Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Take the "Awe" Out of Auckland

We slept until 6:30, but was up and showered again by 7:00. Though we had told D we wanted breakfast at 8:30, when he heard us up, he served us right away. It was an impressive spread of jellies and marmalades with homemade muffins and toasts. He had Wheatbix and granola, orange juice, fresh coffee, and then made us scrambled eggs.

The bus stop is right outside their property line. Paying NZ$3.60 for one bus ride shocked my system a bit, but it took us right downtown. D had warned us at breakfast that the city had done close to nothing about decorating for Christmas. The reasoning was multicultural sensitivity, which he pooh-poohed claiming the city goes all out for the Indian holiday as well as the Chinese New Year. He was right. There were barely any decorations at all and those that did exist were pitiful. Not even the department stores had decent decorations in the their windows. One store had puppets playing out Cinderella. What does that have to do with Christmas? If I were a little boy, I would feel totally cheated.

After three hours, I shared with Ron that I did not think there was any “awe” in Auckland. For this I was admonished with the questions of how could I come to that conclusion after only three hours o walking around downtown, the pier, the sky tower, having taken two buses, and had one coffee? How silly of me to make snap judgments. An hour or so later, he confided that most of his research for this trip did say that Auckland is the most boring as compared to the rest of the country. I felt reprieved.

We did not do all that much. After a trip to the Sky Tower where one of the tourist offices is located, we took a free circuit bus around the center of the city to look at the buildings. The mix of old and new architecture in many cities that redeveloped or upgraded themselves can be a stimulating visual mix, here not so. A walk around the wharf was equally unexciting. Compared to Sydney or Cape Town, this has nothing at all. We took another LINK bus around its circuit through different neighoborhoods, but stayed on for a complete go-round. There were a couple of districts that looked promising with interesting looking shops, but otherwise, nothing special yet again.

We have a few days here before we fly out of here home again, so checked out some hostels. We booked the one that offered a NZ$12 discount per night, because I have an International Press Card. By 5:00 pm, we were ready to head back to the B and B, if nothing else to check on our luggage. The problem was, we could not remember the bus numbers to get back. Asking several bus drivers only resulted in conflicting information. We were sent back and forth over an eight block distance until finally an older woman driver insisted she take us to where we needed to catch our correct bus.

B had been trying to call the airline luggage department on our behalf for most of the day. He said most attempts resulted in busy signals or being put on hold for so long he would just hang up. We tried three times. Three is indeed the charm. We reached a person, Amy. She said that a huge number of bags had just arrived. If we gave her a half hour, she would look for ours and call back on my mobile. I was thankful I had bougth a local SIM card. To stay preoccupied, I went out to write. When a half hour passed, I lost hope. By now it was 7:10 pm and the luggage office closes at 8 pm. Just then Amy called. She found both of our bags, would give them to a courier at 9 pm, and he should be to us by 10 pm.

We went to a Syrian fast food place for dinner. It was close by so if the courier had problems, he had my mobile and I could run back quickly. With plenty of time to spare, we were back waiting. I was outside at 9:30 pm pacing. Ten o'clock on the dot, the courier pulled into the driveway. I had to seriously insist he take a tip. Finally, he did after I told him this was like a Santa delivering our presents. Come to think of it, Santa doesn't take tips. Maybe I should have offered him milk and cookies instead.

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