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Wednesday 19 Feb 2014
Auckland, New Zealand

Cruise liners and Chinese lanterns

As my trip is entering the last few months, I have started looking forward to what I should do when I get home.  It’s a very difficult situation as I am no more sure what I want to do next than I was when I left work a year ago.  There was a big travel show on in Auckland, so I decided to go and have a chat with some of the travel companies and get an idea of what sort of jobs were out there.  I had a good chat with the Flight Centre recruitment agent and also some of the adventure tour operators like Intrepid and Toucan.  I think the travel industry looks very attractive for my next job, but I’ll see how I get on with diving again before I make any firm decisions.  Who knows, the Divemaster training might turn into Instructor training and I might spend the next three years living on a beach!  

After the travel show, I walked halfway across town to catch the train back into Britomart, then took the ferry over to Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore.  The Oosterdam, an enormous black cruise ship was birthed in the harbour already.  As the ferry pulled out, a second cruise ship was slowly turning to glide into the next birth, the decks lined with passengers waving.  They really are enormous vessels – like sleeping skyscrapers!  It was quite exciting to pass so close to this enormous ship as it arrived even though I had no connection with it.  It made me imagine what a sight it must have been to see the likes of the Titanic arrive in the heyday of ocean travel.

I wandered up through the Victorian streets of Devonport, climbing all the way to the top of Mount Victoria, the grassy knoll remnant of one of Auckland’s volcanoes.  This gave me almost 360° views of Auckland.  I bought a delicious ice cream while waiting for the ferry back and arrived just in time to see the Oosterdam set sail.  Seeing it cruise past the city skyline was a treat – it dwarfed the Sky Tower and the old harbour docks.

It was late afternoon as I made my way up to Albert Park to meet Rachel and Christen for the Chinese Lantern Festival.  I had expected something like the floating lanterns in Chiang Mai, which are released into the sky en masse, but this was a static lantern festival.  The trees were full of hanging lanterns in the shapes of fish, cats, chili peppers and flowers, while displays all around the park covered anything and everything, some small and some over 10' high, from zoo animals to dinosaurs, Chinese tea drinking ceremonies to warriors on horseback, and an enormous illuminated painting of galloping horses to welcome in the Chinese New Year.  This time last year, I was in Singapore with Ailsa admiring the preparations for the Year of the Snake.  So much has happened since then…

We spent at least an hour creeping along with the crowds through the food stalls, trying to decide what to eat.  They had an amazing array of dim sum, gyoza, noodles, skewers (stuff on sticks!) and delicious looking sweet treats.  I tried several things and topped it off with a half watermelon, served with three scoops of vanilla ice cream on the top.  It was lovely, but surprisingly difficult to eat without flicking ice cream or dribbling watermelon juice down my arm!

The highlight of the evening was a big firework display off the top of the Sky Tower, which had been lit up in red and gold to mark the occasion.  We had a clear view across the city from the slop of the park, so we were almost at eye level with the top of the tower.  It was a great end to my time in New Zealand.

My long-running battle with my phone provider entered a new league as I made the switch from monthly contract to Pay and Go.  I’d been told initially that the switch would happen automatically with the same SIM card.  Then they mentioned I might need a new SIM as a back up, so I asked for this to be sent out straight away so Mum would have time to post it out to me in NZ.  This didn’t happen, so after yet another head-wall-banging conversation, they’d authorized Mum to collect one from a store on my behalf.  This had arrived safely in NZ a few days ago. 

Today, my phone stopped working as expected, so I followed their instructions to reactivate my current SIM.  Nothing.  So I tried the new SIM from Mum. Still nothing.  I tried contacting them again but didn’t get anywhere.  Then I got a message from Mum saying another new SIM had arrived for me in the post!   No prizes for guessing which SIM my phone number is now attached to…

I spent another hour on the chat site with Customer Services in Egypt, getting absolutely nowhere.  I eventually established that: a. my original SIM would never have worked out here; b. the second SIM from the shop would also never have worked; c. they couldn’t connect to a SIM card which was not currently on the UK network; d. they weren’t accepting responsibility for any of the misinformation and timewasting that had got me to this point!  Not impressed.

Mum managed to find a phone to activate the SIM in the UK, before posting it to my cousin Jill, who I’d be meeting in Melbourne next week.  If it doesn’t get there in time, it will go on to friends in Noosa who can bring it to Melbourne the week after.  What a faff!

I finished sorting and repacking for the flight over to Australia, then James, Jumma, Alaina, Rachel and I went out for dinner.  We went to Barilo, a great little dumpling house nearby.  We had to wait a while for a table, but the food was well worth waiting for.  The starter was a plate of salt and chili battered green beans, which were ridiculously tasty for such as simple dish.  We ordered a few different plates of dim sum and gyoza and shared them all out.  It was a feast of dumplings and we only just managed to get through them all.  We finished up with bubble teas from the shop up the road.  Thank you so much to James and all his lovely housemates for making me so welcome and letting me stay so long.

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #4 New Zealand and Australia

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I had so much fun in New Zealand and Australia that I'm going back around again! This time I'll see more of the North Island and catch up with friends and family in Melbourne

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