Thursday Feb 15, 2018
At last we arrive at Auckland airport. I cannot fault our journey. Everything that was promised happened with an impressive efficiency. The baggage was checked in, now a DIY exercise overseen by a hovering tutor – rather like the self-service check-outs in most UK supermarkets – though for this one does feel awfully responsible for getting it right; it is my precious kit after all and I really want it to get to the right place just when I do. The airport staff were helpful and courteous; the security screening friendly and efficient (they have clearly sent the operatives on a “be nice to the customers who pay your salary” course); the planes were big, shiny and punctual; the seats were comfortable; the in-flight entertainment was sufficiently varied and extensive to stop one going insane;
the meals were adequate; the wines were pleasing and served in quantities sufficient to anaesthetise me; most of all, the drivers have as many safe landings as take-offs on their C.V.s which is always a good sign. No I cannot find anything to complain of, its just that it is an awfully long time to be contained in a vehicle. London to Hong Kong takes 11 hours, for 8 hours we perch in a lounge, Hong Kong to Auckland takes another 11 hours. Add the faffing about at the airports at each end, add the 13 hours of time zones to be absorbed and it is two whole days out of one’s precious life. My admiration for the likes of Captain Cook have gone up leaps and bounds.
Auckland, New Zealand’s second city, for Wellington is its political capita, is built over fifty volcanoes, not all of them extinct. It is thus a bit hilly. Some of these volcanoes are still lumps, some have collapsed and are full of water, some have been quarried away. The last eruption was 600 years ago. We decide to risk it and stay a night. City planning in Auckland has not been kind to its inhabitants. There are some grand buildings – the Sky Tower – but many architectural embarrassments. We wander off in search of sustenance and I am reminded of London’s Tottenham Court Road in the 1960s. We find a pleasant watering hole, a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and the world takes on a rosy hue. Auckland is alive with enthusiastic youngsters, or maybe we are getting old. We enjoy a Valentine’s day dinner at the foot of said tower and contemplate the signs advertising a walk around a rim with no hand rails at its top or an 11 second bunjee jump from a platform designed for terrifying its participants. We smile and order another glass of wine. We sleep fitfully, still unsure of what time of day it is. Tomorrow we are off on our travels around North Island.