Tuesday, 27th October 2015
Soundtrack: Leaving On A Jet Plane by John Denver
Google Fit stats:
- Activity: 2 hours 31 minutes
- Distance: 6.5 km
- Calories: 1,315
- Steps: 12,352
Uptime: 00 hours, 00 minutes, local time: 07:30
Tomorrow is going to be a rare day – from midnight to midnight will be 37 hours for us. We’re leaving here, which is GMT-13, and we finish the day in GMT. That’s 37 hours without a midnight.
However, we take off here at 1am (local time), so this is the last bed until home tomorrow evening at the end of the 37-hour day that starts tomorrow. We’ll be out and about in Auckland today so I expect we’ll be pretty tired on the flights – hopefully tired enough to sleep a bit.
However, a quick check of my email shows an unexpected problem. I’ve been sent an abuse report from Amazon about one of my servers. Arse.
The server isn’t doing anything bad intentionally, so I spend a little time digging around in it. I’m grateful I have tools I can use to RDP into it when I’m half a world away from my normal setup.
OTOH, the RDP connection sucks. It’s soooo slooooooooow. It’s hard to do anything ‘interactive’ on a Windows machine when RDP is this slow, so I play around with some settings.
It turns out it was the Awful Hotel Wifi that was slowing RDP down. The site was fast enough, and RDP wasn’t the source of the problem, so I was able to connect and investigate a bit using my phone connection. Three really have proved pretty great on this trip – free data roaming as well as free regular roaming in a bunch of countries, one of which was New Zealand. It was ridiculously handy having phone and data connection throughout our stay here. Well done Three!
My quick investigation of the server is less than fruitful. I have suspicions over what’s causing the problem, but it’d be difficult to fix without all my usual tools, the source of the sites, or even a physical keyboard. Best option seems to be to switch the server off until I get home and can rebuild the server properly, so that’s what I do. (Sorry if this shutdown affected you!)
Finally we can go get some breakfast. SWMBO had breakfast pizza! I didn’t even know that was a thing – a genuine breakfast pizza served by the hotel, for breakfast. What a time to be alive.
Uptime: 4 hours, 0 minutes, local time: 12:00
Then it was time to pack up and get out. The time spent trying to fix the server plus some problems checking in for the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow meant it was nearly 12noon when we were checking out. If we didn’t make it out by 12noon the hotel would start charging us, but we made it out in the nick of time.
The hotel had a striking chain curtain at its entrance
What do you do in Auckland if you have free time? The first thing we did was go to a coffee shop near the SkyTower so I could have a flat white. There are claims the flat white was invented in Auckland or Wellington but wikipedia reckons the earliest reference to it was Canberra in Australia. I’ve no idea where it originated. Also, since I’d never had one, I’d no idea what it tasted like either.
So, at Gloria Jean’s coffee shop in the shadow of the SkyTower in Auckland, I had my first ever flat white.
The Sky Tower
I didn’t like it.
Ah well. I do like coffee, but I tend to take it with no milk. I never really liked lattes (because of the milk) so I didn’t have high hopes for the flat white. The flat white was definitely better – the milk was wonderfully silky – but it’s not really my kind of drink. Still, it’s nice to know that if I don’t like a well made flat white from Auckland I’m probably not going to like a flat white anywhere.
When we packed this morning we ditched a bunch of things that weren’t worth bringing back, like empty toiletry bottles, papers we didn’t need, and so on. SWMBO had a Rough Guide for New Zealand that we didn’t think there was much point bringing back with us (it would likely be out of date by the time we came back) but it didn’t feel right just leaving the book in the room.
So SWMBO had the lovely idea of leaving the book in a place a tourist would likely come across it, and it would help them. She put a note on it that the book was deliberately left as a gift to them if they were to find it useful…
SWMBO, strategically leaving the book where it would be seen
And then she left it on the bench:
Book and bench, minus SWMBO
Although it wasn’t our intent to hang around and see it picked up, someone had found it and started reading it before we had managed to walk out of sight of it.
Then we did the obvious tourist thing and went up the SkyTower.
SWMBO snapping Auckland
The SkyTower is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, and it does have a lovely view over Auckland.
Auckland through the toughened glass
Now, one thing with the SkyTower was unexpected. It’s a skinny tower with the upper floors sticking out from the ‘pole’. It’s a striking design, but it does mean some of the upper floors are built on top of… nothing.
As if that’s not freaky enough, the architects had put glass floor sections on these levels for you to walk across!
I may have mentioned my new-found fear of heights.
We walked around the floor-with-bits-of-glass-in-it for a while.
Final feetstagram looking out over Auckland!
And they did try to emphasise the safety of the glass:
This did not give me confidence…
But I mean seriously. That did not give me confidence in the glass. That took away confidence in the concrete! This was not helpful!
This was the scariest part of the holiday for me. We’d done lots of fantastic (sorry, ‘fentestic’) things, some of them pretty scary to me, but this was the most terrifying. Just… walking across the glass in the floor. Something as simple as that, something everyone else seemed quite able to do, scared the bejaysus out of me.
And that bothers me because the rational part of my brain knew it was safe. It was just overwhelmed by the scared bit.
But I did it. I didn’t want to let that scared part win, partly because I was worried that it would keep winning and winning until I didn’t feel able to do anything.
So, gingerly at first – and leaning heavily on the guard rail – I stepped on to the glass.
The glass under my feet
And it was all OK. Nothing bad happened, the glass didn’t break or come undone, and I didn’t plummet to the ground.
Pic from SWMBO – I did let go of the rail. Eventually.
Yes, I did let go of the rail eventually. It was very difficult for me to do – I think my brain hates me – but I did it.
I was quite relieved after it all.
Some people didn’t have any such issues with the glass. They had far more faith in the glass than I think the architects expected…
I was scared just looking at her..
So then we went to the cafe/bar area of the SkyTower and had some champagne. Sitting there up the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, looking out at Auckland, drinking champagne… Going home and getting back to normal is going to hit us hard, isn’t it?
We went up to the higher observation deck after this. It wasn’t as scary – it had regular floors and the scared bit of my brain didn’t realise how little difference that makes.
Then we left the SkyTower and went for a dander around the Viaduct area of Auckland. They had a nice free library built in to a cargo container (shades of Christchurch) so I sat in it for a while reading an old electronics magazine until SWMBO pointed out it was time to move on.
SWMBO at the Viaduct bridge
Uptime: 8 hours, 0 minutes, local time 15:30
Another cuppa. Auckland is nice but there don’t seem to be many quick things to see – lots of things to see, but they’re a good bit away or take too long for our purposes. We did walk past the ‘Tepid Baths’ but… that just didn’t sound attractive.
We dandered a bit more to Aotea Square. We had a seat on a bench in the shade for a while. SWMBO says I snored but I have no such recollection.
Uptime: 9 hours, 30 minutes, local time 17:00
SWMBO felt like some Japanese food for dinner so we googled for Japanese restaurants near us. (Again, thank goodness for the data connection.) We found out that there was a place called Kushi that was fairly close by, and also fairly near the hotel (where we’d left our luggage). Perfect. Google said it opened at 5pm but it didn’t open until 5:30pm so we found a wee bar for a while. I was trying to avoid drinking beer before getting on the plane, so I just had an orange juice. This isn’t more clumsy foreshadowing, I just thought I’d mention it. It has no significance whatsoever.
Kushi was open once we finished our drinks. It was empty and quiet which was a bit of a relief – yesterday we were on an island with a population of 300 and today we were in the throngs of Auckland. It was nice to get a bit of space again.
I ordered the chicken teryaki set meal, and SWMBO ordered the Shabu Shabu. I also ordered a fancy Japanese lemonade.
A very fancy lemonade
It was so fancy the girl that brought it had to explain how to open it! In my defence this was not a straightforward operation:
Ramune is widely known for the distinctive design of its bottle, often called Codd-neck bottles after the inventor, Hiram Codd. They are made of glass and sealed with a marble; the codd head is held in place by the pressure of the carbonation in the drink. To open the bottle, a device to push the marble inward is provided. The marble is pushed inside the neck of the bottle where it rattles around while drinking. Therefore, the drinks are sometimes called "marble soda" outside of Japan. While the Codd-neck bottle was once commonly used for carbonated drinks, today Ramune is one of its very few users.
People trying Ramune for the first time sometimes find it difficult to drink, as it takes practice to learn to stop the marble from blocking the flow. In one version of the bottle introduced in 2006, little slots were added to the cap where the marble was originally held. This prevented the flow from obstruction if the marble falls back into the cap. Ramune is also available in plastic PET bottles and cans.
(from Wikipedia – Ramune)
And I had it easy. SWMBO’s meal came with its own gas appliance!
‘Propane, and propane accessories…’
Shabu shabu is a meal you cook yourself, adding ingredients to the hot water to create a broth, taking pieces out when they’re cooked.
Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ , also spelled shyabu-shyabu?) is a Japanese dish featuring thinly sliced beef boiled in water. The term is an onomatopœia, derived from the sound emitted when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot. The dish is related to sukiyaki in style: Both consist of thinly sliced meat and vegetables and served with dipping sauces, although shabu-shabu beef is sliced much thinner and cooked piece by piece by the diner, whereas sukiyaki arrives from the kitchen completely assembled. Also shabu-shabu is considered to be more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki, and is a more expensive dish with finer vegetable ingredients and better cuts of beef.
(from Wikipedia – Shabu-shabu)
We had shabu shabu 10 years ago in Christchurch, in a restaurant I don’t think exists any more. I thought it was fun if a little too much hassle, but SWMBO loved it enough to order it again a mere 10 years later.
Uptime: 12 hours, 0 minutes, local time: 19:30
Had a green tea and finished up at Kushi
Uptime: 14 hours, 0 minutes, local time 21:30
Back at the hotel, waiting in the lobby. Getting changed and messing around with the luggage killed about an hour, with another hour to go before our taxi for the airport arrives.
I just bought a couple of things from Amazon. (I figure it’s safe to order things now since they’ll not arrive before we’re home.) I ordered a rubber duck bath thermometer (I want to get the bath the same temperature as the Rotorua mineral bath because it was so great for my feet) and a book on the Fermi paradox. I can’t wait for that to show up in the ‘Buyers who bought this item also bought…’ section.
Wednesday, 28th October 2015
Soundtrack: Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai. (This was playing somewhere in Auckland.)
Google Fit stats:
- Activity: 2 hours 31 minutes
- Distance: 6.5 km
- Calories: 1,315
- Steps: 12,352
Uptime: 29 hours, 0 minutes, New Zealand time: 12:30, local time: no idea
Here we are, nearing the end of the first plane trip of the day. At 11 hours it was quite a long flight.
Waiting to board the plane wasn’t fun. People shouting across the gate at each other, people blocking the way to board, people... People are idiots.
The nastiest bit was when I went to the loo just before boarding started. Someone had gone for a pee and it looks like they didn't even try hitting the bowl. It was on the seat, on the floor... I don't like some people.
The joy of travel. Broadens the mind, don’t you know.
My legs felt quite crampy and jumpy this flight. (Someone somewhere no doubt wants to sell me a cure for restless leg syndrome.) It meant I couldn't get comfortable to sleep and it lasted a few hours.
I gave up and put Ant Man on the in flight entertainment system. That managed to let me doze a bit. Not sure what that says about me or the film.
This flight is fairly empty, and there are a few people sprawled across 4 seats, sleeping away. I'm a bit jealous. I stuck with SWMBO in our 2 seats together — A and C, an aisle seat and a window seat with no in-between seat. I was chuffed that we managed to get two-seats-together-to-ourselves on this flight, and I hope we managed to do the same on the 13 hour flight too. It’s nice not having to share personal space with strangers for half a day.
We still received our usual allocation of one young child near us, but he's been very good the whole flight. Probably better than me.
Uptime: 31 hours, 20 minutes, local (Kuala Lumpur) time: 09:50, New Zealand time: 14:50. UK time: 01:50
We’re in the 'upstairs' lounge of the gate! This gate has an upstairs and a downstairs because it’s boarding an A380, which also has an upstairs and downstairs (like a Jumbo Jet only bigger). We’re going to be seated on the upper deck. We’re not in first class or business class (also on the upper deck) but SWMBO’s brother said to try to get seats on the upper deck if you can because it can share staff with the first class staff and they’re better.
This upstairs gate is very fancy. Impostor syndrome has kicked in. People can tell just by looking at us that our tickets just say 'Economy'.
Uptime: 42 hours, 0 minutes, local time: fuck knows where we are, Kuala Lumpur time: 20:30, New Zealand time: 01:30, UK time: 12:30
The scheduled take off of our first flight was 24 hours ago now. It's been plane stuff ever since.
The upper deck on the Airbus A380 is much, much nicer than the lower deck, at least with Malaysian Airlines. There's a little more room, I think, and the staff are much better. It was a bit scary being greeted as Mr. Taylor just as I was taking my seat though. It did show the cabin crew here were much more on the ball than on the other flights we’d taken.
This flight is fairly empty too — I’m not sure why, the original flight the other direction was bunged. There are a few gaps of four adjacent seats in the middle, so people have taken to lying across them. Apparently there's a lot more room downstairs too.
SWMBO and I stayed in our 2-seat setup. I hope I'm not cramping her. Even with more room upstairs there's still not much room.
SWMBO gave me the window seat this time so I can lean up against the window for a nap. I got a bit of a doze but also a stiff neck. My legs were jumpy again too.
One of the banks of four seats freed up, so I had a lie down there. It was nice until I needed to go to the loo. I was quick, and I left my blanket and tablet there, but someone had taken over by the time I got back. Ah well, was nice while it lasted.
Then I wondered if the person who had taken it was sleeping there before and only got up to go to the loo and I stole it while he was away. Maybe I was the bed-stealing-git in this scenario?
It's been a very long flight.
Uptime: 46 hours, 0 minutes, local (UK) time: 16:30, Kuala Lumpur time 00:30, New Zealand time: 05:30
We’re finally getting ready to land. As I keep saying, it's been a long flight.
SWMBO spotted the bank of four seats was free so she got to lie down for an hour or two. She missed out on the dinner – chicken curry. I think she was doubly lucky — the chicken curry didn't seem to have settled well with me.
Still, nearly finished the second of today's three flights.
Uptime: 49 hours, 0 minutes, local (UK) time: 19:30, Kuala Lumpur time 03:30, New Zealand time: 08:30
The last flight!
We couldn’t check in for this flight when we checked in for the first flight because this flight was more than 24 hours in the future and British Airways only let you check in 24 hours in advance.
Then we couldn’t check in when we were in Kuala Lumpur because of an error with the online check in (maybe because our bags had already been checked in for the flight back in Auckland?)
So we checked in as soon as we could in Terminal 5 in Heathrow, but of course by then everyone else had checked in and we couldn’t get two seats together. It’s only a short flight so this wasn’t such a big deal but it was annoying.
Still, they put us in seats 1b and 1e (on this plane they’re both aisle seats, with just one aisle separating them). And since they’re the very first row there was more legroom than on any of the long-haul flights. No more crampy legs!
When they finished boarding and closed the doors, the seat beside SWMBO was empty. So I asked to move across. The cabin crew were great about me moving (but did check to make sure we were together – how stalker-y would that be, asking to move next to someone you didn’t know on the plane‽) This flight was quite busy and crowded but by this stage we didn’t care.
Did I mention the other part of my filling coming out in Invercargill airport? That was a nice way to round out the adventure – the first part coming out as we took off at Heathrow, the second bit coming out in Invercargill airport just as we were heading home.
It’s just as well this is a short flight. We’re so sleep deprived we can barely function.
Uptime: 51 hours, 0 minutes, local (UK) time 21:20. Can no longer do basic maths to figure out other time zones
Home. Zzz. Heading to bed.
The spoils of our trip
But what a trip! The second holiday of a lifetime. I still can’t believe the beauty of New Zealand, the incredible scenery, the amazing experiences. Or the tolerance of SWMBO.