We arrived in Auckland, on the North Island of New Zealand, early in the morning. Again we had not organised any tours. Most of the tours outside of Auckland were to places we had previously visited and we opted to explore Auckland using the Hop on, hop off bus that for a days ticket cost $45.
We started on the red loop which took us to Bastion point which gave us superb views over Waitemata Harbour. This was the site of gun emplacements in WWII and the evidence of these remained. Now it is used as a memorial garden. Much to Roger’s annoyance I insisted that we leave the bus at this point and walk back to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium.
I was impressed with Auckland’s harbour thinking it rivalled Sydney as the best harbour in the world that I have seen. Sailing boats were there in their hundreds as Auckland is known as the city of sails – there are around 135,000 yachts and launches sitting in the harbour which is more per capita than anywhere else in the world.
This little yacht club sitting on a small point without a boat in site appealed to me.
Kelly Tarlton, a scuba diver and inventor, wanted the non diving public to experience the joys he had diving. Using some unused sewage tanks on the harbour front he created his 1,500,000 litre oceanarium which included a curved tunnel using acrylic glass, effectively putting the viewers on the seabed rather than peering through glass. It was the first of its kind in the world and with Tarlton’s inventiveness came in at a cost of $2-3 million $NZ in 1985. Cousteau’s son when visiting put the cost at creating a similar facility at $15 million. Within 7 weeks the aquarium boasted its 100,000th visitor and that night Kelly Tarlton, aged 47 died.
The exhibition of gentoo and king penguins was worth seeing. The area they are housed replicates Antarctica in the lighting levels and temperature and they have a huge pool of icy water to swim and catch their dinner. Although this style of aquarium is now available in other parts of the world it was the first time I had sharks, manta rays and other large fish swimming over the top of me. As I will never scuba dive as I am an asthmatic I thank Kelly Tarlton for making this wonderful experience available to the non-diving population. They also had some traditional tanks and I was stunned at the colours of the sea horses. The traditional shape we see is only one variety and perhaps the drabbest of the seahorses.
Back on the bus we drove through Parnell and past the Holy trinity Cathedral to the Auckland War memorial. We didn’t alight but continued back to Parnell where we stopped and had a cup of coffee. We had a clear view of the Sky Tower and as it didn’t seem as though it was that far away we decided to walk to it.
It was further than it looked but we passed through the hospital, university and saw some strange sights on the way.
The sky tower is the tallest building, not only in New Zealand but in the Southern Hemisphere. After a period of 2 years andn 9 months at a cost of NZ$85 milliion it weighs about the same as 6,000 elephants, is the height of 37 buses standing end to end and we are comfortingly told, should survive an earthquake of 8.0 on the richter scale occuring within 20 kilometers of it.
Did this make me any happier standing on the glass floor looking down to the street 328 metres below. Roger didn’t help as when I was tentatively standing on it along with some other equally tentative people he cried “Is that crack supposed to be there?” as he pointed to the glass floor. Yes there was mass movement before anybody checked the glass themselves.
It was also off putting when suddenly, without warning a body would drop past the window too quickly to catch it on film. Anybody could do this but this particular body found the thought of blithely jumping off a building 37 end to end buses, even though harnessed and roped terrifying. I would not even countenance a harnessed walk around the exterior of the building. Have a look at the photo looking up the sky tower. You’d have to be mad.
With plenty of time to spare we hopped back on the bus and returned to the Auckland museum which takes you through natural history, maori history and involvement in world wars. A great overview of New Zealand heritage.
From there we hopped on the blue bus loop but time was running out and we had no time to alight from the vehicle to enjoy the Winter Gardens, Eden Gardens, Mount Eden and two places I will visit if we ever have the fortune to return to Auckland – The Auckland Zoo and Motat which is the museum of Transport and Technology, Here there are apparently 40 acres of interactive journeying through which you travel through the many technological achievements that helped shape New Zealand. Instead we sat on board getting off at Princess Wharf corner and wandering back to the ship.
Back on board we watched a woman moving the cars on the docks, a few feet here, 100 yards there. Back and forth she walked to get to the target car and then a procedure of starting and reversing. She had us fascinated until finally the tugs pulled us away from dock and we were back to sea.