I recently flew to Auckland for a family reunion. My step-father was turning 90 and so family connections from Australia and New Zealand decided to have a reunion to celebrate. What an amazing time it was meeting nephews, nieces, cousins and a sister-in-law that I hadn’t previously met or seen for a very long time. It was also an opportunity for the New Zealand crew to meet my daughter and three of her children.
Unfortunately, a couple of weeks before the planned event, my stepfather had a stroke and was hospitalised. He is recovering slowly and seemed in good spirits when I went to visit him. He was able to talk and was eating okay. So our prayers are all with him as he recovers. It was decided to go ahead with the celebration even though he couldn’t attend, after all airfares and cars etc had all been booked.
I booked my trip through Expedia and flew with Qantas, one of my favourite airlines. The food was tasty, the attendants were attentive, although they did forget to bring a meal for the gentleman sitting next to me. He turned out to work in cyber security, so we had a long and interesting chat on the way over.
Going through customs was quick and as the flight had been delayed by almost an hour, I didn’t have long to wait until my daughter and grandaughters arrived from the Gold Coast. I picked up a car from Budget and off we headed to our accomodation for the night, the Oakwood Manor Motor Inn in Mangere.
The room was large and clean and we had a kitchen, separate toilet and bathroom. We stayed near the airport as the girls were picking up a van in the morning, which we were to spend the next three nights in.
We decided to drive into Auckland city for dinner and headed off to check out the Viaduct. I was looking forward to having oysters, and fish but as we strolled along checking out the menus for the various restaurants it became clear that the majority were serving the usual stuff you can get anywhere and highly priced as well. Finally we came to a restaurant called Neptunes that had good old fish and chips on the menu.
It was a reasonably mild night so we opted to sit outside. I opted for the fish and chips and the girls all had steak. The meals were tasty and well presented, and did exactly what they were meant to do, fuel the body. The price was reasonable as well, which is always a plus.
I have to say I was rather taken back by the price of oysters in all the restaurants. The prices were around $30 for Pacific Oysters which don’t compare in flavour with the Bluff oysters we used to have when I lived in NZ. We would have them flown up from Bluff, in large tins, to the Sheep station on Lochinver Station in the Rangitaiki Plains where we lived. Some would be frozen down for later use but quite a lot didn’t make it to the freezer. My husband was the carpenter on the station, responsible for the maintenance of the houses and the buildings. We lived there for a couple of years before heading of to warmer regions in Australia.
After our meal we walked around the city and I showed the girls where I work at the NZ Post Office Headquarters back in the day plus other buildings that were of interest to my daughter and I, having been born and raised in and around Auckland.
One thing we did find off putting was the lack of public toilets, some of you will know what women are like when out and about. The location of public toilets becomes of prime importance. When we finally did find one willing to let one of our group use their facilities, they had to pay. I’ve seen this in Europe but never in Australia. I know it was common when I was a little girl, but really, in this day and age.
So after a quick tour of the city we headed back to the hotel, stopping on the way to shop at Countdown, the New Zealand equivalent of Woolworths, and picked up groceries for the next few days. Everything has changed since I live here, there are motorways everywhere and places that used to take up to an hour to reach, we passed by in literally minutes. I was surprised at the amount of traffic, so often you can’t do the speed limit. I think the numerous amount of on-ramps doesn’t help the situation.
We were up bright and early the next day as we had to pick up the van which we were going to live in for the next days.
We haven’t planned much in the way of sightseeing apart from a trip to the Hamilton Gardens and a drive up Mt. Eden, as both Ayla and Demelza have previously visited Auckland, and the purpose of the trip is to catch up with family.
We all had a good nights sleep and after breakfast headed off to pick the van. The girls were unable to pick it up the previous night as the company closed at 4pm, way before we had organised ourselves to leave the airport.
I wanted to visit my husband’s niece Jenny, nephew Roy and his wife Kay. It has been some years since we had seen each other and I really wanted to touch base with them. It’s unfortunate that my husband passed away before he was able to meet up with them. They had always been close as children and that bond carried over to their adult life. So it was very sad how things worked out. So I was adament that I was going to see them, and I am so glad I did. What a fun afternoon.
Jenny played the ukelele and we sang Pokarekare ana, many of the words I have long since forgotten, but we did fine. After all it was just for fun not a concert performance.
After spending an absolutely delightful afternoon with the family it was time to head off. Ayla and Demelza set off for Hamilton in the van while Varinia and I went to pick up Ce’Nedra (Varinia’s youngest daughter) from the airport.
She arrived safe and sound and after much hugging and laughing we set off for Hamilton. Now remember I mentioned the traffic in Auckland? Well I kid you not, it took 23 mins to go 1 kilometre. It was just ridiculous. The traffic just did not move and so we inched along until we finally were able to travel at a fair clip, no where near the speed limit though. And a trip that was supposed to take 1½ hours ended up taking 3½ hours.
So it was well and truly dark when we arrived at the Glenview Club Motorhome Park in Hamilton. The girls had parked and set the van up, they were beginning to worry about where we might have gotten to. Dinner was prepared and we popped over to the club for a few drinks. The girls were happy because they could smoke on the balcony unlike in OZ where they have to go to Siberia (IT Crowd tv show reference) to smoke in public.
It had been an exhausting day so I was looking forward to going to bed, which turned out to be surprisingly comfortable.
The next morning we were all up at the crack of dawn, showered and had breakfast before heading off early to the Hamilton Gardens.