Auckland – Part III
Hong Kong to Auckland via Singapore and Melbourne. Now that is a routing only a masochist could love. I saved $1000 USD with this routing, but it was no bargain. The only saving grace was having lunch with Jas, Ms. Jas, and Matwat in the Melbourne airport. We discussed absolutely nothing non-horological. Jas and Helen went off to a wedding, and I boarded my United Airlines flight to Auckland.
Unlike the rest of my itinerary, I was traveling in cattle class, on a 747-400. My advice would be don’t do it, especially on United Airlines. They have crammed so many extra rows of seats on those planes, that if the person in front of you reclines his seat, you must recline yours or get caught in the middle. This was one of the most distasteful flying experiences I’ve every had, including the small commuter planes I’m obligated to fly out of Sun Valley, where I live.
There wasn’t a whole lot of horological interest in Auckland, so I will keep this posting brief. Auckland is a very nice city, set on the water, seeming to me a cross between Vancouver, British Columbia and Stockholm, Sweden. Auckland is essentially flat, without the hills and mountainous backdrop of Vancouver, however it is more hilly than Stockholm. I did venture out driving around the North Island of New Zealand, visiting the Coromandel Peninsula and down to Rotorua, a hot springs resort. But, I really enjoyed Auckland the most. Once you get out of Auckland good food is harder to find, but in Auckland there’s a lot of excellent food, especially European and Asian. I found the prices for meals to be about 25% less than comparable restaurant meals in the United States, especially when you consider that tipping is more of an oddity than an expected practice, as in the USA.
Driving around New Zealand is a very dicey proposition. The roads are poor, outside of Auckland, with many of them periodically narrowing to the point where two cars from opposing directions cannot pass without one of them going off into a turn out. Carnage on NZ roadways is rather common, with 8 people dying on the roads during the holiday weekend which ended at the beginning of my visit. Driving around NZ one sees quite a few graveyards.
I couldn’t help but think that many of my fellow NZ drivers were headed to one of these places.
In Auckland, on my last day, I met fellow TimeZoner Jon Junge. A Californian by birth, Jon married a woman from Auckland, and lived with her in the Los Angeles area for about 15 years, where he owned automobile dealerships. They have a couple of teenaged children, and a couple of years ago they decided to move to Auckland, which they felt was a safer place to live and raise their children. Jon now owns a business producing timed electronic atomizers for aerosol products.
Jon told me the watch scene in Auckland is rather bleak. He pointed out an antique store in the vicinity of my Bed & Breakfast accommodations, and told me this was the only decent vintage watch store in Auckland. I had an opportunity to look in the window the next morning before my flight out. It was pretty bleak. There is also one marginal new watch store in Auckland which I never visited. Jon told me he buys most of his watches overseas, due to the poor selection available in New Zealand. Although he used to collect modern watches, Jon’s collecting is now confined to vintage watches, primarily militaries.
Jon drove me around Auckland and showed me a number of very nice neighborhoods. We also visited a couple of wineries located at the western boundary of Auckland city. New Zealand wines have improved quite a bit in recent years, and there are quite a few pleasant ones available now, at very reasonable prices.
After the tour, Jon and I went to a trendy restaurant where we enjoyed a wonderful 3 course meal. Jon returned me to my hotel after a most pleasant evening spent touring the Auckland area. The next day I flew out, bound for Melbourne, on an Air New Zealand 767 jet. The seating accommodations, also in economy, were quite pleasant and leagues above what United Airlines offers. The meal looked decent, but I didn’t eat it since I was meeting Jas and Ms. Jas in Melbourne for a nice dinner.
Next Stop: Melbourne