Hi everyone, we've arrived in Auckland New Zealand from where we are updating the trip journal.
We're both well and eager to explore!
So when we last left you we had booked into a YHA hostel and were lucky enough to get a balcony with a table and chairs but it was on a very busy intersection with trams, trains, cars and the occasional helicopter. We were in Melbourne for a couple of days sightseeing and saw in the Chinese New Year (The year of the horse) with fireworks on the riverside and a dragon in Chinatown.(Photo)
Nigel woke up at 4am on Sunday and watched the live Internet text commentary of the France v England rugby international on the BBC website. The comment posted with 2 minutes to go when France scored their winning try summed up his feeling.
The comment was "Nnnnnnnnnoooooooo!!!"
Sunday in Melbourne was very laid back, we went for a walk and saw that it is defiantly "The city of trams". Every major street has tram lines and there is even a free tram that goes around the city in a loop which we took advantage of. (Photo) We visited the Flinders memorial which was the name of the street we were staying in.
This celebrates the life of Captain Matthew Flinders who along with his crew was the first person to circumnavigate Australia and prove it was an Island.
The temperature was reaching 40 degrees (again!) so we sought air conditioning.
We found a cinema and went to see a Martin Scorsese film "Wolf of Wall Street" it was quite entertaining and definitely adult entertainment. The mall that contained the cinema complex had been built around a historic shot factory building with a tall chimney that they probably couldn't get permission to demolish.They had built around this by using a magnificent glass dome.(Photo)
After the film we finished the day making a chicken curry back at the hostel.
On Monday we took a stroll along the river and around the Royal botanical gardens. We passed a Superbowl party where they had erected seats around a large screen and were watching the American football.
If anybody's interested Seattle won.
It was our last day in Melbourne so we went to the docklands area as somewhere you could be sure to get a decent cocktail. We decided to celebrate the conclusion of the Australian leg our our journey with our usual end of trip drink - Margaritas. (Photo - Just a note, tiling behind us looks as though we're drinking in a public convenience it was in fact a very nice bar on the waters edge)
On Tuesday we stored our baggage for a few hours and hung around Melbourne for the morning. We travelled around on the free tram, grabbed some lunch in one of the massive food courts and then caught a taxi to an airport hotel that was about 500 meters from the terminal. We settled into our compact but beautifully formed hotel room, repacked our bags and watched our last Australian TV, we were now ready for the international flight the next day.
Wednesday morning and we donned our rucksacks and walked over to the airport about 3 hours before our flight. We needed an hour to get through check in, baggage screening and immigration. As in most international airports you see the family who have left everything to the last minute or have had their arrival at the airport delayed and today was no exception. There was a South sea island family that stood out with the father with a baby in one arm and trying to fill in an immigration card with the other. As the queue was a long zig zag we kept passing the couple and couldn't help but see them getting more and more stressed. A happy note is that we're pretty sure they made their flight.
In duty free Helen couldn't resist the bargain of a Merino wool T-shirt for £20 (half the price in the UK) and breakfast was a visit to Hungry Jacks which is the Australian Burger King. We both had the brekkie wrap which was a flat bread wrap with egg, hash browns, bacon, cheese and sausage patty in it (we're really looking forward to having the motorhome in a few days so that we can plan some healthier meals).
In no time we were saying goodbye to Australia and off on the three and a half hour Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.
Those of you who fly regularly will know how boring the safety video can be telling you where the exits are and what to do if the cabin loses pressure. Air New Zealand have made their safety video into a parody of Lord of the Rings with the characters acting out the safety requirements, We both thought this was great and the first time in a while that we have watched the safety video all the way through. If you're interested we found it on YouTube. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cBlRbrB_Gnc
Little were we to know what was in store when we landed. During the flight we were handed immigration forms with a raft of questions. We had to tick the "yes" box on two of these questions. These involved the use of walking boots, our tent and having trekked in woodland. As a result it took us 90 minutes to get out of the airport. This was because of the large queues of people with similar problems and the lack of bio security officers. When we were eventually seen the officer claimed the lack of staff was as a result of cut backs. It seems that the recession even bites on the other side of the world. There was one small mercy that the Bio security team did comment on the cleanliness of our tent. Helen had been worried that she would be caught out bringing in Vegemite but when she threw herself of the mercy of the authorities, they were very unimpressed with her confession. In fact, we were amazed as we watched many of our fellow travellers having half the contents of their cases confiscated as they were trying to bring in huge quantities of prohibited fresh, dried and processed food.
With the time difference between Melbourne and Auckland we got to our city hostel in time for a little shopping, a snack and then straight to bed.
Thursday and our first full day in New Zealand. We had a late breakfast, explored the city centre, ran a few errands, visited the harbour and researched some trips for later on. We couldn't miss the Sky tower which resembles an enormous hypodermic needle pointed at the sky. This is apparently the highest man made structure in New Zealand.(Photo)
Friday - woken at 6am by the sound of air breaks and engines as an enormous lorry was unloading its cargo directly outside the hostel. We caught up with a bit of sleep and then went on a ferry ride over to a small tourist town at Devonport and there we scaled a small volcanic mound (Mt Victoria) that gave good views looking back at Auckland.
We returned to the city for a bit of retail therapy and bought a couple of books for our impending trip. We tried the food at one of the massive food courts and in the evening went to see the film "American Hustle" which we believe is up for a multitude of Oscars. On walking out of the cinema it was bucketing down - how novel we thought as we got drenched, the first real rain we had seen for four months. We really did try to empathise with you and the dreadful weather you're getting back home.
On Saturday we caught a ferry to a nearby island and went sea kayaking. We had a couple of guides with us (Jono and Adrian) and by the end of the paddle the wind was building and we were battling more swell than we have recently been used to. The good sign was that our shoulders weren't aching afterwards as we have more kayaking to come.
After heading back we just chilled out for the rest of day.
Today is Sunday 9th February and its our last day of sightseeing in Auckland.
Nigel reviewed the BBC text service on the six nations rugby and was much happier with a 20 point victory over Scotland, bring on the Irish!
We had a stroll in one of Auckland's parks called "The Domain" and visited the art gallery, we finished the day with a visit to an Italian ice cream shop.
On Monday we will be picking up our motorhome and heading south, this will be our accommodation for a month as we tour the north and south islands.