Monday 1st January 2007 continued...
It was clear and sunny on arrival in Auckland and I made my way up to the hostel (a bit of a trudge uphill and I went to the wrong YHA first - luckily it was just around the corner from where I was supposed to be!). I got upgraded to a smaller room with single beds rather than bunks (there had been a mix-up with my booking) and I much preferred this hostel to the place where I stayed previously in Auckland (Central Backpackers). Nicer people and a generally calmer, more relaxed atmosphere.
Tuesday 2nd January 2007
In the morning I went to the Auckland City Art Gallery, which had a few half-decent works and some nice gallery spaces, but nothing mind-blowing. I then went to (try and) download my photos, which proved mightily frustrating as it was painfully slow. A good waste of two hours really. I should have given up and tried another place.
I then went back to the hostel for lunch and had the major bonus of finding a luxury Christmas Cake in the free-food box. It was almost as good as Mum's!
In the afternoon I walked a big loop around the city, taking in The Domain (where the museum is - I didn't have time to go in), Parnell, Parnell Rose Garden, The Docks and Ponsonby. It turned into a bit of a mammoth trek, so it was good to have a restful evening at the hostel. Of the sights, the Wintergarden and Fernery at The Domain were about the most interesting things. There were some lovely orchids (and ferns, natch). Oh, and the Rose Garden was nice for a wander too, with some good views out across the harbour and islands beyond. I didn't, however, think much of the so-called happening inner-suburbs of Parnell or Ponsonby. They didn't seem to be much more than a row of shops, although being on hills meant that there were some good views to be had. And perhaps the fact that it was a public holiday meant that there wasn't the same atmosphere as usual.
One of the Koreans staying at the hostel offered me a glass of Hawke's Bay late harvest Chardonnay (a strange one, that), which was really nice of him, and a good way to finish off my meal. I think it was from Mission Bay, so perhaps I will be able to go tasting there when I stay in Hawke's Bay at the end of my trip in New Zealand.
The weather had been fine and largely sunny all day, but there was a decidedly chilly breeze, which has been a frequent occurrence in New Zealand so far.
Wednesday 3rd January 2007
Today turned out to be an epic and very enjoyable day. I set out early to do the Auckland coast to coast walk, under clear blue skies. Still that chilly breeze, though, and jumpers were definitely required. The highlights of the walk were the extinct volcanoes, which the path went up and over. Both had been made into beautiful parks and the views from the top were absolutely stupendous (islands, bays, harbours, distant hills and the whole of the city spread out below). It was also interesting to see such clearly defined craters, albeit now covered in grass and sheep. The clear blue skies made it, of course, and put a spring in my step.
I reached the other coast by lunchtime and so decided to continue along a different walkway which followed the coast to the north. This was also beautiful, although the sea was filthy from the combination of extensive mud-flats and strong winds (or perhaps it is always just a silty brown).
I think I probably covered 30km in total during the course of the day, so I was pleased to find a bus stop close to where I left the coastal walkway.
Needless to say it was another quiet evening and after a brief chat with my room-mates (Korean, Brazilian and Colombian - an eclectic mix) I had an early night in preparation for my crack-of-dawn wake-up call.
Thursday 4th January 2007
I got up at 5:30am to catch the bus to the airport. It was just beginning to get light and was another clear and chilly (2 jumper) morning. I just missed one of the buses and was beginning to worry when the next one failed to arrive 20 minutes later as stated. Luckily it turned up eventually (15 minutes late) and whizzed us to the airport in record time. It only took 15-20 minutes, for what is usually about an hour-long journey.
I got myself checked-in and then sat down to watch the planes from the viewing gallery (naturally thinking of Dad as I did so). It was only then that I realised I had been given an aisle seat without even having been asked. Grrrr. Still, I was able to catch glimpses of the scenery below from the window (there wasn't a single cloud for the whole journey) and what I saw was beautiful. I was amazed how much snow there was for the middle of summer, but then, I keep being told by everyone how cold it has been for this time of year (they probably say this to the tourists every year!).
I arrived in Dunedin to find that it was even colder there, but still clear and sunny. The landscape is very reminiscent of Scotland, with lots of sheep, naturally.
Another upgraded room and still no bunk beds (I am being spoiled and it will come as a shock when I have to go back to bunks). I dump my stuff and grab a bite to eat. I then head out to explore the city. I made it much further than I expected (I hadn't slept well in my excitement). I climbed right up Signal Hill. It was quite a tough ascent (about 500m, straight up from sea-level), but the views out over the Otago Peninsula were well worth it. There were also loads of foxgloves (in all shades from white to purple), gorse and broom (Ponza!), which reminded me very much of home.
On the way back I took in the world's steepest street (another marketing gimmick) and (much nicer) Dunedin Botanical Gardens. These were huge and quite lovely. Loads of different flowers and some amusing talking parrots (one of which said "bugger" repeatedly... and made me laugh in my exhausted state).
It was a very long day, so I was glad to hit the sack at the end of it. Before doing so, I chatted to a nice couple of, er, let's say, "more mature" ladies from England (Gill and Julia) who were using up their Christmas gin and wine, and asked if I would help!
Friday 5th January 2007
Another sunny day. What is happening? After yesterday's exploits I was quite happy to spend the morning relaxing in the garden. It was really nice (and quite warm out of the wind) and there was even an extensive herb garden (and nasturtium patch) to assist with my culinary endeavours. After a lunch of pasta, fresh herbs, olive oil and cheese, I went for a walk down to the beach.
When I say down to the beach, I obviously mean another 20km hike, as the city is sprawling to say the least. Still, it was a nice enough walk once I had left the industrial estates behind. The beaches (I went to St Kilda and St Clare) were gorgeous and there was a huge swell coming in, so it was nice to just sit and watch the surfers doing there stuff. I tried taking my shirt off, but this was short-lived in the wind (freezing!). Swimming here was a definite no-no. I had a paddle and the water was freezing (12 degrees?).
There was a nice pathway round the headland at the far end (not a soul about) and some huge kelp forests, which surged in and out with the waves. Quite hypnotising.
I looped back to the city via one the many hills, and took in yet more great views of the city. It seems to me as somewhere which is better to look back on, than actually be in. But perhaps, because it is a student town (and they are all on holiday at the moment), it is lacking some of the atmosphere which would normally make it an interesting place to be.
A Canadian family had arrived at the hostel during the afternoon and requested to stay together in the room where I was staying. I was therefore asked if I would mind moving to a single room for the rest of my stay. Oh, what luxury! It was therefore just nice to spend the evening relaxing in isolation, making the most of my own space (which wasn't a tent). Lovely.
Saturday 6th January 2007
Ah, rain. All day. Thank goodness for my book, music and single room. It was peeing down for most of the day and really cold (no more than 12 degrees, I reckon). I did venture down into town during the afternoon and visited the City Art Gallery. It was similar to Auckland's in scope and once again contained a few nice bits and pieces (and was a nicely converted Victorian building). It was good to get out of the hostel, even if I did feel decidedly damp upon return. Ready to move on now, as Dunedin in the rain is really rather a depressing place (the heavy Victorian architecture doesn't help in this regard).
Well, that's all I've got time for at the moment. There'll probably be another delay in updates as I am leaving Queenstown tomorrow (Monday 15th January) and I'm not sure how good the internet provision will be until I reach Christchurch. Until then, take care...