Friday, November 27, 2009

NZ - Auckland

I finally started planning my trip this morning. Having come to realize that free internet may be tough to find, I gave in and finally started coloring my guidebook & laying out everything I want to see. I identified my next stop and attempted to book a room, but the first attempt was full and the second attempt didn’t answer… hence option 3 was to book a room quite aways beyond & hope I could fit in 2 days of anticipated touristing into 1.

My departure from the hostel came about in mid-afternoon, and I was amazed that two of my roommates were still sound asleep until not-long before I left. My destination would be the west coast today, and go figure I finally get ready to leave just as the afternoon rush hour was rearing its head. I expected hours and hours in traffic, but actually had almost smooth sailing as I made my way out to Scenic Drive.

Scenic Drive is just that: it’s a rather scenic drive. Granted, there aren’t too many viewpoints since trees often block the way; but when there is a viewpoint: woo hah it’s nice. I drove down to Karekare, tramped over the dunes, and watched as the sun set beyond this beautiful black sand expanse. This may sound geeky, but it seriously felt like I was walking in Middle Earth as I walked across the shore. Mountains all around me and a splendid sun setting upon the sea’s horizon, with waves crashing all around. I would’ve loved just a bit less clouds, but it was fantastic nonetheless.

The drive back along Scenic Drive included two stops to nab some photos. At the second stop, something in the sky caught my attention. First it was just a really bright star, and I began wondering if I could see Polaris from the southern hemisphere; though that was really beside the point since a star this bright was almost certainly a planet or satellite. I turned and then saw something else – Orion. I’d never have thought I’d be able to see that from here… I don’t know, I just kind of assumed the southern hemisphere has it’s own sky with its own constellations; and here was my favorite constellation right there upon the horizon.

I was diverted along Scenic Drive when I came upon a bunch of emergency vehicles responding to a crash. This gave me a chance to do a bunch of things: locate another route, do a K-turn to turn myself around, go through a variety of roundabouts (including a double-roundabout!), and all-in-all confirm to myself that I’m actually getting the hang of driving on the left. It’s really not that hard, apart from having to periodically remember not to stay so far left in my lane; and also that the turn signals & windshield wiper controls are reversed (good thing the accelerator & brake haven’t changed!).

Returning to Auckland, I immediately made my way out to an overpass to grab some photos of the city & motorways. Auckland is the first city I’ve ever been to where I’ve actually felt unease whilst walking at night. I mean, sure I kept a distance from the police in Moscow & stay alert when walking in any city’s dark alleys; but here in Auckland I just feel unease at nighttime even when walking in the more lively areas.

I think this is because of the youth culture here. Firstly, Auckland essentially has three races: white, Maori, and Asian. The Asian stereotype held in America pretty much stays in place here: dutiful and non-confrontational… so I have no gripes with that. The Maori, to break the bounds of political correctness, come off sort of like the Latino population in America: physically, they both have dark hair and dark skin. I think it’s this inherent darkness which lends to stereotypically mistrusting them, even though all I’ve spoken with so far are actually quite hard-working and are proud of their heritage – reinforcing my comparison to the Latino populace.

Then there are the white folk. I like badmouthing whites because, being white myself, it’s one of those opportunities whereby I can throw political correctness out the window. Essentially, the vast majority of Aucklanders walking the streets at night consist of chavvy folk. Now they’re not chavs at all: things aren’t that bad; but it’s essentially the “trying to emulate being ghetto” look. It’s almost like I was back in rural Pennsylvania, except it’s a whole city full of these guys.

Then there are the women. To be fair, this includes a decent chunk of backpacking tourist women. It’s not that they wear next to nothing on a Friday night – believe me, you won’t catch me complaining about that anytime soon. It’s that they show a genuine lack of class in addition to a lack of clothes. Now I’ve walked the nightscene and been to clubs in an assortment of countries, and despite a scarcity of clothes: both American and European women often tend to carry a bit of class about them. Not to say they all do; sure there are the lushes in any country; but in New Zealand their lushes seem to stand out to a far more noticeable degree.

For example, when going out for a stroll in the middle of the afternoon: right on the corner a woman walks out of a liquor store, does a quick pole dance with some construction scaffolding, and then walks back inside. My testosterone-fueled mind kind of wished I’d had time to get a video of it, but the upper-brain was a bit impressed that this would happen on a Friday afternoon.

Then there’s the girl right outside of my hostel, whom I passed in the evening just as I returned from my drive. As I’m walking into the hostel, my attention is already on her since she’s in her club clothes. Then she grabs her boobs and shakes em around a bit… and again, a part of me is not against such behavior and indeed wishes more women would do this; but another part of me suspects that she’s got comparable amounts of air both in her chest and in her head.

Now not to knock the city entirely; every single Kiwi and every single backpacker I’ve actually spoken to has been fantastic. From my roommates consisting of a Chicagoan & Swiss dude, to the merchants, to the random people I’ve come upon along the way – everyone has been both courteous and helpful. After a full day of driving, I still stand by my finding that even rush hour motorists are great to travel with.

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