The weather being stormy in Fiji made parting much easier than it would have otherwise done. Up at the crack of dawn in order to leave at 6:30 for the required three hour check in at the tiny Fiji airport. I thought breakfast didn’t start until six thirty, but it was six so I had the bonus of breakfast before I left as well. Gilda was up to say goodbye and see you in Melbourne and I left in my taxi.
After all that the flight was delayed for nearly two hours but they gave me a thirty dollar voucher for food. I waited until about 10:45 before I attempted to eat anything and was informed at Burger King I had to spend it all. Which I did and then proceeded to throw most of it in the bin. Who ever comes up with these concoctions needs there head examining in my humble opinion. Beef burger, bacon cheese onion barbecue sauce tomato and goodness knows what else. Disgusting. The milkshake was ok. I didn’t even eat the chips, I really don’t know what came over me or why I went there or even why I bothered to try and eat. Lesson learned.
Finally we were on the flight and left about midday. Lunch was served oh dear more food! Arrival in Auckland and the usual customs questions. I got through all that with no problem, not that there was going to be one, and then went and sorted out a phone for myself. This was much cheaper than the US and I now know why, it’s so slooooowwwwww and I can’t see the screen when the sun is shining on it. Excellent purchase. Oh well I only need it to find my way or order a cab as long as I have WiFi I can manage. Then into my usual mode of transport to my serviced apartment. It was very small but actually it was also very nice, clean, modern and had everything I needed. Apart from the fact there was a two GB limit per day on the WIFI.
One of Erik’s judo coaches moved to New Zealand a couple of years ago. Who is Erik I hear some people say, he is my nephew and he has lived with us for the last ten years since the loss of my sister Helga. When Erik came to us one of the things he wanted to do was judo. Helga and Erik were living in New Zealand when my sister passed away and he had done some judo there. So my husband did the research and found a Judo club across the river in Dartford Kent. The Holmes brothers were heavily involved in coaching the elite team which Erik soon became a member of and were a fantastic influence on Erik, he made it into the England squad for his size and weight which was really down to their hard work. I had been in touch with Neil who lives in Whangarei, and agreed to visit the following day on the bus. So I sorted out my bus tickets and then went out in search of food and to see where I had landed.
I was bang in the middle of the University area, I walked down to the Main Street called Queen Street, presumably after my namesake Liz, and at that end there were many many fast food places. The place was absolutely buzzing with students or a very young population which I assumed were students. I walked a bit of a way down Queen Street and the I saw a poster with Björk’s name on it. It was advertising a concert my the Blackbird Ensemble in collaboration with the Q. Special guests Teeks, Anna Coddington, Jessie Cassin and Sarah Belkner, directed by Claire Cowan. Right I thought when is that on the 8th to 11th November. So I worked out I could go on the 8th. I got quite excited about it to find something like that quite by accident yet again serendipity was working for me, and I continued on my exploration.
All the convenience stores were pretty awful in terms of what you could buy in them so I decided to eat out at Nando’s which was the only place I could see that I felt I wanted to eat in after such a terrible day with food. They have a slightly different formula than in England, you go in, choose, pay and then sit down and they do take away as well. I thought I would sit and eat. Unusually for me I ordered a starter just some hummus and pitta, and a sort of paella with chicken and veg. I was waiting for quite a while and eventually a waitress approached me holding two plates, she gave me my starter and then put my main course down on the other side of the table. I said you are joking? She apologised and walked away. As I had already paid there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it, so I proceeded to eat them both at the same time. Then another young lady came along and asked me how everything was. She she got both barrels but in the nicest possible way. She apologised and said next time everything would be perfect, my response to which was “there won’t be a next time”. It was so funny she looked physically startled. Off she went. Just as I was about to leave the first waitress approached me and apologised once more and gave me the money back for my starter. Well they tried I will give them that. Off I toddled up what was one of the steepest hills I have every had to climb back to my apartment and the safety of my bed.
Another early start to catch the bus to Whangarei.
As serendipity would have it the bus stop was two minutes walk from my place. I had been told when I was booking my trip that buses up to the Northlands were non existent or completely unreliable. Well this is a new bus service and I was very impressed. My friends at Greyhound could learn a thing or two. They check you in on a hand held device with the first four digits of your booking reference. They know who they have to pick up and where they are getting off. I am sure Greyhound could buy the system off the shelf!
Anyway on the bus and it was a great ride I have to say you probably know by now that I enjoy seeing countries from a bus or train. One of the things that struck me was how green the hills were, in fact everything is so green, and of course it’s spring. But I have a feeling it’s been like this all winter. I was told that they go brown in the summer with sun burn. A bit like me. So it was a three hour journey but went really quickly and I was actually sitting upstairs at the front of the bus, so a fabulous view. One thing which amused me was every shop in every little town or suburb of a town or city calls itself the name of the town and then really what they do. So if you applied that to the shops in South Ockendon you would have South Ockendon Vets, South Ockendon Hairdressers etc. You certainly know where you are.
Finally I arrived and was met by Neil and Kezia in their Holmes Clinic vehicle. Neil recently set up his own clinic specialising in Osteopathy and is doing well and enjoying life. They took me to a beautiful place with an Art Gallery and cafe. The view was phenomenal is all I can say. This island is so beautiful. We had a lovely lunch and caught up on how NZ was treating them and saw some great pieces of art including furniture which was so amazing. I could have spent a fortune but you will be pleased to know that I managed to resist the urge after all there is no room in my bag.
Then a quick return to the bus stop for the return trip. In fact it was the same bus and lady bus driver. I had seen some things I wanted to photograph on the way back, so made sure I was on the right side of the bus. Unfortunately the front seat was already taken so I had to take a seat further back but I managed to get some good photographs particularly of the harbour which was just amazing in terms of it being right in front of the skyline.
The next day I took it easy in the morning made some breakfast for myself, bacon and eggs. I was going on the train the following day so I thought I would check out where the station was. I set off in the early afternoon and followed my little map. I found a street called Whitaker Street, Erik’s surname, it was so steep there was no way I was going to attempt to go down it! So I took another route which fortunately was less hilly. When I arrived it was a locked up cabin, well more like a steel box. They only open when the train is leaving or arriving which is six times a week. Three down the North Island to Wellington and three back up.
So I carried on around the city and ended up at the opposite end of my namesakes road, the posh end. This was were all the Louis Vuitton and such other shops were our equivalent of Bond Street or Knightsbridge. I walked the whole length to get to the theatre I was going to in the evening. I went in for a glass of wine and picked my ticket up. Really lovely restaurant in there so I booked a table for six thirty. The show started at eight. Dinner was lovely until dessert. There must be something about Auckland waitresses. My waitress was definitely swanning around as if she owned the place. That is the only way I can describe her demeanour. When she came to enquire if everything was ok I could barely understand her, it was like all the words just came out in such a strange way, it wasn’t an ordinary is everything ok type of sentence, I just nodded. But to get to the nub when she served my dessert she just snook up behind me and the plate appeared on the table in front of me, I nearly had a heart attack. No tip for that service.
Anyway less of the moaning about waitresses. On to the main event. The All is Full of Love concert. I don’t profess to be a Björk fan by any means, and to be quite honest know very little about her music. Obviously the attraction for me was this was something new and she is Icelandic so a fellow country woman. I found out that the concert was in honour of her 50th birthday, how can she be 50, but then again how can I be 64?
The music director of the show is a long time Bjök fan and had arranged some of her all time favourite songs for the Blackbird Ensemble. The Ensemble was made up of a number of multi talented professional musicians. Some of the instruments were violin, cello, drum kit, other percussion, keyboards, harp, harpsichord, two saxophones, tambourine, umberella, guitar, horn, electronic and four voices. I am sure I have missed something there. When the musicians came on stage they were all dressed in white boiler suits, with various amazing headdresses and some form of lighting on them either on their person or on their costume. The singers were also dressed in white and had costumes based on some of Björk’s famous costumes, again all with some sort of lighting. It was quite a breathtaking appearance I actually said Wow out loud. And so the music began and I was immediately transported into a new world. It was beautiful, and I now have to start listening to her music. At one point a member of the audience stood up and thanked the music director for bringing this to Auckland and everyone applauded. I was attending the review, and was able to take photographs and video, so I have attached them but apologise for the poor quality. All I can say was that I loved very minute of it and it was worth travelling across the whole world for that one night.
So that was Auckland, next stop Hamilton. I must say when I planned this tour of North Island I didn’t think it would be quite as whistle stop as it seems but time is limited and the objective is of course to not only see the country but to try and be in the country not necessarily just as a sightseer.