Round World Trip
Saturday, February 12, 2005
I'm nearly ready for my big adventure, I can't quite believe that I am going though. I've been putting the trip off for far too long, partly due to a little trepidation about South America.
Yesterday I bought some new hiking boots, and I have all my vaccinations, anti-malarial stuff and every else sorted out. Now all I have to do is pack.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Packing and Stressing
I spent most of today copying documents, sorting out exactly what to take, and packing.
I was feeling fairly stressed most of today. It seemed strange that today was the last day I would spend at home, and in Australia for quite some time. I had known this day was coming, but now it was here, I was no longer sure whether I wanted to go through with it - second thoughts. It probably didn't help that I hadn't been getting as much sleep as I needed over the last few nights.
I managed to pack everything into my backpack, and had a thin fabric shopping bag as my carry on, which contained my camera, and a few last minute things.
I set my alarm for 5:00am and went off to bed.
Monday, February 14, 2005
I awoke about ten minutes before my alarm, after a few hours of fitful sleep and
tried to doze until the alarm went off. After I had a quick shower and dressed,
my mum and I got in the car and drove to the airport. It was far too early in
the morning - not even light at all.
The trip to the airport went smoothly. I tied the straps of my pack so that they wouldn't get caught in luggage machines while mum parked. Checking in, I discovered that Qantas provide plastic bags so that straps won't get munched, so used one of them.
Mum and I had some breakfast and found somewhere to sit down to wait till I had to go. I was feeling nervous. I had to make sure I went through customs with an hour before departure, so Mum and I said goodbye - she made it quick so as not to cry, and this made me feel a little emotional too.
It was just as well I left plenty of time for customs, as the queue was enormous. Fortunately it was also moving fairly fast. After clearing customs, I discovered I'd forgotten to give Mum my Aussie money, so I looked around for a charity box for my change, but couldn't find one before I was due to go to my gate.
We were called, and boarded.
I had decided to take my mobile with me, and maybe get a pre-paid SIM, however, as I switched my mobile off for the flight, I realised I had no charger for it! D'oh!
and after taking off,the plane went out over Parramatta, then looped back over Chatswood and Manly, then I was gone from Australia.
During the flight, we were given a small envelope with the headsets, which we could put change in for charity. I was thankful for this, and dumped mine in.
The flight was pretty uneventful, and soon, on the horizon, I could see a bank of white cloud, with a bit of land peeking underneath it. The plane crossed the coast over downtown Auckland , and kept going - we flew over several pretty islands, and then turned 180 degrees back to land at Auckland.
I had to declare that I had hiking equipment, and hence, the customs officers had to take my tent and 'process it' (I guess they spray disinfectant on it or something). I got it back about 10 minutes after I came out of customs.
The first order of business was to get some local cash, and I used and ATM, only to discover that my daily limit was being exceeded, as I'd bought US$500 of travellers cheques in Sydney! Things were off to a really good start! I managed to get NZ$100 out and went outside the airport to catch a bus into Auckland.
The bus was entirely setup for backpackers - it stopped at all the major hostels, had heaps of luggage racks, and brochure racks. The trip took longer than I'd expected - about 30 mins.
I checked into the City Central Backpackers, and whilst I was unpacking some stuff, I realised that my watch (which was missing a watchband), was missing. I figured I must have put it in the envelope with my change! D'oh again!
I went out to explore the city a bit. The main shopping street (Queen Street) is very much like George street in Sydney. I walked down to the quay at the end of Queen st and it looked like a cross between a construction site, and a ship dockyard - very unappealing. I turned right, and followed a road that curved to the right, back toward the hostel and was even more unimpressed - this seemed to be an arterial road, with lots of traffic through a industrial/commercial area. I guess I should have checked the guidebook before I went out.
Feeling very tired I found myself in a university campus, then Albert park, both which had open grassy areas and trees - a nice change. I sat down for a while and read my book. I had noticed during the walk, that my fabric shopping bag which I was using cut into my hands pretty badly - I'd have to do something about that.
I returned to the hostel, and, after getting some dinner at an asian food court I'd seen earlier, I read my book for a little while before crashing into bed - I was feeling very exhausted.
PS:I've since been told that my watch actually slipped out on the car ride to the airport, and my parents have it.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Today, I woke up late Auckland time, 10am. I'd slept for about 11 hours! (And was still a little tired)
I went out to explore Auckland. I also had three things I had to do - Get a fold-up backpack to replace my fabric shopping bag, get a new document pouch to replace my money belt which continually slipped down, and made me sweat, and to buy a new watch.
This time I explored the area north of Queen st and found among other things the Sky Tower, and the Americas Cup harbor (which was very much like Darling Harbour in Sydney).
Wandering some more after lunch, I sat in the park near the hostel again for some time, to escape the city noise and crowds. After I'd gotten the stuff I needed, I got some dinner, and went back to the hostel, I was still feeling tired, so went to bed fairly early, after reading my book again.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Today I planned to go to Rangitoto Island, which is the largest volcano in the Aucland region. I got up at 8am, and went down to the ferry wharf, only to discover that the ferry left at 9:15, and it was now 9:00, and I had no food to take to the island. I walked down to the supermarket down the road, thinking I might be able to make it, but after getting some food, It was obvious I wasn't, so I got a ticket for the 12:15 sailing instead.
This gave me time to organise onward travel for the next few days. I got a bus ticket that would take me up, and around Northland. By the time I'd gotten this all organised, it was almost time for the 12:15 boat, so I went down to the wharf. I wanted to book accomodation for Paihia, as I'd booked a bus there for tomorrow, but didn't have time. I boarded the catamaran for Rangitoto Island.
The view of Auckland from the harbour was very nice. The water is aquamarine. The ride to the island was about 30 minutes, including a stop at Devonport. The island certainly didn't look that much like what I expected it to be. It was an island with a central hill covered with vegetation. There was a wharf, and information shelter, with several tracks leading off in various directions.
I thought I might do a circuit, up to the summit, then down to McKenzie Bay, and back to the wharf.
I set off up the summit track, and soon came to several areas where there was no vegetation, just fields of mounded, rough basalt lava rock. The day was hot, and the lava flows gave off a hot breeze as they absorbed the sunlight. The heat made climbing the volcano a lot harder, soon I was sweating profusely. The track had heaps of lava rocks sticking up through it's surface, making walking a little awkward at times. Finding a route on an untracked part of the island would be extremely hard - dense scrub or sharp, unstable lava.
The track continued up the volcano, mostly through scrub, and I came to the turnoff to some lava tube caves, which I wanted to see. After a short sidetrip, I reached the tubes. There were two parts of one main tube that you could walk through. They were about 30m long each and not very big - I had to squat and waddle through a small part. It was kind of weird to think that red hot lava had once flowed through the tunnel. They provided a cool respite from the heat for a while.
After walking back to the summit track, I soon arrived at the summit. It was a bit of a dissappointment, as there was not much to see of the crater - just a large (100m?) diameter depression covered in shrubs. Climbing around the crater rim track to the highest point on the island was more rewarding however, with spectacular panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. The water was a beautiful turquoise aquamarine all around, and the air clear.
I continued all the way around the crater rim track, then decided to sit down in the shade, as I was feeling extremely hot. I decided against doing a loop, and instead to go back the way I'd come, as it was so hot. I set off to make sure I'd meet the 3:30 ferry, and it took about 35 minutes to get back down (about the same as the time up), where I rested in the shade again till the ferry came. I found that the aquamarine water is also quite opaque - with only about a metre of depth visibility.
The ferry ride back was interesting, as the two New Zealand Americas Cup boats were out, and we went right past them. When I got back, I booked accomodation for thursday, and went back to the hostel for a bit to tidy up my gear, as I'd have to get ready and pack early the next morning.
I then went out, and decided to go to a movie, and saw Oceans 12, which was entertaining, before getting some dinner.