This is really a blog for weeks 6, 7, 8 & 9 in Auckland - because there is not too much to report.
Well it's a wee while since we last wrote our blog but we haven't really been up to much, just living a kinda normal day to day life - oh how we long to be on the road and to being real travellers again!To that end we've been spending quite a bit of time planning our journey around South America.And one big step forward was getting the car sold!With the bottom having dropped out of the car market in NZ due to the hike in oil prices we thought it would take a while to sell, and we'd even suggested to Carl (the motel owner) that it would be good for him to have a car to rent to customers at very low cost.He seemed to think that might be a good idea but unfortunately didn't bite, so on Sunday we put in on Trade Me (a NZ version of Ebay) and by Tuesday it was sold! We didn't get nearly as much as we'd paid for it but we thought we got a reasonable price in the circumstances and we're just glad we didn't have to leave it unsold like we've heard many others have had to do. C'est la vie - guess that's one of the risks of buying a vehicle, but we reckon it still cost us less than hiring.
John and Deb came back to Auckland and it was a chance for them to sample our Malaysian restaurant over the road. Deb's son Regan and his partner Liz joined us and we had another lovely meal.
As to our travels in South America, we have now definitely booked an Antarctic cruise (WOWEE!!). So, as we'll be making our way down to the pointy bit at the bottom of the continent, and as all the guidebooks recommend booking in advance if travelling there in summer, we did a lot of research about how to travel in and out of Ushuaia, which is where the cruise departs from. One of the areas which is a must see is Torres del Paine National Park way down in the south of Chile (we remember K2 enthusing about their visit there). This all seems to get booked up quickly as well so we've booked three nights there just before we head over to Ushuaia. (Mind you, we've had major angst getting these bookings sorted mainly due to major problems with the email system which seem to have affected lots of email servers over the past few days - trust the problems to happen just at this crucial time for us.) We've also booked our flight out of Ushuaia to Lima (in time for Christmas), via Santiago, but we are hoping to travel to Ushuaia by bus from Punta Arenas, a journey of about 12 hours which includes crossing the Straits of Magellan - such a magical, other-worldly group of words from our geography lessons at school many years ago and just to think we will actually BE THERE!
Other than spending our time planning we've been to the flicks a couple of times to see Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (lightweight but very enjoyable - Amy Adams reminded us so much of a cross between Rita and niece Susan) and Smart People, a bit heavier and more cerebral but also very good. What else? Oh yes, on one of the few dry and sunny days we enjoyed an Auckland Harbour Cruise.This gave us free tickets on the ferry to Devonport (one of our favourite parts of Auckland) so off we went on another fine day to climb up Mount Victoria for more great views of the city.We also took the opportunity to offload a batch of books to the second hand bookshops and Op Shop (Charity Shop to you in the UK).
We've made yet more progress with our South America travels and have booked a place for a good Scottish Hogmanay - Colán, a small coastal town in Northern Peru where niece Gillian stayed and spayed (animals) a few weeks ago. Spending Christmas and Hogmanay in Peru will certainly be an experience! We've also made progress with our technology - getting the laptop's DVD player sorted and getting a replacement for the iPod which had been playing up - and with ordering yet another tea chest, this time to send back a few things we've accumulated here in NZ.
Typically, another setback has been the sudden turnaround in the value of the pound which, because it has to be paid in US dollars, has added a few hundred quid to the cost of our Antarctic trip. But it hasn't been all work and no play. In between all our 'jobs' we've managed to fit in visits to three historic houses, Kinder House and Ewelme Cottage in Parnell and Highwic (correct spelling) in Newmarket, all of which are nearby and whose families have very interesting histories.
But probably the most enjoyable day out we've had for ages was taking the 35 minute ferry ride out to Rangitoto, an island in the Hauraki Gulf about 10 km from the city, which was created by volcanic eruption only 600 years ago. There isn't much on the island, other than the landing jetty, some old uninhabited baches (NZ holiday homes), the world's largest phutukawa forest and a few black lava fields from the last eruption 150 years ago. So the main point of going is to climb the summit (260m) for spectacular views over Auckland in one direction and the islands of the Gulf in the other. We thoroughly enjoyed the exercise of the climb and the tramp back to the jetty via Islington Bay and the rough volcanic terrain of the coastal path - in total about 10 kms. It was wonderful to be out in the fresh air again. It felt as if we were miles and miles away in the countryside and difficult to believe that we were so close to a sprawling city of 1 million people.
But Lady (bad) Luck wasn't finished with us yet. Coming up to the two year mark it was time to renew our travel insurance. Our existing insurers couldn't extend the policy and we also needed to get the right sort of cover for the Antarctic cruise. So after much surfing we found just the right policy but when we tried to buy it on-line M's credit card was rejected. As she soon found out when she phoned the UK a total stop had been put on it due concern of fraud! A new account is having to be opened so we are waiting with baited breath for new cards to arrive by courier before we leave NZ in less than a week's time. This could hardly have come at a worst time as E's credit card is just about to expire and we're also waiting with even more baited breath for his new credit card to arrive - nail biting stuff!
Well, with much help from brother Jim, and early intervention with the courier company here in Auckland, E's card arrived with one day to spare. Our other cards also arrived the previous day but not after much fretting by us both. Tracking showed they had taken 4 days to get from Liverpool to Heathrow, then over the weekend to Auckland, and by Monday morning at 6am had cleared customs just down the road. Then mysteriously DHL handed the package over to a third party courier company to deliver. When they didn't turn up as expected we contacted DHL who in turn contacted the other company - who couldn't find them. But after many phone calls we managed to persuade DHL to locate the cards and deliver quickly - which they did late in the evening. Phew - it was all so close!! We celebrated with a late meal at a local recommended Indian restaurant, somewhat obviously called Oh Calcutta. Earlier M had commented that no way would she eat in a place so named. But it was an absolutely excellent and delicious meal - pity we only went on our second last night. It was actually a bit up-market - well Billy Connolly and a few other celebs go there when in town - but it was just the treat we needed after the trauma of the last few days. And these last few days have been a bit of a wash-out partly because of the credit card fiasco but also doing all the last minute business stuff because we have been in a bit of 'normal' mode in NZ - it has felt very much like home. Our box of un-needed books, CDs, DVDs, clothes as well as some kitchenware, is now on its way back to the UK. So our last night in Auckland - and NZ - will be in our well worn travel gear. We're off to Non Solo Pizza just down the road for a feast. We've had a brilliant time in NZ. So bye for now and more from us when we reach Chile.Love
Eric & Margaret xxxx