Well, today got off to a rather slow start which isn't a bad thing at all. Even though I'm on the other side of the world, my habit of waking at 6-something a.m. has followed me here, so while Liz was at work and Ross was working on his email, I used the time to repack my bags for departure to Queenstown (South Island) tomorrow morning. Trouble is, my big pack seems to have a space problem now, even though I've taken things out of it to leave here while I'm hiking. What the heck?
Photos: 1) Lovely fern in the greenhouses in Auckland Domain, 2) Kiwi and egg (egg takes up something like 2/3 of the inside of the bird - largest egg relative to size of bird) at Auckland Museum, 3) Maori meeting (?) house at Auckland Museum. Very neat inside, full of carvings. Please leave your shoes outside. 4) I finally figured out what my uncle does down here, 5) Ferry Building in Auckland.
After a leisurely breakfast which included my cousin Martin (kind of), Liz dropped Ross and I at the nearby train station to get ourselves to central Auckland. Ross needed to work in his office at the U of Auckland, so we parted ways at the train station and I headed off to find an ATM, post office, and various other things. Thankfully, HSBC gave me some NZD so I now have 4 different currencies with me on this trip. The few NZ bills I've seen thus far are really cool because they have a transparent window in them. I'm planning to take a photo with all 4 currencies for fun so I'll post it when I get a chance.
After buying more postcards, I stopped at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum (http://www.maritimemuseum.co.nz/) down at the water's edge. Ok, technically I never got past the gift shop, but I wasn't there because I was interested in boats. I was shopping. Anyway, it looks like a cool place to explore if you like floating stuff. The harbour is pretty busy and the Ferry Terminal is really old and cool from the outside (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auckland_Ferry_Terminal).
After finally locating the post office, I quickly hiked up a giant hill to meet Ross at his office where we would head across to the road to lunch in a neat old building on the university grounds. Horribly, I forget the exact history of the building, but it's old and neat and they've made a small cafeteria in it for faculty and their guests. We ate in one of the side rooms that had a small bar at one end and tons of old photos on the wall. Liz joined us shortly after and it was time to hand the niece off to her for the afternoon shift.
Off now to the Auckland War Memorial Museum (http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/) for some very cool Maori exhibits along with a simulation of what it would be like to live in Auckland if a volcano erupted in one of the harbours (scary - the floor moved!). They had exhibits about all kinds of stuff like more birds, a whole floor about different wars including some lovely stained glass tributes, dinosaurs and oceans. Sadly, I missed the gift shop because they kicked us out right at 5pm.
On our way to search out some caffeine in Auckland Domain, we found that the Hot House and Cool House (greenhouses) were still open so we quickly explored each one. I hope my photos of the flora and fauna turn out well. I saw a few items like Lobster Claw that I hadn't seen before. After a cup of tea and some banana-coconut cake, we had a quick but nice visit with my cousin Ben and his wife Bea - I've now met 2/3 of Liz's boys, but Julian lives in England so I won't meet him or his wife this trip - then back to pick up Ross and head home for dinner.
I've just discovered that my flight to Queenstown tomorrow morning is at 7:20 am. I'm an idiot! But on the bright side, I'll have the whole day to explore Queenstown, starting with a trip across Lake Wakatipu in a launch, followed by lunch at a sheep farm (including shearing demo) which should be a lot of fun. My hiking trip starts out of Queenstown day after tomorrow so be warned now that the blog will go for days at a time without updates while I'm tramping around the South Island wilds. I will have regular internet again when I return to the North Island on Feb 26th which will be Feb 25th for you.