Sight-seeing in Auckland

Trip Start Jan 15, 2009
Trip End Mar 07, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I got up at 6:00 am and got packed.  I ordered breakfast from room service (it is really cheap here at this hotel).  I checked out at 7:30 and caught a cab to the airport.  When I arrived at the Christchurch Airport, there was no one working at the Quantas Check-in Desk.  There was, however, a long line of travelers waiting to check in.  At about 8:00 am, a couple of employees came wandering in and opened the check-in.  I had already used the kiosk to check in, so all I needed to do was to check my bags and I was off.  I went and got a cup of coffee and then went to the gate.  The flight left on time at 9:30 am.

When I arrived in Aukland, I picked up my luggage and went to the Hertz car rental office.  They had a silver Mazda waiting for me to pick up.  I got directions from the girl at the rental counter as well as a map of Aukland and I headed out.  If you are wondering, they drive on the left side of the road in New Zealand just like in Australia.  It only took me about 30 mintues to get to the Crowne Plaza downtown on Alfred Street.  I was fortunate that they were able to let me check in early.  I got a room on the 21st floor and parked my little silver Mazda in the claustrophobic parking garage next door. 

After I got my bags up to the room and got settled in, I went down to speak to the concierge to get directions to Kelly Tarton's Antarctic Center.  I was pleased to hear that there was a free shuttle that went there every hour from the Sky Tower, which is just a couple blocks away.  So, I walked to the Sky Tower and waited for a few minutes and caught the free shuttle.  It was about a 20 minute ride to the Antarctic Center.  New Zealand has for many years been a stopping off point and staging area for people heading to Antarctica.  It still is today.  I met a fellow in Alice Springs who was headed to New Zealand in a few months to meet up with his Antarctic Expedition. This Antarctic Center is a aquarium and educational center dedicated to teaching people about the history, geology and wildlife of the world's coldest continent.  It is a nice place to spend and hour and a half.  They have a snowcat ride that takes you through the penguin exhibit.  They have several large tanks with cold water fish species and native New Zealand marine fish.  They also have a preserved specimen of a Giant Squid.  I have only ever seen one of these before, and that was at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.  When I was done, I walked out and within 5 minutes the shuttle appeared and I rode back to the Sky Tower.

Since I was already there, I decided to go up to the observation deck at the Sky Tower.  This is kind of like the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington.  It is not as attractive though, as it is made of reinforced gray concrete.  It is, however, the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere, and a really great place to take in the entire city of Auckland.  I rode the elevator to the first observation platform and then another elevator to the upper observation platform.  The view was breathtaking.  You could see all of the city, the harbor and all the way out to the Tazman Sea.  They have a couple of extreme activities you can do here too.  They have something called the "Sky Walk" which is like the Sydney Bridge Climb.  You wear a special jumpsuit and harness and they take you on a guided walk around the observation platform on a catwalk outside.  They also have a skydiving deal too.  You wear a jumpsuit and special harness which they connect to two cables that run parallel to each other.  The cables are connected to the observation platform at one end and a landing platform at street level at the other end.  The cables are slightly farther apart at the bottom than they are at the top.  You get connected to the cables and jump off the platform. As you free-fall, the cables tighten and slow your descent until you gently land on the platform below.  I saw one guy do this and another guy chicken out.  I don't blame the guy that chickened out.  I wouldn't do it either.  It looks insane to me.  Coffee at the observation deck snack bar was as much stimulation as I needed :)

After the Sky Tower, I had dinner at a restaurant around the corner called "Little Italy".  Their beef lasagna was pretty good.  Then I went back to the Crowne Plaza and relaxed for while.  Tomorrow I am going to drive down to the Coromandel Peninsula to go kayaking to Cathedral Cove.
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