Monday, 22 September 2008

Match day.

14/6 - Match day and Mick is picking me up around midday to give me the tourist tour before tonights kick off and a good job he does of it too. 1st stop was Mount Eden, an extinct volcano, I hope, but judging by the grass in the crater it is extinct. It's a great view from up there and Mick is an informative guide. I never tried to tackle the crater and a good job too, judging by the state of a couple of Yanks who came to the top looking like a couple of leaves of wet lettuce, well and truely knackered. I hadn't seen Mick for donkeys years, well 7, and we only worked together a few months, but it is like we are age old buddies. He has some good stories to tell and being Welsh, likes to talk.
Off for some snap next, Mick needs an energy boost. I guess down to Michelle. What he had will certainly put fire in his engine, Titirangi something or other. It has all sorts in it on thick bread. There was bacon, syrup, fruit and other bits and pieces. Kiwi food I suppose. I opted for good old fashioned mince on toast and I'd already had breakfast, but I am trying to fatten up a bit. Asia has dropped some weight off me. The cold climate certainly encourages me to eat, but it also stiffens me up, so swings and roundabouts.
Off to another hill this time, with a different view, logically and then off to the beach, with black sand, but a smashing place. It's about 20-30 minutes from Auckland. The surfers are out and there are some smashing waves, barrel or tubes or whatever they are called, but Mick reckons it is calm. These are better waves than Manly beach, but the beach is a bit tighter, not so sprawling and there are some dodgy looking rocks to clatter into. From what I've seen so far, this is a beautiful country and I suspect it will get even better away from the cities, although Mick tells me the rural parts are very rural and the people very rough and ready.
Back to Mick's now to dump the motor, so beer will be the order of the night around the rugby. Mick had a power nap, while I surfed. Michelle again I reckon. He's renting a smashing place, just right. Lots of houses in New Zealand, or around here, are single storey with good sized gardens, just right for me, but I don't live here. Mick had ordered a taxi before crashing and it came while I was still surfing the net and Mick was still trying to pretty himself up, in vain. A week wouldn't have been enough. Into the taxi and off to Eden Park, via the pub of course. There was a good atmosphere in the pub, some good banter and more English fans than I thought there would be, most are with Kiwis as the majority are ex-pats. A few beers and out to pick up a monster burger and it was delicious and just what the doctor ordered before the game and after the beer. I wish I could remember the name of the chain. Into the ground, which isn't big, so is quite choca and a sell out. it's a neat ground with both ends open, not good for NZ weather, but like I have mentioned, they are rufty tufties here. We are in the posh seats, so under cover whimps. The pre-match show was pretty good. Black knights fighting white knights. It looked like a draw to me, if that is possible in a battle. The game was good, I enjoyed it all. We were a bit overwhelmed by the All Blacks to begin with, but the English support was good and the team dug in. Both time they looked like getting hammered they dug deep and held in there. The Kiwi fans are super critical. They were winning by 15 points and booing the team. I was taken aback a bit, or would be if I understood aback. I think the fans are in need of a "don't take it so serious" injection. It has been a good night and we retired to the posh lounge under the stand. Anyone is allowed in, the people on the doors seem to there only to say hello and smile, it was very relaxed and a friendly atmosphere, good Grumpy Old Man material for the stuffy Brit equivalent. The Kiwis take the game very seriously, but before and after the game are very chilled. Perhaps because they expect to win before and afterwards they had. We had a couple in here, then it was off to a pub for a couple more. The social scene in NZ seems good news, friendly and relaxed.
Taxi time, so luckily, I don't have to tackle the hostel heartattack hill. I have had beer overload this weekend, so that should take back a notch on my belt.
The door was still open tonight, so I didn't have to cower before the big Kiwi doorman.
A good day all around. Thanks Mick.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Off around Auckland again.

13/6 - Up not to brightly and the weather is not so bright either, overcast and mizzle off and on. By the time I'd had my porridge and toast, both me and the weather had brightened, so I set off to go to Mount Eden and ended up in the Domain, a big park in Auckland. Another plan goes array. I left Mount Eden for Sunday. This is the most benchless park I've seen in my life. There's a big old tree full of yellow leaves even though it had shed a lot, this being the winter of Auckland. It looked very pretty and to enhance this even further, I parked my bum underneath it to eat the sausage rolls and custard tart I purchased on the way here. Very nice they were too, so I set my pack down for a pillow and had a read and an unscheduled nap. I was lying there contemplating the world and a loud yelling rose behind me. I glanced up to see a schoolbus full of kids yelling and waving atthe old fella lying under the golden tree, so I waved back and the volume went up a few notches. Sounds like a fairy story, with children, the old fella and a golden tree, but be careful who you are calling a fairy, especially in New Zealand. This strikes me as a place where men are men and fairies are very quiet.

The school bus was like a modernised version of the Vietnamese kids on their bikes, that I experienced with Khien on the Ho Chi Minh trail ride. It gladened my heart and gave me and the kids a big smile. Time to move on in case the police come and lock me up as a vagrant. I headed up the hill, no surprise in Auckland, and out of the park, back to dump my bag, as I'm meeting Mick, my Welsh-Kiwi mate later. With my load lightened, I set off for town. I did a bit of window shopping, but the England shirts were too expensive at $130 ($2 to the pound, roughly).

I'd heard Viaduct Quay is the place to be, so that is where I headed. It is certainly buzzing and looks like the after work drinking and nosh spot. The quay is surrounded by bars and restaurants and the water is full of very expensive boats. This is where the America's cup fraternity base themselves. It is very yuppy-like, in not too bad a way. I elected to go into the Irish bar for my fodder, but they had open fires blazing and it was red hot, so I settled for a Guiness, very nice too and then slipped around the corner to the Thai Chilli, a very good move. I had a green curry, there was lots of it and very tasty too. After stoking the engine, I headed on up the road to meet Mick in the London pub. I was running late, or would have been if I could run. I was only 10 minutes late, the pedestrian crossing here take forever, it's the same in Aus and I'm very impressed at how most people obey them. There was a live band in the pub playing jazz, but we didn't do much listening, I'm ashamed to say. Mick had invited a lass along from work, he was hitting on. We had a good laugh over more beers than I've had for a long while, thank goodness the bar closed at midnight, I'd had enough. Out of practice. I was surprised Mick was ready for the off too, but when I remembered the lady, I wasn't. I had the blooming hill to look forward too, but it flew by. It was good to see an old buddy and have a good natter. Michelle, the lady, is good fun too. When I parted from her and Mick, part way up Queens St. she seemed to be warming to Mick and I certainly warmed when I hit the hostel hill. It was late, so I had to knock up the doorman, in the nicest sense of the phrase, he was a big Kiwi. Then I hit the sack, a happy man.