Happy B-day Auckland!
Monday Jan. 30, 2012
My first night at the hostel was a pretty restful one - considering Im not used to sleeping in a room with a bunch of strangers. At around 6 a.m. or so though, I lay awake as I listen to one of our roommates rustling around in the top bunk - then, the paranoia starts to creep in. Is he rooting through his bag for his machete to chop us into bits? Will he kill us and eat us? Or will he eat us and then kill us?! I decide that my brain is making no sense, tell it to shut up and fall back to sleep. Jay and I eventually get up at around 8 a.m., and, like you would after a full days travel, go for a run around the harbour front. Back at the hostel, we stroll downstairs for cereal, toast and juice, hit the showers, then back downtown again.
Today is a holiday and it seems everyone is out enjoying the sun. Today is actually the last day of Auckland Anniversary Weekend - which is celebrating the citys 172nd birthday - and theres a flurry of activity happening around the waterfront. Jay and I meander around a bit, and when the heat becomes a bit too much, we duck into Valentinos Gelato for a cool treat, then head back outside as several planes perform swoops and dives above us during an airshow. We take in some buskers - a flute player wearing Native American attire complete with feathers and headgear; as well as the Blingling Bros, the worlds first all Maori circus: Cirque du Broleil! As the bros get ready for their next trick, they urge the crowd to count them down in Maori and everyone yells at the top of their lungs, WHA (4), TORU (3), RUA (2), TAHI (1)! Together, their voices sound so powerful and proud. I love New Zealand and this culture!
A performer at the Busker Festival
Eventually, Jay and I tear ourselves away and head closer to the water, where the Auckland Anniversary Weekend Regatta (apparently, the biggest regatta in the Southern Hemisphere) is happening. Of course, I think of the Royal St. John's Regatta back home and how cool it is that here, on the other side of the world, there is a similar tradition. One difference though - here, a drummer sits at the front of the shell and pounds out a steady beat, which, I assume, helps the rowers stay in sync with one another.
See the drummer in the racing shell? Who knows, perhaps one day the regatta at home will adopt the same tradition.
We stroll around some more and then take a break on a bench and watch the pigeons, seagulls and guys cleaning the boats. The Auckland Seafood Festival is happening at the other side of the harbour, so there are droves of people everywhere we turn. After a while, our rumbly tummies get the better of us, and we head away from the water and towards Food Alley - one of the most renown (and cheap, which is important when you're on a backpacker's budget) of the delicious food courts - where Jay noshes on curry, and I on an awesome sizzling chicken platter. Unlike the food court at the Avalon Mall at home, here, you take a number and the food is served to you - and the people clean up after you.
Another awesome thing about NZ is that there's no tipping - so your dollar really does go a long way. Also, the tax is included in the price - so what you see is what you pay. Woot! The food court's doors are flung wide open - as they are in all the shops, restaurants and malls around here - and tiny birds swoop in, perch on the tables and nibble on people's leftovers. Ahhhh
dining with nature. Nothing like it!
These birds are everywhere!
After Jay and I are filled to the gills, we wander around the city some more, take in the sights, and eventually, share a mango juice box with good ol' Lord Auckland. We're sweaty and happy. I still can't believe that it's the end of freakin' January and here we are, in our sandals and shorts, strolling around the streets - sans snow! I have always been in Newfoundland (or at least Atlantic Canada) during this time of year. Now, I can appreciate a little more why people head to places like Cuba to get a bit of a reprieve from Ol' Man Winter.
Me, hanging out with Lord Auckland.
Later, we head back to the hostel where we find one of our roommates packing up and getting ready to leave to visit friends. Before she goes, we have a quick chat and wish each other safe journeys. Later in the evening we chat with our new roommate, a girl from China, and as she heads out the door, Jay and I pass out again at around 9 or so. It's been quite the eventful first couple of days here in the city. Goodnight Auckland - and happy birthday. I'm so happy that we're here to celebrate with you!