First, a Happy New Year to everybody. I wasn’t in the mood to write about anything after we got back from our New Zealand holiday (very tired to begin with and lots of things to do when we got home). Hence, the infrequent updates from me recently.
So my first post for the year is about our Kiwi holiday. It’s a bit too long to write it down our holiday (mis)adventure in just one posted article so I’ll be telling the story in parts. To see some of the photos we’ve taken of our trip, go to our Photo Gallery.
Now, on with the story.
The first day of our trip didn’t turn out to be very pleasant. We have an early morning flight at about 9 am so we had to wake up really early like at 4 am just to be at the airport at least one hour before our flight. And to be sure there were no delays, I looked up the Train Trip Planner page at the Metlink site the night before so that I’d know what time the trains would be leaving and which stations we’d switch train lines from to get to the Southern Cross station (formerly known as the Spencer Street station) adjacent to the SkyBus (the bus that takes you to the airport) terminal.
At the moment, the Southern Cross station is under construction to make it more beautiful for all the expected tourists in Melbourne during the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Normally, the train from Werribee stops at the Southern Cross station but due to the construction going on, it is currently skipped. According to the Trip Planner page for the day of our departure, there were still some trains that stop at Southern Cross. We should get off at the Newport station and catch another train to Southern Cross from there.
Well, we did just that and were frustrated to discover that the train we boarded didn’t stop at Southern Cross neither. So, it would’ve actually been quicker to have just stayed on the original train as it was an express train (it didn’t stop at all the stations along the line). Fortunately, we still got to the airport an hour before the flight so we had time to check in and relax a bit.
One of our ulterior motives for taking a vacation in New Zealand was so that we can get some stamps on our new Australian Passports. We were hoping that someday, we may be able to take a trip to the US and having proof on our passports that we have traveled a bit would make us less suspicious to customs officials. Unfortunately, we discovered that if you’re an Australia going to New Zealand and back, your passport doesn’t get any stamps at all. They just scanned our passport and that was it. So now, our passports still seemed to be brand new. Great.
Another disappointment was the light lunch we had during the flight. When we landed at the Auckland Airport in New Zealand, we didn’t have time to grab a proper lunch as we were expected at the hotel we booked at a certain time. So we headed straight to the bus terminal after getting through Customs and got on to Auckland’s equivalent of the SkyBus — the AirBus.
The day wasn’t getting any better though. The AirBus we boarded had a busted air conditioner so it was pretty warm and humid inside. It was also really pouring the day. Since the bus had these sticker advertisements that covered the windows that doubled for window tints, the rain water stuck to the open holes of the stickers obscuring the view out of the glass windows. It was as if we were trapped inside a translucent warm humid box for what was supposed to be an hour (the time it takes from the airport to the city). But to make it worse, we were stuck in heavy traffic! And I needed to go to the toilet! It was a miserable afternoon.
After an unpleasant time in the bus, we finally reached our destination. We were so relieved to be able to breathe in fresh air again. Well, it wasn’t really all that fresh (we were in the city after all) but it was a heck of a lot better than the canned air we were breathing inside the bus. I didn’t mind getting wet from the rain. I was just too happy to get off the bus.
My happiness was short lived though. We were greatly disappointed with the room we had at the Columbia Hotel Apartments, the hotel we booked at Accomodation Line. Why? The room didn’t have air-conditioning, the carpet was soiled, the room had a musty smell and there were rubbish in between the tables and bed! It was so crappy that we dreaded lying down on the bed but we didn’t have a choice. We had to spend the night there. It was a consolation that we had to drive to Rotorua the following day and leave the hotel behind.
Unfortunately, we had booked to stay at the same hotel again a few days later when we return to Auckland from Rotorua and New Plymouth. We didn’t want to stay there for more that one night. We decided that we’ll just have to cancel our booking even if we have to pay a cancellation fee. But, since we booked the hotel via Internet, we have to cancel the booking via Internet. That meant we needed to find an Internet cafe first.
After the ride from the airport and settling in the hotel, it was pretty late to have lunch. So we decided to just have a heavy snack in the city which shouldn’t be too far according to the free map we got at the airport. Well, it wasn’t too far but it wasn’t near neither. After walking down the sloping road (which reminded me of San Francisco’s hilly streets), we finally got to Queen Street which was a long street that cuts through Auckland’s CBD.
I was sort of happy to see shops we’re familiar with in Australia like Borders, Oporto, Burger King (called Hungry Jacks in Oz) and Maccas. We were also pleased (in a nostalgic sense) to see that New Zealand has Wendy’s Hamburger and Dunkin’ Donuts both of which are absent in Australia.
We still ended up at a fast food restaurant we were familiar with in Australia – at Oporto. While having our merienda (afternoon snack) there, we realised that New Zealand is kind of like Australia, only different. For example, the Coke bottle labels in Oz are made of some plastic film while in NZ, it’s made of paper. The people speak in an Australian like accent except they seem to swap the E and I long vowel sounds in words. For example, I heard an ad on the radio: “Have you bought the Chrestmas gefts for the keds?”
Afterwards, we walked down the length of Queen Street all the way to the Britomart bus terminal to explore the CBD. We also wanted to know in advance where the Europcar office was located so that come the next morning, we can head there straight away and pick up the rental car we booked. We didn’t want to stay at the hotel longer than we really should.
The walk back to the hotel wasn’t easy though. It was all up hill. By the time we got back to our room, we were all sweaty and hot. It would’ve been nice to have an air conditioned room then.
We went to bed early that night which was pretty unusual for us. Our reasoning was, the earlier we get to sleep, the sooner tomorrow comes. We planned to wake up early and find an open Internet cafe to change our accommodation plans for when we return to Auckland.
That night, I hoped that tomorrow would be a better day. Because at the time, I wasn’t enjoying our vacation at all. Well, there were still ten days left for us to appreciate New Zealand better. I hoped that we could start appreciating it the next day.
To be continued…