Auckland, Thursday 16 February 2012
Auckland felt somehow familiar from the moment that I arrived. If I’d been to New Zealand before, that might have been somehow understandable, but I’ve not. Certain things are the same as back home: cars drive on the left, so I automatically check in the correct direction when I cross the road and there are plenty of shops that you’d find on the High Street in some random market town in Suffok, but that isn’t really it. And I still can’t quite put my finger on it.
The changeability of the weather is remarkable, though. From brilliant sunshine to heavily overcast to brilliant sunshine with pouring rain within a matter of minutes. And of course, I arrived to discover that I’d left my raincoat somewhere improbable. I’d my waterproof trousers and my super-smart hat-in-a-bag, but not my waterproof jacket. An emergency replacement was found. It’s an attractive turquoise colour and means that my winter-weight orange anorak can now be dispatched to the UK. It is, of course, summer here. When it isn’t raining, it is very definitely summer. Factor 50 sunscreen isn’t having all that much impact and I woke in the middle of the night perplexed as to why I felt so warm. That’d be the blanket, Bowker.
Auckland is also expensive. Property might be cheap, but food and drink are not. We’re talking in excess of London prices for pints (or close enough, what with these guys being all metrificated), for coffee, and for plates of food. And don’t get me started on toiletries. Okay, do. A tube of Nivea costs the equivalent of £10 here. I pay about £2.50 in the UK. I’d selected Nivea as my moisturiser of choice before I left, thinking that it’d be easy to acquire anywhere on my travels. I’ve just had to revise that.
Whilst vegetarianism isn’t quite as well catered for as in the UK, gluten-free is better handled. Almost everywhere has gluten-free options and some restaurants even have designated gluten-free menus. Of course, eating fish means that I’m never really that stuck, so it’s all good. (If pricey.)
And wi-fi in cafés in and coffee houses hasn’t caught on quite as much here as in the UK and USA. This presents minor problems for the regular updating of Twitter, but I’ll survive.
Auckland’s nick-named the City of Sails. I couldn’t possibly dispute that. The ferry terminal, where the Queen Elizabeth and the Sun Princess are both currently docked, is at the end of the major shopping thoroughfare, Queen’s Street. It’d be a bit like having Tilbury at the end of Oxford Street. Either side of these hulking great terminals (where incidentally, commuters flood into and out of Auckland every morning and evening) are quays crammed with yachts of every size, shape, and capacity. And there’s always something to watch on the water here.
I think I could get used to Auckland.