Day 1 - Sunday, 31 January 1999

Vancouver to Auckland

The plane descended into Auckland about 9:30 am. It was raining lightly, and the view coming in - grey green ocean followed by green grass, with raindrops streaking across the window - made it seem like I hadn't left Vancouver.

Immigration was no problem, the biggest concern being whether my tent and bike were clean of any plant material or pests that might be foreign to New Zealand. I changed some money (wow! there's at least one country whose dollar is doing worse than Canada's!) and, since it was still raining, called a B&B in Auckland to get a room for the night (NZ $55). I figured I would face camping in the rain the next day, if I had to, after at least one good night's sleep.

Bike in a Box The bike box came out completely undamaged and I rolled it outside to start the assembly process. On the advice of Holly and Michael I had stuffed everything - bike, camping gear, clothes - into the box, so I had only one small bag with me on the plane and only one (large, and well-padded) piece to collect from the baggage people. Great system.

In the end it took almost two hours to get everything put together and adjusted. Early on in the process, Ron (a friendly local cyclist) stopped to chat. He had cycled out from Auckland to watch the planes (another similarity to Vancouver - there is actually a picnic area at the end of one of the runways at Vancouver International to accommodate all the plane watchers!), and offered to show me the way into the city when I was ready. In the end he had to wait for me for about an hour. Nice guy.

The White Tourist

A fine, drenching rain was still falling at noon when we got underway, but it was warm and it felt great to be on the road. We took a fairly quiet route to cover the 24 km downtown, stopping at a bike store so I could pick up some spokes and a Presta valve adapter. He then showed me right to the door of the B&B. Thanks again Ron, wherever you are.

The next surprise was the note on the door. It seems that the owner had had to go out, so he left the door unlocked for me, with a note just to go in and make myself at home. Crime rates must be low in Auckland.

I put my stuff in my room (the owner had left a room key for me inside, with another note), and looked around a bit. The rain having stopped, a few of the other guests were sitting in the garden, and I chatted to them for a while. Then the sun came out, and I headed out to explore Auckland.

Bikes are great for touring, but they're also probably the best way to get a quick look at almost any medium sized city. Perhaps because it was Sunday there wasn't a lot of traffic, and I whizzed around the Ponsonby and Parnell Road neighbourhoods before ending up on Tamaki Drive, a long waterfront parkway that leads out of the city. The wind was behind me and I felt like I was flying. The sun was shining, there were sailboats in the water, and I was feeling great. I felt I must be the first person who ever lost a cold on a plane.

I stopped in Mission Bay, a pretty and prosperous-looking little commercial centre. Although now definitely suburban, it had the look of once having been a small community in its own right. I found a take-away, The Fish Pot Cafe, and got some fish and chips (NZ $4), which I ate on the beach across the street. It was a busy little place, with lots of families and groups of kids out enjoying the evening sun.

Mission Bay

After a while I set off back towards town, going inland this time to avoid what was now a headwind along Tamaki Drive, and did a quick circuit of part of the downtown before heading back to the B&B about 8 pm.

Radio ad for 'The Control Room', an underground dance club in downtown Auckland:
" Just tell the cab driver, 'Control Room. Basement. Big City.' "

Distance for the day 57 km