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Thursday 19 Feb 2004
Auckland, New Zealand

Arrived at Middle Earth (predictable title!)

Woohoo Ive arrived!

The two first things that hit you when you cross the Tasman Sea from Sydney and step off the plane at Auckland: fresh FRESH air with a cooling breeze thats bliss after the sticky 35C humidity Ive been experiencing in Sydney, and secondly, the several large misty mountainous islands that you can see just off the coast are something beautiful resembling Halong Bay in North East Vietnam! The rocky mountains on the islands rise sharply about 900 metres through the clouds forming a craggy silhouette on the horizon like something out of the Lord of the Rings movies.. sure as you all know NZ is where the movies were shot so its a given I guess.

And Auckland is supposed to be the least pretty city!

Getting a bus from the airport through to my new hostel, Fat Camel, in the city drove us through some familiar and not-so-familiar countryside. The familiarity arises because Aucklands countryside is EXACTLY like driving through Ireland. Its uncanny... the illusion is only broken by the unfamiliar mountainous formations that seem to pop up every kilometre or so on the roadside in dramatic steep inclines. Damn this place is mountainous!

As I said, Im in a dorm at the Fat Camel hostel.. they refund you the 11 dollars bus fare from the airport if you stay 2 nights, but the driver neglected to give me a receipt so Im not able to claim it back *groan*

I met a pom who had just arrived too last night, Chris, and we went out to explore Auckland city. Unlike Sydney there arent quite so many mental-hospital escaped patients wandering around and also the NZers (as they will be known henceforth) are undoubtedly the friendliest/cheeriest people Ive met in the southern hemisphere!

The only barrier Ive come across is the accent (or "ecksint" in NZ)...

One guy comes up to us and asks "Whir ye frim chips?", and Im like "uh.. you want to get fish and chips?". Evidently he was "isking" where we were from,. but it takes a few times to get it right.

This works both ways, it takes a few repeated sentences on my part before the NZers understand me too. Ill probably pick up the NZ slang soon enough but...

Soon Ill be saying stuff like "Chuckun. Ets your frund en da frudge". And obvious questions like "des my bim look bug en thees?"

Anyway, Chris and I found a casino at the base of the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. Chris is a big gambler as I was soon to find out and he lost about 200 dollars in the one hour we spent there... crazy! I tried my hand at a few one-armed bandits and won 8 dollars after almost losing the same, then I lost the 8 bucks again. Such is the gambling life... Id best steer clear of it though!

The NZer addiction to adrenalin is certainly evident, even in a normal working city like Auckland. From the top of the tallest tower building its possible to bungy jump. Just along the street nearby my hostel there is a "sit-in catapult" thingy... theyve got quick adrenalin fixes everywhere!

Apparently a lot of the North Island of NZ is flooded at the moment which is going to make my touring somewhat limited. Still Im going to investigate what options I have available to me. Id prefer to get a car again, in order to sleep and for freedom, but Ill have to see if its an affordable option.

Saw "Lost in Translation" on the plane which was a brilliant movie starring Bill Murray. Very funny black comedy looking at Japanese culture.

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