Monday, 5 December 2011

First installment

Arrival, November 2
The first half of the flight to LA was OK because I was sat next to a handsome young Anglo-Chinese guy and we chatted nearly all the way. LA was a pain because I had to collect my bags, go through their obsessive security, then check myself back in again. LA to NZ was exhausting and I couldn’t sleep properly, but Mike was there waiting for me the other end so all was fine. Back to a little motel room, but we’ve now moved to a larger one with kitchen/diner and sitting area so not too bad.

The Walk
On Sunday we set off on a cold, blustery day, climbing up from sea level to cliff tops through dense bush, palm trees, tree ferns and kaurie trees. They call it bush but so far as I’m concerned it’s jungle and a machete would have been useful on occasion. Flattens out a bit at the top where we come across a group of people surrounding a woman who’s broken her ankle. Someone’s already set off to summon the rescue helicopter. A cautionary tale for us walkers. We carry on down past streams, along muddy tracks, hanging onto the trunks of palms to help us down like Tarzan and Jane.
At the foot of the hills we come out onto sand dunes, but the sand is black so its look really weird and other-worldly. Then we see black swans with bright red beaks to complete the picture. Suddenly a squall whips up from nowhere and we’re sheltering under the palms. It passes and we forge ahead through the weird black dunes to get to the beach and back where we started. We find ourselves passing through a man-made tunnel and enter a little paradise. Sheltered between the cliffs and the dunes, with lagoons, palms and ferns, we see little fan tails fluttering in the trees, and the air smells fantastic. Eventually we arrive on the beach itself which stretches for miles and miles in both directions. The sea is just wild, and the black sand is blowing towards us. No pebbles but white shells scattered here and there on the black sand. Across more dunes to get back to the car and I’ve completed my first ever walk in NZ.
The Flat
Very exciting . . . it’s a large basement flat owned by a lovely elderly couple who are doing it up a bit as their daughter’s just moved out to go to work in London. We are obviously perfect tenants (they don't know us yet) and they’re very keen to have us so they’ve dropped the rent a bit and are hunting around to find bits of furniture, bedding, kitchen equipment etc. It has large rooms and faces the southern end of Auckland Domain. The house is c.1905 and has plenty of character and some beautiful sofas and armchairs. No garden as such but a large terrace out front looking over the road to the park. It even has a piano (maybe I should learn to play in my spare time?) And I’m chuffed to bits because I just went to see it again and put down 1 weeks rent in advance so it’s definitely ours and we’re moving in on Saturday.

The Op Shop
Forget the Charity Shop as we know it over in the UK, and think warehouse. Bloody great big warehouse crammed full of everything you can think of. I’ve only been to one so far but apparently this is the norm. Everything is priced up and pretty cheap too. My first purchases: 1 linen shirt, 1 mug, 1 pottery fruit bowl, 1 paperback, totalling $5 which is £2.50 in proper money. Fantastic, I shall be back. Also went to view an auction, just for fun, and saw quite a few bits I like. Trouble is I won't know exactly what we need until we move in.

Getting around
This is the bad news: just about no-one bikes here in Auckland, at least only sporty people in lycra. Firstly its bloody hilly. Yes I know I’m pretty good going up & down Headington Hill, but there are about 50 hills in Auckland, all extinct volcanoes, and it would be really hard work. Secondly, there are loads of nasty big 6 lane highways going into the centre and I really don’t fancy cycling on them. Thirdly, because no one cycles (relatively) there are no second-hand bike shops around and none on Gumtree or Trademe. The good news is that this is forcing me to drive more, and as Mike doesn’t always need his car I’ll be able to get around still.

My cousin Rita
I first learned she was in Auckland about a month ago and went over to North Shore yesterday where she's been living for the last 6 months. Didn't dare to take the car but it was only 3/4 hour by train/bus. She's not settled well and has a bit of a down on NZ overall, not happy with the shops, and doesn't have anything to do. She's living in a lovely big house overlooking Castor Bay which has a turquoise sea and clean yellow sand but Innes is at work all day and I think she's just bored. It was good to catch up with her but I honestly can't see us spending a lot of time together. She's used to living in an ex-pat community in Saudi and isn't keen on the great outdoors I think, so I guess NZ is not the place for her. We walked on the beach and went for a paddle. The water was so warm I'd have been in like a shot if I'd had my cozzie.

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