The 2nd of May was a lovely day. I picked Jamie up outside his flat at around 8.15am and by 11am we were parked up in Purple Parking, just a short bus ride to Heathrow Terminal 4.
After eating the packed lunch that Sue had kindly supplied, we proceeded through check-in, passport control and security without a hitch. The Qatar Airways flight left on time (4pm). We were lucky that the flight wasn’t full and we bagged a bank of three seats each to stretch out and grab a bit of sleep.
We had a two-hour wait while transiting in Qatar which gave us plenty of time to have a look around the rather large and well designed building. Again, the flight took off on time and our luck was still with us as we grabbed two more banks of seats. With a 16hr flight this move it proved a sanity saver. There are so many films you can watch on board nowadays, but a comfortable way to sleep is a real luxury in economy class.
The food served on both flights was plentiful, but rather disappointing, there were no culinary highs.
We landed just after 4am in a dark and rainy Auckland. Our rucksacks were first on the belt so we soon found outside the Terminal standing at the bus stop waiting for the Auckland Skybus to take us into the city. It duly arrived and left at 5pm. The few passengers on board had disembarked well before our destination at the Town Hall Terminus. We struck up a conversation with the driver who kindly offered to save us a 20 minute walk to our hotel by driving us there. We accepted and he was as good as his word. What a lovely introduction to the people of NZ.
We were checked-in to the Hotel Grand Chancellor, showered and snug in our beds by 6.30am. We were not expecting to sleep, but we did until 8.30am, when I woke Jamie.
We breakfasted across the road at a small chinese cafe, before making the short walk up the hill to the Sky Tower. We had a fine view of the tower from our room window, illuminated against the night sky as we checked-in just a few hours earlier. The rain had disappeared and we now had a sunny and warm but breezy morning.
The ticket office for the tower is strangely some two stories below ground, as is the start of the extremely rapid elevator ride to the top. We bought an evening supplement for $4 to visit the Tower again later that night. As expected, the views from the highest structure in NZ were inspiring. The floor of the elevator was made of glass so it wasn’t surprising that the two upper walkways also had large glass inserts to test the nervous. The clear skies made for a fantastic panorama of the Auckland city scape and surrounding sea and islands.
Returning to ground zero we wandered down to the Ferry Port and considered a sea journey somewhere, but opted instead for a walk to the Auckland Museum perched atop an extinct volcano. It proved to a bit further than expected and though our route interestingly took us through the University campus on a graduation day, we were both quite weary when we eventually got there. We also visited the Agriculture complex consisting of hot and cold houses and also a fernery.
Returning to the city we deviated via the Town Hall and then a fast food outlet to take on much-needed calories. Jamie visited the pool and sauna at the hotel while I rested weary old muscles.