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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire Features »
November 2003
Arriving in Auckland
Nic in Auckland
Nic with the city of Auckland in the background
Nic's first port of call was Auckland in the North Island. It's not the capital of New Zealand but it is the country's largest city with over one million inhabitants.

Here's the first part of Nic's tour diary with pictures:
:: Image Gallery »


Auckland Gallery

Click on the picture to open the gallery

:: eMail this page »

:: NZ Features »

A description of the tour about New Zealand that Nic undertook

History of New Zealand
A brief look at the history of New Zealand

Nic takes a look at New Zealand's largest city

Nic visits the distinctly whiffy Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty region

:: Web Links»

Air New Zealand
The website of New Zealand's official airline

City Life Hotel
The official website of the City Life hotel in Auckland

Auckland War
Memorial Museum

The official website of the Auckland based museum

Sky Tower
The official website of the Sky Tower in Auckland

All Blacks
The official website of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team

Please note that the BBC is neither responsible for, nor endorses the external sites shown on this page

:: Auckland Facts »
Population: 1.2m

Location: On the North Island of New Zealand

Climate: Sea breeze keeps temperatures bearable in summer (Dec-Feb); generally mild but rainy in winter (Jun-Aug)

Geography: On narrow isthmus between the Northland and Waitako regions. Volcanic hills, subtropical foliage and scenic bays.

Interesting fact: Auckland has the largest boat and yacht ownership per capita in the world.
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View a printable version of this page.

The longest flight ever...
It's a long, long way to New Zealand from England. In fact it can be described as the mother of all flights and it's certainly the longest plane journey I've ever taken. You're in the air for about 24 hours as you cross over the many thousands of kilometres between the two countries. If you fly via North America as opposed to Asia, you cross the international date line somewhere over the Pacific Ocean - this is an imaginary line on the Earth that separates two consecutive calendar days. That is the date to the left of the line is always one day ahead of the date to the right... confused? I was.

It apparently works out like this - without the date line, people travelling west would discover that one day more than they thought had passed when they returned home. For a person travelling in an easterly direction, one day fewer would have elapsed than they would have thought. The date line acts as a means to balance out this phenomenon. On my journey into the west, it meant taking off from Heathrow on a Wednesday afternoon and arriving in Auckland on Friday morning - a whole day had disappeared for me!

The Air New Zealand jumbo jet left Heathrow at four in the afternoon and went 'over the top' via Greenland and Canada. Fortunately it wasn't a continuous flight and I had the chance to get off the aircraft for a while when it landed in Los Angeles for two hours.

However, this stopover was a bit of a nightmare because the American authorities had tightened up security after the events of September 11th. For the passengers, this meant waiting in an extremely long queue to have our passports checked by just one immigration official. Despite disgruntled mutterings from passengers, nobody caused a fuss - I realised why when I saw that the immigration official was armed!

After all that we weren't even allowed into the duty free area of the terminal. Instead we were 'treated' to an extremely drab waiting room with a leaky roof. It was not what you'd expect from a country that prides itself on customer service.

Those who re-boarded the aircraft for the final twelve hour leg across the Pacific to New Zealand were not a happy bunch for their American experience. To make matters worse, we had to endure an alarmingly bad Eddie Murphy movie which they had to show twice because they'd run out of other films to show - if I could, I'd have paid the extra three grand there and then for a first class seat to avoid the visual torture.

Actually, I'm being slightly unfair here (not to Eddie Murphy though) because the staff kept us well fed and watered, and the flight was not delayed in any way. In fact, the jumbo touched down in Auckland a full fifteen minutes early which was something I've never experienced with any other airline.

Arriving in Auckland
When I adjusted my watch I saw that it was six in the morning in Auckland. The airport was modern and extremely well laid out - inside it certainly didn't seem like an international airport, moreover it had the feel of a cosy regional one.

Customs are very strict in New Zealand. This is because the country has such a delicate ecosystem and certain foreign bodies could cause severe damage to it. As a precaution, the aircraft cabins are apparently sprayed with insecticide to kill off any organisms that might be hitching a ride. Bringing meat and dairy products into the country is strictly forbidden and even hiking boots need to be checked for dirt. If found, they have to be cleansed there and then. Dogs also check your bags for foods (not an altogether unpleasant job for a dog, I may add) before they're sent through an x-ray machine. Fines of up to $100,000 NZ dollars are waiting for anyone caught breaking the rules. Thankfully, I got through this examination without the marigolds being whipped out!

The airport is quite a way out from central Auckland so I caught a taxi to my hotel. On the way, the Maori taxi driver gave me a tour of the suburbs. At the time, I was probably too groggy from the flight to realise he'd taken a 'scenic' route which added another $10 to the fare.

A little bit about Auckland...
Located on New Zealand's North Island, the Auckland region is surrounded by water on either side so yachting is popular pastime. So much so that Auckland has earned the nickname 'City of Sails'.

The city centre is situated next to the spectacular Waitemata harbour which contains a number of volcanic islands, including popular tourist destination Waiheke Island with its expansive beaches and holiday homes.

As New Zealand's largest city and home to the country's main international airport, Auckland is a lively and cosmopolitan place to be. Over one million people live there (which is almost a third of the country's entire population), so the bars and clubs are thriving places at the weekend.

The area also boasts some stunning scenery with volcanic hills and lush subtropical foliage surrounding the city.

Staying in Auckland
I was staying at the four star City Life hotel in Auckland. The hotel room had absolutely everything - television, mini-bar, living room, cooker, stereo system and even a washer-dryer! It was also slap bang in the centre of the city on Queen Street which was very handy.

I was staying in Auckland for a few days before heading off on my tour of the North Island. On the Friday I visited the Sky Tower, which was literally just a stone's throw from the hotel. The Sky Tower stands at 328 metres and has some fantastic views across the Auckland region. It's certainly not for anyone who suffers from vertigo and even those who don't will feel naturally apprehensive when walking across some of the glass floors that offer views of the city hundreds of metres below. If that's not enough of an adrenaline rush, for about $200 daring souls can literally leap from the top of the tower and free fall the three hundred metres to the bottom - fortunately for them, they're guided down by wires. Another activity on offer involves climbing (when I say climbing I mean with harnesses and ropes) up a radio mast to an upper observation deck where you'll grab an unrestricted 360 degree view of the city. If that's not your cup of coffee, then you can enjoy one in the Sky Tower's restaurant which is a good place to get your bearings. Also, there's a great restaurant in the Sky City complex below that serves up a tasty full English breakfast.

If those Sky Tower activities don't sound exciting enough, you can also do a bungee jump from the harbour bridge!

All Black heaven
By early Friday afternoon, jet-lag began to kick in and I felt completely worn out so I went to sleep at my hotel. I woke in time to get to the nearest Irish Pub™ to watch the New Zealand All Blacks take on Canada in the rugby world cup. The partisan local crowd were left unimpressed by their team's performance as they only beat the Canadians by 62 points. In New Zealand, you quickly learn that rugby is everything - football doesn't even rate a mention in the country. In fact, footie is probably behind cricket in the scale of things. After the All Black's victory I was treated to drunken Haka by some of the more merry Kiwis.

I rounded off Friday night with a quick tour of some of the excellent bars in the America's Cup village down by the harbour. All the luxurious yachts were moored up in the marina and it's a really cool place to chill out. Most of the bars down there are designer ones but you'll find the odd place that serves up a decent beer. Sadly for me, none of them served up any Guinness…

An underwater world
Saturday began with a rather tasty full breakfast at the City Life hotel. I decided to pay a visit to Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World - the place is basically an underwater zoo built in old storm water tanks. The late Kelly Tarlton was a famous Kiwi diver and he created the aquarium to bring the underwater world he'd seen to as many people as possible. I think the Antarctic part is a nod to the part New Zealand played as a staging post for many of the expeditions to the frozen continent. The first exhibition you encounter is dedicated to those who explored the Antarctic. You see recreations of the huts the polar explorers used in the early twentieth century and read about the exploits of British explorers like Scott and Shackleton. The huts even come with authentic items from the period and you can even hear the howling Antarctic winds beyond the hut walls.

The next attraction is surely one that kids (of all ages) will love - you get into a snow mobile and take a ride through a colony of King Penguins. They're great fun as you watch them waddle awkwardly across the ice and swim gracefully through the water. Penguins are surely the coolest of creatures (forgive the pun).

Finally you get to see the underwater bit of the exhibition. You walk beneath the water through a tunnel with a transparent ceiling. As you stroll beneath the water, you find yourself surrounded by sharks, stingrays and all manner of sea life. It's quite an awesome sight to see predators like the sharks up close. Kelly Tarlton's underwater world is well worth a visit but be warned - the aquarium may not look far on the map but the winding coastal route certainly tires you out.

England bash the Boks
That night (or, more precisely, morning) England took on South Africa in the World Cup and any self-respecting Englishman has to watch that. I watched our lads put in a great professional performance and the Springboks never looked likely to get anything out of the resolute English defence. The game ended 26-6 in England's favour. The next day I was stunned to read the vitriolic analysis of England's performance in one of the New Zealand daily papers. However, my outrage subsided when I discovered the journalist who'd written the drivel was a South African. Face it pal, winning ugly is still winning.

Auckland Domain
After another tasty breakfast, I had a few hours to kill on Sunday morning before I had to pick up the hire car. I decided to visit the Auckland Domain - this is a vast park area that must have been conceived in Victorian times because it bears the features of many of the traditional English parks.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum can be found within the parkland but the one building that really captured my imagination was the Botanical Gardens. The Victorian glass greenhouses were brilliant and the flowers within them beautiful. I remember there was a statue of a cat trying to catch a butterfly outside the greenhouses. It was most odd to see this as I'd never seen statues from that period portray such a whimsical scene - most statues were classic in style or reflected notable people like Queen Victoria or Captain James Cook.

The park area was a great place to relax and enjoy a hot chocolate in lovely surroundings because there was café right by the Botanical gardens.

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to get a good look at the War Memorial Museum but it certainly struck me as a grand building that had loads of interesting things in it. If you ever visit Auckland - check it out!

Moving on...
I headed over to Avis to pick up my hire car which was a Rav 4 four-wheel-drive. The tour I'd organised involved me driving my way through both the North and South Islands.

I've always believed that you see more if you've got control over your means of travel plus it meant I could do a bit of exploring in the beautiful New Zealand countryside.

As I left Auckland behind I was really looking forward to the next three weeks...

NEXT SECTION: The Road to Rotorua

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