Saturday, March 1, 2008

Free-wheelin' in New Zealand

Let's see... where did I leave off? I never did see that Mike guy again (sorry, girls!), but the next day I said goodbye to Lahaina and Maui and made it to the airport on time for my puddle-jumper to Oahu, the original Hawaii-Five-O island with Honolulu and nearby Waikiki. My hotel was in Waikiki, a nice enough area of the city, with a great beach and lots of shops and such-- but all artificial. It's like Disneyworld goes Hawaiian, with ritzy hotels thrown in. Even the palm trees, which are real enough, are pruned so the coconuts won't drop on tourists' heads.
One night was plenty for me. I'll take the creaky old hotel in Maui any time.
The next day I had plenty of time to take a tour bus to Pearl Harbor and a drive-by tour of Honolulu. The memorial was very moving; I recommend it to everyone to see it some time. You've all seen the photos, but being there makes it real.
I wandered around until it was time for my overnight flight to Aukland, New Zealand. I don't know if it's just me, or the stars, or what, but this was the third time this trip that my flight was delayed for two hours! Also, after we finally got going, we had a scheduled refuel stop in Fiji, which was frustrating, as I'm going back there after my New Z tour. I wish I could have just stayed there a bit, then flown on. *Sigh* Airlines, ha? Wahdyagonnado?
So we fly into Aukland this morning after a fitful night's sleep, to put it mildly, and suddenly I'm awake. I have no idea what time it is back home, and in fact I lost a day crossing the International Date Line (Not that I mind, but why'd it have to be a saturday??)
On an aside note here, I think I've figured out why I love to travel: every time I arrive in a new place (even one I've been to before, like London), I get this "high" for a while, and simply must hit the streets and walk around. This is even if I've gotten NO sleep on the plane. Heck, I've had poor, exhausted girlfriends break up with me after trips because of that! (One cold, rainy day in Venice comes to mind--poor girl.) It wears off after a while, but for those few, brief glorious hours I feel excited and eager, like a kid at Christmas, as I set off to meander around a new town.
So once again, tired as I was, after finding my hostel (and cruddy room) I lit out to explore Aukland. It's a rather small, very walkable downtown, and I covered it in just a few of hours, with obligatory stops at a pub or two down at the harborfront (where I saw a sign that said "Heineken: Breakfast of Champions"), and a rest on a bench to feed some birds.
And know what? It's nothing much to write home about. They don't walk upside down or talk backwards or anything! Seriously, As I told Jen, if I had to compare, I'd say it's the Baltimore of the southern hemisphere. Decent waterfront, a ho-hum concrete town square, and the requisite tall tower all tourists must go up, presumably to see why they've come thousands of miles to get there. I skipped it, but as I have another day, maybe I'll do it tomorrow.
There are also some parks here that I haven't seen, and I have a nagging suspicion that my tourbook of N.Z (that I haven't read since I was home) might have a suggestion or two. But that will be grist for another day. Meanwhile, I've got a few more local beers to try.
P.S. In one Irish pub they had a sign on the wall which I copied:

Storytelling and Singing
Dancing and Carrying On
Available All Hours
Experienced Drinking Companion

Now, does that sound like anyone you know?? I think I'll put it on my next business card.
P.P.S. Oh, and I seem to have, eh, misplaced my camera again, so sorry but I can't post any pictures until I recover it or get a new one. Sorry, C.A.!

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