A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand - Auckland - a long trip in search of sculpture

by Kt

I can only begin this blog by apologising to Mark.
"I am sorry - if only I'd known, I wouldn't have suggested it. Please forgive me."

So, not for the first time, I fell for the close up pictures on the front of the 'What's On in Auckland' magazine and after reading about Sculptures in the Garden display they had on at the Auckland Botanical Gardens, thought that if nothing else, I'd like to go to this. I like large sculptures and on a sunday they apparently have music in the park, mandolin orchestras and the like. Sounded perfect.
So off we set on Sunday morning. We had to go into the city centre to catch a bus south. The bus was to take an hour but it's ok, it'd be worth it.
So the bus trundled on the south road out of Auckland. I had been hoping for some nice scenery but basically the whole trip was industrial estates and out of town shopping. The bus was a little late and we set off on the 15 minute walk to the gardens. 15 minutes? my backside was it 15 minutes!!! In the heat, up hill, on the never-ending road. Was more like 30 minutes.
So by the time we arrived, tired, hungry and somewhat grumpy, we had been travelling for about 2 hours.
As I looked at the leaflet I'd got at the vistors centre and looked out into the gardens at man playing double-bass while a middle-aged lady, who was good, sang some kind of jazz song, out on the concrete, I realised that perhaps in the description of this place and the event, they had somewhat 'over-egged the pudding'.
The gardens were pretty enough, but we don't really do gardens. In fact that kind of thing bores us senseless and upon discovering the undersized for the number of people, cafe was our only choice of sustenance, we decided our only option was to get around the sculptures as quickly as possible and get heading back. We had of course, also, by this point sussed out that the sculptures were looking like they may also disappoint. They were not on a very grand scale and in the large setting of the gardens, frankly, didn't work well at all.
But we plowed on around, slowly losing the will to live but took the opportunity to try to get some decent photos.
The floating sculptures that I had so been looking forward to, turned out to be pretty but incredibly small. They were what had originally suckered me in. Someone had taken a super-close up of one of them and made it look like they were a couple of feet high, not a couple of inches.


We quickly headed back to the bus. At least the way back was down hill, so a little quicker. In our hunger we bought something from a rather odd bakery place. Mark had some cookie thing and I had a pizza topping which seemed to have been put on a sweet bread - like you get in an iced bun - a mistake, or that's the way they like them - who knows?
Anyhow, we headed back, stopping off at K Road, just to cheer ourselves up a bit. I tried to find some bars, back towards Grafton that I thought I'd seen, which turned out not to be there, which lead to us having to do more walking, by which time, how shall I put it, Mark and I were not best of friends.

Anyhow, lesson learnt. Not the kind of thing to head off to when you don't have a car and aren't sure of the content. And as I pointed out to Mark, it was a sunny day, he wasn't working in London so he should be grateful.. shouldn't he??!!

Posted by KtandMark 13:59 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Arriving in New Zealand - it's too easy in Auckland

by Kt

After having been in Auckland for less than 24 hours, I had been pleasantly surprised to find I loved the place.

We were staying in Parnell, a rather chic suburb which I do rather like but isnt terribly suited to a backpacker budget. Even Mark loved it when we first walked around, lamenting that he wanted our normal lives back so we could go in the amazing restaurants that lined the main street of the suburb.
We went out exploring on our first afternoon and ended up at a some rather costly bars while we discussed whether to throw caution to the wind and have a fairly fancy meal to reward ourselves (for what I don't know - lasting 5 weeks in Fiji - such trauma). But a few bars later, including one where the man who ran the bar and I had a fascinating (to us, not to Mark) converstatoion about the social history of New Zealand and much of Europe. He also helped me plan our entire route around the North Island. Needless to say, we never quite made it to that sophisticated meal but instead went to a burger bar, which to be fair, was the most expensive burger bar known to mankind so I think it could still be counted as 'fancy'.

The city centre was generally unspiring, but then aren't they all. You only had to walk a few blocks from the central city to find somewhere interesting or nice though. We were surprised to find around some of the harbour area was quite cool things with a restaurants built in big cargo crates and our personal favourite, the oversized sun loungers which both of us could lay on with still room for another one or two people (yeah I know!). They'd made what was once an incredibly industrial, harbour area into a stylish and unusual area. I believe this whole area was regenerated for last years rugby world cup. There were lots of restaurants and a fish market but it was quite quiet so I do wonder if it will last. It's a lot of high capacity restaurants to fill.


One of the other things that have found impressive (this is really old lady of me) but the public transport is just fantastic. Incredibly cheap, quick, on time, frequent, with the news and weather on a tv screen and free wifi on-board - are you kidding me?? It's like public transport on the Truman Show or something. It's just nice, at the very least, to see that the drivers don't have to be encased due to the threat of violence.

One day after being the city, we decided to get off the bus at the K Road area, described as having lots of vintage and eclectic shops. I've fallen for this ruse before and have ended up going to some rubbish place with shops run by rich, bored housewives full of new stripped pine furniture and shabby chic stuff (plenty of that stuff in Hove!) or vintage clothes that cost three times that of buying something new, but no, K Road is the real deal. It is fantastic - tons of op shop style places with lush second hand clothes and accessories (Sunny G's -god help me resist), tattoo parlours (god help Mark resist) with a few cool bars and cheap eats. It also looks like may be main gay area, which always is a good advert. I was practically swooning over all the cool stuff on sale. How unfair I can't buy any of it. *Stamps feet stroppily*.


We really liked Auckland, me particularly, it has a calm vibe yet is efficient and artsy. But after a few days, we were really struggling with our budget. We kept going to bars and eating out and we realised we have so much to learn about backpacking and had to kick some of our bad habits. That kind of took the shine off of Auckland a bit, without a car, the shops we went to for food were pricey too, but we tried to be good and eat in the hostel and resist all the temptation that surrounded us.

We also did a lot of walking. I like walking around cities. I think it's the nosiness in me to some extent, but I also find it useful to get my bearings. But OMG - Auckland is soooooooo hilly. Just to get out of the hostel to get onto the main road each day was a choice of 1 of 3 steep hills. One of them was almost completely vertical - worse than the worst hill we went up in San Francisco even.
The major downside was it showed how unfit we were. The upside being that after a few days we were already much fitter.

Posted by KtandMark 13:57 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Fiji - in summary

by Kt

We were very taken by Fiji. It is definitely somewhere, were it not so far away, I could imagine having a second home and spending a lot of time.
Mark in particular didn't want to leave and since leaving, constantly talks about going back.

It's a strange country, with a lot of contradictions. It is a place where there is a lot of poverty and a lot of wealth. It's the friendliest place I have ever been - and not just in a friendly to tourist way - as you drive or walk around the Fijians say hello to each other whether they know each other or not. However, it does have a military dictatorship, rather than a democratic government.
One of things I noticed reading the local papers or watching Fijian news is that they are very community based. Villages work in co-operatives selling their fruit. Raising money to buy more land for their village. Starting many community initiatives to help themselves and others. I guess it's kind of what David Cameron, too late in the social history of Britain, keeps trying to bring back. I'm not sure it's possible to bring back that kind of feeling after all that time - but I won't go into what I think about our divvy prime minister - but as Fiji struggles to come out of being a third world nation, I think it might be that which sees them through. It is a place of hope. And it's not often, in all honestly, you can honestly say that. Respect and affection for elders as well as for each other, and a certain code of morality in the younger Fijians is noticeable in how alien and old fashioned it is to me. It is of course not to say, there isn't plenty of bad pennies and that lots of the young'ns don't drink too much beer or cava and get into scraps but it's just that the overall leaning of the youth isn't disillusionment and destruction. I think possibly, the coming from small communities and the fact that Fiji is indeed a lovely place that they all seem to love, are key factors. I just hope I'm right and that Fiji has a promising future. The government has agreed to hold democratic elections in the next year. There are big investments being made in Fiji by the Chinese, whilst the Australian and New Zealand government are backing off. Will be interesting to see how this will work out in the coming years.

Anyhow, enough of my dull social commentary - here are some miscallaneous facts about Fiji:

  • All over Fiji, there are animals (goats, cows, horses) tied up in random places along roadsides and in fields. This is where individuals or families own the animals but not land and because there is so much greenery in Fiji, they can feed on the lush vegetation surrounding wherever they are tied up that day. It's an odd sight at first, but you soon come to expect it and I can't imagine Fiji without it.
  • There was a song that kept playing on the radio - 'She likes the taste of my sugar cane' - I kid you not - I presume it is from the Caribbean, but oh dear me, who came up with that!
  • At the Suva Prison all along the outside wall, there was a vodafone advert painted on. Vodafone in general seemed to have more of a presence in Fiji than anything else. I wonder if it will take over Coca-Cola or McDonalds as the dominating brand we see all around the world.
  • When the Cava is passed around - they do a long slow clapping when you you drink each time. Not sure if have mentioned much about Cava up to now. It's the boiled roots of the cava plant and is soaked in cool water and drunk from a large wooden bowl, in scoops of smaller wooden bowls. It's an acquired taste and I quite liked it. It doesn't have a huge affect but it kind makes you go a bit fuzzy and relaxed. However, I did learn that the day after a big cava session for me was way worse than a hangover. It gave me a blinder of a headache and I tended to be grumpy all day (yes, more than usual, i know!!!) But I guess the nice thing about drinking cava is that you don't sit in a corner, it is a social thing. You all sit around the bowl, hopefully with someone playing guitar and singing, and you take it if you want, but not if you don't want to. Asking for 'low tide' means you get a small amount to save your head.
  • 50% of the population is Fijian, the other 50% is Indo-Fijian. It was odd, because there was a lot of Indian food, business around and the familiarity in that made me feel at home, alongside song of the little britishness things left over from the colonial days of course.
  • Home-made banana jam is lovely - it tasted bit like those strawberry n cream sweets you get - campino I think they are called. Not at all as you would imagine, in that it's not bananary.
  • When the main Fijian TV channel closes at night they play the national anthem. I don't know why, but I liked that. Seemed fitting with Fijians old school charm.
  • One of the main stores you find in most towns in Fiji is 'Courts' and it is the same logo as the one we used to have in the UK and sells the same kind of stuff. I guess they parted ways with the UK company which I think went under in the 90s sometime as it became an old fashioned kind of concept as a place to shop, but it's big here and always find that funny. Anyone remember the 'we sincerely hope to see you all in courts' song from the tv ads? No? just me?


Posted by KtandMark 13:12 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

Fjian wildlife

by Kt

In Fiji, I became oddly fascinated by the bugs - I particularly like the metallic green one I saw in the sand at Maqai. I suggested to Mark that perhaps I could start a new career as a bugologist (obviously don't know the correct term, but that works for me). He was enthusiastic and thought this was a top idea if it meant coming out to Fiji to study them so that he could, I quote, become a 'do-bugger-all-ogist'!!

Alongside the bugs, we had lots of geckos/lizards. The one's on Maqai had bright, electric blue tails. There were also cane toads everywhere that apparently aren't a good thing and shouldn't be touched. Even after learning this, Mark had the tendency to lean in to stroke them - it's like travelling with a ten year old, I tell you! Not being indigenous, they are a pest and all over the place at night, it's difficult not to kick them you needed to use your torch wisely. I did hear from the people we met from Oz, that cane toad golf is rather popular over there.

Slightly more domestic, the chickens at Tuvununu were just plain old chickens, but it was interesting to see them, scampering around on the edges of the sea, jumping over the rocks to peck for food. And was it terribly wrong of us, when they were down by where we had seen a sea snake, that we kind of wanted to see the chicken taken down?
Speaking of sea snakes - well they are pretty much the only creature of any concern in Fiji - they have nothing dangerous there at all. But, despite my initial concerns, and my practically drowning myself, scrambling to get out of the water when Mark spotted one when we were on the Coral Coast, we have since learned that despite, being highly venomous, they are a chilled out old thing and are barely a threat. The locals don't think twice about them. Mark came very close to one while diving and being Marked followed it around for a bit. If it was going to bite anyone, it was going to be some big, english stalking dufus. He did say it was odd that this thing swam through the water and turned around with this snakes head, which just looked out of place under water.

There were some birds which were in abundance everywhere and no idea what they are called but we called them the 'masked crusader' birds as they looked like they had batman and robin style masks on. They always came in pairs too and we liked to think of them going on secret missions to save the world. In reality, they mainly just knicked the food off plates left lying around - but maybe they were taking it off to starving children somehwere, or to build a dam to save a village threatened to be engulfed by a river? Maybe?

My absolute favourite thing in Fiji, though, was the blue starfish. They are gorgeous. Nothing much to say about them really. They don't do anything. They just sit there. I think it's partially that this is one of those occasions when I didn't know that such things existed, so with the un-known existence of them, they become doubly exciting. I have made a note, not to really read up about any wildlife in the countries we go to so rather than having a checklist of things you strive to see, you are just pleasantly sruprised by the things you stumble across.


Posted by KtandMark 12:04 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

Apologies dear reader

by Kt

For the many, many spelling mistakes and odd words in the blogs - we've had no laptop since week as the macbook died and I've been doing them all on my iphone which has been pretty tricky - particularly due to the iphones annoying habit of changing normal words to something odd.
'Waitrose' to 'edifice' - what the???

We have now had macbook checked out and fixing will cost a fortune so we have purchased a rather dinky little netbook and oh happy days, normal typing and service resumes.........

Posted by KtandMark 18:46 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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