In the words of the Love Actually nativity child-octopus, ‘we’re here’.
We’ve made it. All in one piece. No missing luggage; no missing body parts; and no errant prohibited biodegradable items in our bags (although going through customs was one of the more ridiculous experiences I’ve ever had). Despite some severe lapses in communication, we managed to find Scott and Carl’s house in Mount Eden, hidden in the depths of leafy suburbia, pretty unscathed.
1. It’s cold. Like serious cold. It’s the tail end of winter, which means we frequently flip from Narnia to the Saraha in a matter of minutes. When we arrived to grey skies and a spattering of rain, we did have a mild panic attack as we thought that perhaps we had flown to Kuala Lumpur and then mistakenly flown right back to Heathrow.
No, it’s not that bad. According to the New Zealanders, this week has been particularly blustery, and it’s colder than it usually is for October. Funny. Is this faintly reminiscent of the great British epithet ‘No, I promise you. It’s NEVER normally as cold / wet / unpleasant as this!’?
We are, however, thanking our lucky stars (YES, James Taylor) that we are wholly familiar with the concept, ‘changeable’. Auckland may be on a slightly different equivalent latitude, but the weather is JUST AS ANNOYING. 20-minute torrential showers, freak gusts of wind, and bursts of sunlight hot enough to make a dermatologist hyperventilate.
Och well, nae boths. It’s layering and anoraks all round. Besides, word on the street is that you can still ski in the south. Worth a shot.
2. The culture, demographic and general facon de vie is… peculiar?
I know we are but 2 days into our ‘extravaganza’, and furthermore we have been told that Auckland is not a representation of ‘the real New Zealand’, but having caught possibly the least direct airport bus to the city centre, I can’t hep but notice how much the this country seems like a fully-functioning yet unfamiliar amalgamation of British, American and Pan-Asian culture.
They drive on the left. British. They have pictures of the queen on their coins (yet, for some reason, they don’t accept pounds. We tried). British. The nicest and most reasonably priced food is either sushi or Subway. Asian? American? You are just as likely to hear Malaysian or Cantonese in the city centre as you are English.
It’s quite fun actually. The infrastructure is most definitely influenced by the US. Not only are the roads wide and well-signposted, Auckland is also made up of mile after mile of suburban bliss – detached, coloured bungalow homes with steps up to the porch, letter boxes on the road and numbers going up to the zillions. Mix this with a whirlwind taste of Europe in the French souvenir shops and ‘Father Ted’ and ‘Danny Dolan’ pubs that are on every street corner. In fact, it is probably easier to find a European pint here than any sort of native fare. For example, ironically, our first NZ pint was in a Belgian bar, complete with Leffe on tap, pictures of Brigitte Bardot (pretty sure she’s French), and Hommes / Femmes on the toilet doors. Food wise, the best munch is most definitely Asian. Well, I guess we are in spitting distance (.. OK, things are a bit more ‘spread out’ in the southern hemisphere). Regardless, we have thoroughly thrown ourselves into the sushi market. (You can even get proper sushi packed lunches!) Nyom.
So how do we describe Auckland in a nutshell? With McDonalds, KFC and Subway restaurants, an enormous Deloitte building, and The National Bank with a rearing stallion as a logo (remind you of anything…?) it seems as though New Zealand (gross generalisation, what I mean is Auckland), rather than being merely tickled with the fingers of globalisation, it seems to be thoroughly characterised by it. This almost sedimentary identity has created something familiar yet exotic, a kind of welcoming mix that the New Zealanders have well and truly made their own.
3. Everyone here is so damn nice.
From the woman in the bar who looked after our bags and gave us our first pint to the boy on the street who saw me gawking at a sweet-dispensing-bus-stop-sign (I know, WTF??!) and gave me his card so that I could see it in action, we have yet to meet a bad tempered New Zealander. Long may it continue (although I don’t think we’ll have much of a problem!)
4. There are loads of volcanoes.
Two volcanoes in 2 days; Mount Eden and Mount Victoria. Good for the thighs. Pretty worried about imminent death by lava. Nuff said.
5. Jet-lag does exist.
We reckon we’re immune to it. However, we are finding it hard to explain why Celyn-who-never-goes-to-bed-earlier-than-1am fell asleep again at 9pm, and I’ve got up at 6am for the past 2 days. Must be something in the water.
Great times. So these are our impressions (probably misguided) so far. They may change, for better or for worse. We’ll let you know. Also, one last thing. Very exciting indeed…we did our first grown-up activity this morning.
NO. It’s NOT rude.
WE BOUGHT A CAR!
Possibly one of the most nerve-wracking experiences we’ve ever had, but the main thing is, it’s red and called Rosie.