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Archive for September, 2006

Fast facts from Auckland

28 September 2006 5 comments

It’s been a month since I landed here. I have also just finished all my travels for this month. That gives me plenty of time to write about my observations and here they go.

  1. Auckland is 166 years young(?) and they have a heritage festival annually, which I just missed as I was travelling. Well, if Indian cities were to do it…
  2. After several years of asking the all-important question “What’s the time there?”, I find myself answering it proudly that NZ is one of the first countries in the world to see the light of the day.
  3. I would have said more ‘thanks’ in this one month than I have ever said in my 25+2 year life. When I get down from the bus, I say ‘thanks’. I reply “Good. Thanks.” to “How are you?”. No wonder, Bombay ranked top in the stupid Rudest City poll of Readers’ Digest. Our sense of courtesy is just different.
  4. For the first time in my life, I spend (NZD!) before I shall earn (INR?). Taking a student loan to go on a holiday is something to boast of! I can also live on credit.
  5. 75% of the places are named after Captain Cook or Abel Tasman. Okay, I exaggerate.
  6. For the first week, 90% of the people I talked to were Indians. The ratio changed inversely when I started travelling.
  7. Of all the accents, I find that the Brit one is the easiest to follow.
  8. I have helped myself to a few Kiwiana things – pavlova (very yummy), hokey-pokey icecream (love affair in a cone), fish’n’chips and kiwifruit (originally the Chinese gooseberry).
  9. I have pampered myself to all the flavours of flavoured milk (strawberry, hokey-pokey again, banana, lemon,…) and some icecream too (passionfruit, almonds and maple). I recall seeing Anchor milk ads on Sri Lankan TV when I was back home and now I am experiencing its richness.
  10. There’s this Saffron restaurant in Ponsonby, Auckland which serves a South Indian brunch over the weekends – unlimited dosas, idlis, vadas, pongal for just $10.50 (truly value for money) and I simply love it.
  11. Backpacking is the way to travel. I got a YHA (Youth Hostels Association) card here for 40$ and it costs Rs.50 in India. The discounts you get by being a YHA member are amazing and the backpacker dorms are also quite fantastic.
  12. At Auckland, I got my Aussie visa in 5 min, after waiting in a queue for 45 minutes. To think of my NZ visa story
  13. Most of the tour bus drivers try to pull fast ones on you. But they are very friendly and nice. They seem to do that little extra to make you happy. Our tourism industry would do well to study these.
  14. NZ is clean and green. The only smoke I see come from the cigars and some wild forest fires.
  15. Mix Kerala green with Goan beaches, Manali snow, add unique geothermal zones like Taupo/Rotorua, the Kauri trees, some fantastic train journeys and you get NZ. I haven’t seen Queensland, supposedly the only thing you should aspire to see here. That makes this comment very very stupid. But NZ is a nature lover’s dream. Infinite activities to do if you have THE TWO must-haves for travel – T & M.

You can all see I am having the life of my time (intentional error). Next post up, a wild Kiwi walk.

Categories: NZ

Sleeping with the sheep – B

21 September 2006 4 comments

On the last night of the first trip, I finished my last packet of chicken noodles, my faithful companion on all my trips. The next morning I felt too lazy to take a bath (shower?). Having decided to have a delightful walk by the Pacific Ocean, I walk to the beach. There are so many old people taking their dogs on the beach. It reminds me of my Bangalore days when I felt that only if you have an odd combination of cars and dogs, you reach a ‘status’ in life. Mount Maungaui must also be a haven for retired folks. Sometimes, I make too many comparisons with Bangalore, but they all fit in. The old Bangalore was known for its salubrious climate through out the year. I also tell myself that somewhere on the other side of this mighty ocean lie my good blog mates like Archu. The beach always evokes pleasant memories. I have a long walk and lazily return to the hostel for our journey back to the City of Sails.

The bus starts sharp at 8.30am and we leave the beach resort town over the Tauranga Harbour Bridge. We pass through Waihi, a gold mining town in those olden times of the ‘gold rush’. There is a vintage railway plying these times and I love all those rail things, but I don’t have the time and stick to looking at it yearningly. The driver tells us once the gold mine goes out of use, it will be made into a lake so that it attracts tourists and the town lives longer. How they see everything from a tourist view! Karangahake Gorge is our first stop for the day. It links Waihi and Paeroa and the drive through it is simply amazing. The swing bridge across the Gorge shakes as we jump on it and makes our day. We spend a quiet 10 minutes near the bridge.

Our next halt for our morning tea is Paeroa, home to the ‘world famous in NZ since ages ago’ Lemon and Paeroa, a local soft drink now owned by Coca Cola. There are 2 big bottles of L&P which distingish the town. We stop at the new big bottle cafe. I get to touch the rugby ball, another iconic object in NZ. The driver teaches me how to pass it. I have been watching a little bit of rugby on TV, NZ even has a Rugby Channel. I would love to play it some day before I leave. We pass the ball for about 10 minutes. After that, it is a simple long drive to Auckland. Once in the city, we go to the Auckland Harbour Bridge, for a quick photo shoot. I am reminded of the genial Aussie-Kiwi rivalry which makes them compete for the longer Harbour Bridge and the sweet dessert pavlova among many other things. It has been 5 days since I left my home and it really feels nice to be back at home, relaxing inside and outside my classes. That’s the update for this week.

I’m off to South Island tomorrow, the best part of NZ in most peoples’ opinion. I indulge in my rail lusts, with trips on the magnificent TranzCoastal and the TranzAlpine trains, world famous just like every other thing in NZ, a visit to the only French settlement in NZ, Akaroa on the splendid Banks Peninsula and a dolphin watch cruise. This is my 1st DIY holiday here, which makes it more special. When I am back, I shall put the best pictures onto flickr for your sensual delights. Till then, have fun.

Categories: NZ, Travel

Sleeping with the sheep – A

13 September 2006 2 comments

I am all happy and comfortable in the Antipodes(!). I must apologize for the really long break this post has taken. Between travel and planning it, I get time to attend classes and manage my days. September is spring time here and all the fabulous winter deals are just about getting over by the end of this month. When you are using a developing country’s money to travel in a developed country, backpacking on these deals is the best way to have fun. I have extended weekends (say 4-5 days) as I have classes for 3 days from 6 to 9 in the evening. So I plan to travel 3 weekends in Sep, saving a lot of money hopefully and that explains the lack of updates on this page. Please bear with me. I shall be regular soon. NZ tourism is so much organized, making it simple and easy for DIY holidays. But to start with, I go with one of the backpacker buses. I shall start describing my travel in reverse order, for the heck of it.

I travel with Magic Bus (after extensive research of other options like Kiwi Experience and Stray Travel mainly because of the ‘value for money’ 30% off discounted prices in Sep) on their ‘Top of the North’ pass. In this pass, the last overnight stay is at Mount Maunganui, a sleepy little coastal town in the Bay of Plenty on the Pacific Ocean just a little below the ‘very beautiful’ Coromandel. At 5.15pm, the driver drops us at our backpacker accommodation after a quick drive around the Pilot Bay, the Mount and the Beach Road. We grab a few pizza slices and a tea. This is a free extra with Magic. I ask the lodge owner about walking up the mount which looks so tempting. The Kiwis call every small height a mount (well, most of these mounts are volcanic cones) and they call walking ‘tramping’. Mount Maungaui and Tauranga are twin towns and are separated by the sea which a harbour bridge connects. So many harbour bridges here! 🙂

I start walking on the Totara Road, with good views of the large ships in the port. I join the Maunganui Road and reach the base of the mount in 30 minutes. There is one walking track around the base and two to the top. I ask one guy before getting on with the climb. It is a 4WD track and is very comfortable for the climb. On the way, I see plenty of sheep grazing in the pastures and many old men and women running past me to the top. Very soon, the harbour beach Pilot Bay looks magnificent. The Pacific Ocean is next. There are a few red and green lights blinking in the ocean. The Mount or Mauoa (crazy Maori names) is about 230m tall and the climb takes roughly half an hour. It gets dark by the time I reach the top. 6.30pm. There is a bunch of Scottish residents whose habit is to either walk the base or the climb of this Mount every Monday. One of them tells me today is a full moon day, but the clouds cover the moon and so it is eerily dark. The lights over the town illuminate the entire area and are a feast for the eyes. I take a couple of pictures.

There are few people left as I start my descent. I wait for a couple so I can use her torchlight. The dark scares me and I wish the path was lighted properly. The couple descend through another track and I am the only one marching in the same track I walked up. I have the sheep for company. It is a popular fact that there are 10 times (at the least) sheep than the humans. That is when I think of the title to this post. I walk briskly, occasionally hearing the strange sounds of the birds and other living or non-living(!) things in the Mount. I read there is no species dangerous to the humans in NZ than themselves and that makes it a little less worrisome. Most of the Kiwis I have seen have been good-natured. In any case, they have to. After all, tourism is one of their biggest revenue earners, with education. I am relieved when I reach the spa pools at the base.

It is a short walk to the beach. But at 7pm, there is almost no one at the beach. Is is because of the lean spring season? Is it because of the Monday evening? Are the Kiwis naturally early to bed and early to rise? I get back to the Maunganui road to grab a piece of fresh fish at a takeaway. The lady asks if I want it cooked or uncooked. She must be Japanese, I say to myself. I unhesitantly say, “Cooked please”. The fish is remarkably tasty, though it is bland. I return to my hostel and cook my dinner, before retiring for the day – my last night of travel.

PS: I shall try to upload to pictures to flickr soon. Till then, you could peep into my yahoo. Cya soon.

Categories: NZ, Travel