Tuesday, 1 April 2008

We took off for Auckland this morning under a cloudy sky. I am currently reading The Secret Life of Bees, and I found a bee place called BeesOnline in my guidebook just 30 kilometers from Auckland, which I decided we should all see. It was supposed to talk about what goes on in a hive, and the production process of honey, I was all over it. It had an “award-winning” café so we decided to make it a lunch stop. It was pouring rain when we arrived, we scuttled into the café while Clay parked and met us inside. We walked past large plate glass windows with lots of stainless steel machines inside, presumably for the extraction of honey from hives.

While we waited for the food, the kids examined the active beehive they had inside the café, where worker bees and drones and attendant bees and the queen all carried on in their own little world. There were signs that told all about the jobs for each kind of bee, Benji had me read them all to him. The café had an amazing menu, and while Maurice wasn’t entirely fond of his honey lemon sauce and fruit compote (I would definitely classify this as a little-old-lady-foo-foo food café) my sautéed zucchini in phyllo dough was deeeeelicious. I was charmed by the bee products conveniently sold by the place where you paid for lunch, and wished I could buy all sorts of things that could potentially burst in suitcases or cost a fortune to mail home. From body lotion to perfumes to soap to honey products you actually eat, I was charmed. I think I’ve been away from civilized shopping a leeeeetle too long, Alayna and I picked up and oooo’d over all the cutesy non-essential things.

That was about it for our bee excursion, not exactly the attraction I had imagined, or sold to the rest of the family, but we left with full bellies and a few more facts on bees. We made our way into downtown Auckland and found our hotel, our room was on the tenth floor and was two stories. The kids were delighted, they ran up and down and found all the best hide and seek places and counted the numbers of TV’s (three), and bathrooms (two). This was major luxury, and we decided to stay home and enjoy it. We ventured out for dinner, finding a place where we could get pizzas for $7, and giant ice cream balls for dessert.

Just before bed we got a knock on the door. I opened it and there was nobody there, but I heard a strange sound.  A snuffling sound. I poked my head around the corner and saw a giant pig standing in the hallway. Nobody was around, just this big pig. Of course the kids are curious who is at the door and so they come running out and Benji gives the pig a big hug, and that’s when we noticed the note. It says “Please take care of me”. Somebody had abandoned their giant pig outside our hotel room. We have no idea how they got it there, or why they chose us. I’m not sure we’re ready for a pig in our lives, and I’m not sure what the export rules are for taking pigs out of the country, but we really don’t feel like we have a choice. We’re taking a giant pig home with us.

April Fool’s.


Wednesday, 2 April 2008

After eating some cold pizza to supplement our toast and cereal, we set out to find Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Adventure and Underwater World. We were promised an underground penguin colony and an acrylic tube we could walk through while watching sharks and rays and turtles. The tube was cool, a moving sidewalk eased slowly along while rays floated up from behind, over our heads, and turtles flapped themselves slowly through the water. It wasn’t a glitzy or glamorous facility, but after watching a short movie chronicling how Kelly’s vision became a reality, how they took a chance with innovative solutions to made the tube a reality, and how they captured sharks from the ocean to add to their aquarium, I was entranced. I always love a good story. I wasn’t so captivated with the giant plastic orca that came leaping out of the water in the penguin attraction, a leopard seal in its mouth, but Benji was impressed.

We enjoyed walking through an Antarctic hut just like the one Shackleton and Captain Scott lived in while braving the freezing cold and bitter conditions in Antarctica, searching for the South Pole. It seemed odd at first, this juxtaposition of penguins and Antarctic displays with the aquarium, but it made sense because these are both parts of the world that have yet to be fully explored, still plenty of uncharted territory. We saw a real giant squid that had been washed up on a beach, preserved in a giant glass container. We watched a man in a wet suit hand feed giant rays, and we rode on a snow cat to see the penguins.

On the way out, Nate fed a gigantic crayfish an oyster. He used a long stick with pinchers on the end, and he placed the oyster right in the crayfish’s claws so it could eat it. There was a tank with sea horses that came right up to the glass beside our faces and opened their little “oh” shaped mouths open and shut, as if they were talking to us. The way they move is by rapidly waving the fin on their backs and flapping their thin flippers on their sides, they don’t use their tails at all for swimming. They do curl their tail around things when at rest, sometimes a plant, sometimes a companion. They seem a friendly sort of creature.

We  said goodbye to a puffer fish with giant eyes and a creepy eel that hid in the rocks, extracted ourselves from the gift shop after purchasing two tiny calculators with sharks on the front, and a kiwi necklace for Alayna (the kids love dipping into their diminishing souvenir fund), and headed to the Sky Tower. After eating a slow lunch at Denny’s (that’s right, Denny’s, and stop being so disgusted, there’s nothing wrong with eating pancakes and patty melts in Auckland), we watched a few people plummet from the top of the tower all the way down to a target near the ground. It was almost a free fall, but they gradually slowed down so that they barely touched the target, it looked absolutely terrifying. Benji asked if he could do it. I said no.

We did take a super fast elevator to the observation deck, 192 meters up. There was a glass square in the elevator so you could watch the floor zip away from you, and windows to watch the sky come a little closer. Up on the observation deck, Peggy managed to walk herself across the glass section of floor, with the ground 192 meters below her, in exchange for Clay’s promise that he would not jump off the building in a harness to that target down below. The kids were bummed, they wanted to see Clay jump, but we weren’t going to spend $195 on it anyway. The view from up there was great, we could see the harbor with a giant cruise ship anchored, and the whole city spread below us. I read that the tower could withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of 8 on the Richter scale, and I wondered what it would be like, for an earthquake to happen while we stood so high above the city, watching cracks appear in the pavement and buildings sway while we stood steady. The earthquake didn’t happen, and we made it down again just fine, watching the ground zoom up to us in just forty seconds through that glass square on the elevator floor.

While Peggy baked cookies with Alayna in our oven (the first baking we’ve done on the trip, we’ve never had a real oven before), Clay and I went across the street and ran on the treadmills at the Y. We’ve discovered that running in a big city isn’t all that fun, since you have to stop at every block for the lights. When we returned room 1012 smelled like cookies, and they tasted as good as they smelled. Clay and his dad went out and got Subway for us for dinner, something easy so we wouldn’t have to all load up in the car again. We had to say our sad goodbye’s at bedtime, before Peggy and Maurice went down to their room.

They’ll leave at 6 tomorrow morning, we leave around 6 tomorrow evening.  I’m packing the South America pages in my backpack, the ones I tore out of our guide book back in Austin last July, we’ll bone up on Chile and Argentina tomorrow before boarding the plane. Time to pull out the Spanish phrase book and get used to a country where we won’t understand what the people around us are saying, we’ve been spoiled in Australia and New Zealand. The Davises are on the move again . . . cheers and adios!


Thursday, 3 April 2008

We spent the morning feeling all the clothes hanging around the room, making sure everything was dry from the wash before packing them. The kids played some legos, I made French toast with our leftover eggs. We didn’t have any syrup, but we dipped the bread in sugar sprinkles provided for the coffee. We were going to go to the butterfly garden to kill some time before our flight, but it was raining. We thought about seeing an IMAX movie, but there weren’t any good ones for the kids. Too wet for a park, not excited about a museum, we decided to just head out to the airport, return the car, and finish up the journal. The good news is, we have great internet connection so we can finish up the New Zealand journals before we even leave. So here I am, typing with one hand while I lick my McDonald’s soft serve with the other. Another exciting day in the life of the Davises. They ought to make us into a movie . . .