Auckland 2017 – The Third Day

So my body clock is clearly still adjusting to being in New Zealand. I awoke at a time that would have been most suitable – if I happened to be on the east coast of Australia. Or it could have been that the alarm wasn’t set properly. In either case, I wasn’t up as early as originally intended, but still early enough to make the most of the day.

Before retiring to bed last night I was tossing up some possibilities for what I would do today. I had narrowed it down to two options – either travelling over to the north head of Waitemata Harbour at Devonport, or visit the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy at Torpedo Bay. Both destinations looked appealing and not being able to make up my mind, I resolved to make a final decision this morning.

Refreshed by coffee (God bless coffee!) I made the rather pleasant discover that Torpedo Bay is, in fact, located in Devonport, and so it would be possible for me to do both destinations today with relevant ease. This revelation made up for the ‘sleep in’, and I sallied forth from my flat mid-morning to navigate my way across to the north shore of the harbour. The task would have been a little easier if Ms. GPS hadn’t decide to take the morning off and I having to rely on Google Maps on my phone (not ideal when it’s not mounted in a place within eyesight). Thankfully there wasn’t a wrong turn taken and I managed to arrive at the Naval Museum unscathed and without having caused any traffic incidents – at least that I’m aware of.

The Naval Museum is fairly small, but contains a goodly array of displays outlining the relatively short history of the RNZN and of the Royal Navy in New Zealand before that. It’s probably not the kind of museum that most people would find interesting. Having an interest in military history, however, made this an almost ‘must see’, and I spent a very pleasant hour or so meandering through the exhibits, reading some of the stories, learning about the naval history of New Zealand.

The highlight of this museum visit, however, was not in the historical exhibits, but in a piece of art that has been installed in a very well lighted room of the museum, a room that looks over the harbour back towards the city of Auckland. This artwork is a representation of hands reaching up from a shallow pool of water, against the background of a ship’s ladder that extends up through the glass roof, and which has water dribbling down towards the pool of water. The artwork is the only object in the otherwise large room. The photograph I took doesn’t really do the work justice.

It is haunting. It is demanding. It is unmissable.

After a quite enjoyable lunch at the museum’s cafe, I drove the short distance to the North Head Historic Reserve, which similarly to the north head of Sydney Harbour originated as a base for the military defence of the harbour at a time when there was a great fear of Russian imperialist expansion. The present reserve, known as Maungauika to the Maori, continued in various military functions up until 1996 when it was handed over to the Department of Conservation and becomes a Historic Reserve.

The scenery from this headland is simply stunning, and one can understand why it would make an ideal military post from which to observe and defend the harbour it overlooks. I spent an hour or so wandering and exploring the site and the sights, the photos of which can be found here.

Towards mid afternoon I headed back to my flat, detouring via the supermarket to grab some food for tonight’s dinner, there to relax into the evening.

Auckland 2017 – The Second Day

Today was an unplanned day designed to do two things. Firstly, there was a need to begin adjusting my body clock to New Zealand Time, which I think is going to prove somewhat difficult since it seems determined to stay on Australian Eastern Time. Though my alarm went off at the designated time of 7.30am, I didn’t wake until almost 9am – which I am going to put down to a long day of travel yesterday.

The second aim for today was to ensure that I stocked up on the necessary food supplies that will allow me to base myself here in my Epsom flat, and only have to have light snacks while I’m out and about.

With that in mind I sallied forth this morning to familiarise myself with the local surrounds, particularly in terms of coffee shops (vitally important to know) and supermarkets (less important but still significant). In the process of doing so (by which I mean I took a few wrong turns despite the best intentions of Ms. GPS) I discovered the Auckland Domain, and spent an hour or so wandering around that lovely and luscious green space close the city of Auckland. There was some lovely and breathtaking views, and some interesting memorials and structures dotted around the Domain. My intention is to return there before I leave to take some photos of both the views and various structures.

Leaving the Domain, I resumed my search for a supermarket close by my place of residence, and after a little bit of searching managed to find a medium-sized iteration not that far from the flat. After obtaining a few supplies and returning back to the flat, I ate a late lunch and then collapsed for a nap. Again, I’m blaming the day of travel yesterday.

In the evening I decided to go to the movies to see the filmĀ Dunkirk. I would thoroughly recommend this (relatively) short movie (it’s only 106 minutes) to anyone with even a passing interest in the military history of World War II. The story of the Dunkirk evacuation is told through the eyes of soldiers, sailors and flyers – and the wide array of civilians – that were involved in that singular event in the timeline of World War II.

It was a wonderful performance by an ensemble cast – as movies such as these tend to be – which didn’t pull any punches though wasn’t gory in terms of its depiction of violence. It was the stories that were much more important, and they are told with care and honesty.

After the movie it was back to Epsom and to my bed where I attempted to get to sleep at a ‘civilised’ hour and continue the adjustment towards New Zealand time. But more of that tomorrow…

Auckland 2017 – The First Day

I hate 5am wake up calls!

The first day of my overseas journey to Auckland and surrounds started very, very early. Having to be checked in at the airport by 7am at the latest, an early start was required. The benefit of such an early start, however, and flying business class on this particular trip was the invite to wait within the Qantas Business Lounge once I had proceeded through bag drop and passport control. And what a benefit it was: food, drinks, comfortable seats, free internet, and all the other amenities one could possibly want. And as for coffee – which was definitely required at that time of the morning – there was the ‘choice’ of high-quality instant coffee, or barista-made espresso. Not really a choice in that context.

It was a pleasant way to spend the two hours I had to wait between arriving at the airport and boarding my aircraft. I may never fly economy again!

Business Class aboard my Qantas 737 is a small part of the aircraft – only the first three or four rows – but the seats were certainly wide and comfy. Given that I am quite tall, I was able to stretch out fairly easy which made the trip quite comfortable. The food was pleasant – almost silver table service from our own dedicated crew member – and plentiful. The only ‘down side’ of my Business Class experience was the family of five sitting in the row behind me. Not that I have a problem with a family travelling together; just with a family that includes someone (anyone!) who hasn’t quite mastered the concept of the ‘inside voice’, particularly the ‘inside voice’ appropriate for a small aircraft embarked on an international flight.

The trip itself was surprisingly short – just on three hours – to the point that it was almost a domestic flight! And the airport experience at Auckland International, which was undergoing some renovations, was smooth and friendly, not that I expected anything less from the Kiwis. I managed to get through passport, customs, and biosecurity control with a minimum of fuss during a peak period, and then managed to collect my hire car and be on the road within forty minutes of touch down. It was impressive I must say.

I navigated easily to my chosen residence thanks to the GPS in the hire car, and was greeted by my host’s daughter (since they’re away) and

welcomed into a small but roomy apartment that is going to prove quite a pleasant base over the next two weeks. It is on the front right of the photo to the left, and is well appointed for visitors with all that you could possibly want for a stay.

It is located in a quiet suburban street, a refugee from the hustle and bustle of everything else, and a place where I can retreat at evening time after a day’s journey. I would highly recommend this place, which I found via AirBnB, and am only too happy to ‘spread the word’.

After settling in and unpacking, my only adventure was to head out to Mass. I’d had researched the possibilities on this, and discovered that the Cathedral in Auckland (of St Patrick and St John) had a Mass on Sunday evening at 7pm. I know, right? Very, very late Mass, but the assembly was large, so the time must be popular.

Unfortunately, Mass wasn’t the experience I would wish: the presider played fast and loose with some liturgical norms, the acolyte was overly pious and therefore distracting, and homily was far from nourishing. The homily hardly touched on the Scriptures, and was a mix of psychological babble and spiritual platitudes. There was no meat to it, and I left Mass feeling incomplete, diminished even, and wished I had done something else. But anyway, I fulfilled my ‘obligation’…

A quick meal and then bed…to sleep, perchance to dream.