Well, I finally got round to writing something on this blog...I never knew what jetlag was until this trip!
Lots of tales to tell...the flight was exhausting and too too long but I did feel comforted by the Muslim prayer blessing the flight at the start of each leg of the journey (London, Dubai and Brunei). Also by the stewardesses in their amazing headdresses like mediaeval wimples. We talked to some Bruneian students returning from uni in the UK which is free for them, funded by the good old Sultan. Owen got a Macdonalds at Dubai airport, but was then violently sick on the plane from Dubai to Brunei - and so were some of the Bruneian students who had been with us at that Macdonalds...So that was pretty horrid. But the best bits were when we got superb aerial views out of the window of various exotic parts of the globe - mountain lakes in eastern Turkey, the rippled sands of the Arabian desert, sunset over Dubai (stunning), the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi in Indonesia, the Aussie outback and sunset over Brisbane. It was so surreal to get this ongoing, dreamlike fleeting image of the ever-changing beauty of the planet out of a little window...
We arrived in Auckland at 12.30pm on Friday night, looking pretty dishevelled, to be met by Rob in a specially ironed shirt! Rob's housemate Phillippa is away at the moment, so we have our own rooms and Rob has use of her car too - can't believe how lucky we are, and it's a really lovely house (despite having Rob living in it!)
First impressions of New Zealand...it feels like a parallel universe to the UK...it is clearly winter here but it feels more like September in England. The flora and fauna (esp birds) are so exotic, we have to keep stopping to look at things. Palm trees and huge ferns abound. And mynah birds - the sparrows of NZ it seems...Saw a really big kingfisher yesterday too.
The people are really friendly and relaxed and everyone talks to Owen too, not just me. Auckland is incredibly cosmopolitan, and most people here seem to be mixed race or Maori, Pacifica, Chinese or Asian. It's not like any European city - feels more like a Polynesian city. I love the fact that everywhere you go, there's water or a harbour or inlet of some kind. It's a really beautiful city to look at from the panoramic views from the volcanic cones.
The countryside that we've seen so far has been just stunning - Waiheke island is serene and a very special place, quite a bohemian feel to it, and the coastline we drove down today, south of Auckland to Miranda, was really beautiful too, with jade-green sea and the hills of Coromandel across the gulf. But Owen and I have been really exhausted - we could not sleep at all on Sat night so Sunday on Waiheke island was a hazy day. I thought I was hallucinating when I found myself speaking Hungarian to the guys in the vineyard where we stopped for a winetasting, and then Welsh to the girls in a beach cafe (who were speaking Welsh as I walked in - totally surreal!) Finally got into the rhythm of NZ time zone today, and spending the afternoon in the hot spring pool at Miranda really helped!
This morning we met some of Rob's work friends and Rob taught me some Maori phrases to say to his Maori boss - this trip is turning into a linguistic cornucopia...
That's it for now. Tomorrow we're going to downtown Auckland and going up the Sky Tower, which Owen's really excited about.
Monday 25th July