City of Sails

Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
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Trip End May 10, 2005


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Monday, April 18, 2005

Our next stop is Auckland, where we say goodbye to Steve. It's been a whirlwind ten days with him. We covered a lot of territory, saw lots of the sights and shared some great jokes. He's a very entertaining guy. You meet lots of people when you travel with Steve! (He also won the booby prize for driving, i.e., turning on the windshield wipers instead of the signal lights the most times, driving on the wrong side of the road and having a couple of close calls!)

Martin and I are getting a bit travel weary - you get that way when you've been on the road for an extended period of time. At about three months, you kind of "hit the wall" and it takes a lot of effort to want to do anything, go anywhere or take any more photos. I keep reminding myself that I only have three weeks left and want to make the most of it!

While in Auckland, Martin and I went to a rugby game with Kris and Grant. New Zealanders are diehard rugby fans. The New Zealand All-Blacks have a worldwide reputation as one of the most formidable teams in Union rugby. Besides Union rugby, there's other types, including League, Super 12 and Aussie Rules. The game we attended was Super 12 (includes teams from NZ, Australia and S. Africa); it was the Auckland Blues versus the Sharks (a South African team). (Super 12 is to Union rugby what the American Hockey league is to the National Hockey league.)

Rugby is a brutal game. No protective equipment is worn, yet players are tackled just as they are in North American football (what NZ'ers and Aussies call "gridiron"). Teams start out in a scrum where they lock shoulders and push against the other team in a kind of "push-a-war" until one team manages to overpower the other. No wonder so many rugby players end up with shoulder problems, cauliflower ears (from being grabbed), cleat marks on their legs - and arthritis! Many of them don't play much past the age of 30. Anyway, the Blues defeated the Sharks 36-13 and the home town was happy.

Auckland, the "City of Sails", has a population of approximately 1.2 which is about one quarter of New Zealands's population. It is a very cosmopolitan place, where the "who's who" of NZ lives.

One of our friends we came to visit here is Grant (another Grant!). Heather met Grant on a tour of Europe in 1981. We stayed with him in Auckland n 1984 and he came to Canada in the early 90s. He recently left his job as a travel consultant and will be leaving for Dakka, Bangladesh where he will be managing a college for training people in English and the trades (such as cooking). As well, he'll be recruiting students for colleges in Australia, NZ and the UK. Grant hasn't changed a bit and is just as vivacious and jovial as ever. I wish him well with his endeavours in Bangladesh - and hope whoever he's working with can keep up to him!

We also got together with Jim and Marina and family who invited us to their home for supper. "Uncle Jim" (though not really our uncle - he's my uncle's brother) left New Westminister, BC to visit New Zealand some over 40 years ago where he met and married Marina. They have been back to Canada to live only briefly. He is an dental technician and she works in a high-end clothing/housewares store. Jim is still recovering from open-heart surgery that he had in November and has recently taken up kayaking to improve his physical fitness. Their daughter, Charlotte, and son, James ("Jay") were also there; their daughter, Sandy, and her family live on the Coramandel Peninsula east of Auckland. We had a wonderful, though short, visit and reminisced about my stay with them 20-odd years ago, though I can't recall a great deal! (I lost my diary from my year-long trip, so don't have much to twig my memory, except photos.)

Although retirement age, Jim and Marina are still working part-time. Jim works because he loves his job, but also because the NZ superannuation (pension) is not sufficient to live on once you retire. As a Canadian, he is very cognizant about the differences between living in Canada and New Zealand. Another is the cost of health care in that New Zealanders pay for all of their health services (like open-heart surgery).

We found it difficult to meet anyone at the BBH in Auckland. So many of the people there seemed to be "residents" rather than travellers and were working or studying. (I think we've found we like YHAs better as they are for short-term stays only.) Martin did talk with one person from a group of massage therapists from Melbourne, Australia who were taking a course in Auckland. (Another advantage of YHAs is that they'll also book your next hostel for you.)
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