–and the theatre has assigned seats, but besides that, it’s just like back home. And the movie was awesome of course.
Saturday we head over to Takapuna, a short ferry/bus ride from the City, to meet my old friend Erica.
I ran track with her at UCSD and was also the maid of honor in her wedding more than 15 years ago! We haven’t seen each other in over a decade, but right away it was just like old times! It was so, so great to see her in her life over here. She seems so adapted to Kiwi life and quite content, and this made me so happy.
She also told us so much about Kiwi culture and lifestyle (sounds like sports and active lifestyles are a priority here, and as Erica says, “Even if they’re not competitive, here everyone has a go.”) We really liked everything we heard. Anyway, I wish we could have spent more time with her, but hopefully our paths will cross again someday soon! (Side note: crazy coincidence—she is doing research on fitness and exercise, and just got funded on a NIH grant working closely with a colleague in San Diego, Jim Sallis, who happens to be our old next door neighbor in PB! Amazing!)
Sunday we head to Rangitoto Island, the volcanic island in the middle of the harbor, formed 600 years ago. We decide to take the ferry there and run to the top of it, and it worked out great. The run was steep, but short, and even though we took different routes (Mark took the long way) we summit at the same time for a wonderful view of Auckland.
We are the only ones running the trail (everyone else is walking) so we get a few odd looks, but we saved ourselves hours on a hot trail (the sun is out today!) and catch the ferry back in time for the big Santa Parade down Queens Street. It is a little bit of Disneyland for me, and I love it! Lots of cool balloons and funny costumes, and an enthusiastic crowd.