Dan In The South Pacific 2006 travel blog

The Sky Jump Landing Pad (Splat Pad?)

Albert Park from Sky Tower

Auckland Museum from Sky Tower

NZL 41

Mount Victoria

Penguins at Kelly Tarlton's

The Viewing Tube at Kelly Tarlton's

The Antarctic Hut at Kelly Tarlton's

The Ray Tank at Kelly Tarlton's

The 23rd of January was sort of out of character for me, I was feeling that curse known as homesickness. I don't know what came over me, but I found a way to get past it: Do something incredibly stupid. I haven't spent a vast amount of money on activities so this was my chance. I decided to do the 192m base jump off of the SkyTower. It costed $145 NZD for this jump (I saved $50 and got $25 worth of photos for booking through IEP) but I needed to get my mind off of home. The build up was the worst part of the whole deal, it seems so crazy to do this. When I got to the tower I suited up in a jumpsuit and harness and then rode the lift to the jump deck. The whole thing was safe, I felt safer on the platform than I do at times on the climbing wall. So after getting clipped in and going through the procedure, and taking a photo the guy counts down 3.2.1... and I stall. I look back with a stupid grin and ask for another count down. 3.2.1... and then I step off. For this jump they stall you about 10m below the platform to get an "in flight" picture, and then drop you again to about 15m from the platform and then slow you down for the landing. It was cool, but not as scary as falling off the climbing wall with a slack rope. I hit the bottom and waited for my picture and the guy at the bottom asks me if I want to jump again, for free. They had no bookings, and want to look busy so of course, I jumped again. The second time I went backwards, with me facing the platform and just leaning back with no jump and no stop for a photo. Just as fun and hey I got awesome value for my money. My Canadian friends were there on the landing platforms taking some landing photos which I haven't seen yet, maybe I will get them sent to me later. As part of the jump deal you also get free admission to the viewing decks of the tower, which put the city into perspective. I got some decent photos of the landmarks that I thought were neat and spent quite a while up there. It is high, not like the CN tower (SkyTower is only the 13th tallest tower, but highest in the southern hemisphere) but still the highest building I have ever been in. It snapped me out of my funk. I chilled out in the evening continuing the cribbage battle between Gaetan, Isabelle and I. I am the only person from our group who will be in Auckland tomorrow, everyone else is moving on to find work. I may meet up with Gaetan and Isabelle if they find decent work in Nelson on the South Island.

Number of Activities Participated in that aren't covered by my insurance: 2

The 24th, I woke up to rain, so I won't sail today. The weather was crappy all day, high winds were knocking branches off trees and if you crossed a street the winds were crazy until you crossed to the next building. I did nothing exciting except buy an All Blacks Rugby Jersey. A bit pricey, but at least I am not paying import prices.

The 25th, it looks like it is going to stay miserable to the weekend, so I may not get a chance to sail the harbour, which sucks because I almost would have rather sailed on the 23rd instead of doing the jumps. I am looking for farm work right now, I may get a placement by next week. If that is the case then I think everything will go smooth. I got a chance to experience the rougher side of hostel living tonight. There were three "Limey Bastards" (guys from England) who lost their luggage from LA to Auckland so they were streaking down the halls and also creating a hell of a noise late into the night. The disrespect they showed to one Japanese girl and the implied disrespect to me was wrong (I am at a loss for words). It was not fun, I switched rooms on the morning of the 26th because while they said they only go out once a week, their week may only be two days long. Remember: The first time-shame on you, the second time-shame on me.

I got to sail on the 27th, it took a while but it was worth the wait. The boats were 100' long and were used in the America's Cup (A big yacht race) in the 1990's. We had originally gone out into the harbour aboard NZL 41, which had been raced by the Japanese, but when we got out and had the main sail about halfway up the mast the crew found out the sail had ripped. We went back to the dock and got aboard NZL 40, which was raced by a French team and tried again. We ended up sailing for about two hours in fairly rough seas. The wind speed was measuring at about 18 knots which is apparently fast (how fast is a knot?). As part of the Sail NZ experience the ship is crewed by minimal professionals and the majority of grinding (turning hand cranks to adjust sails) and steering is done by the customers. I ended up with a chance at the helm and managed to catch a wind that took the boat to 13.7 knots. Overall, it was a fun experience and if I end up living in a port city I may try this sport of millionaires once again. Before I went sailing I got a chance to go to the Victoria Park Market, which is about 6 blocks west of where I am staying. I was told it was the place to go for souvenirs, but I didn't really see anything worth buying. If you want a pendant made of bone, greenstone (jade), or abalone shell, or a stuffed sheep or kiwi this is the place to go. It was like the Whyte Avenue farmer's market only it had no farmers, only trinkets and art stuff.

Nothing exciting occurred on the 28th. I watched part of a cricket match on television and tried to learn what the heck is going on. It is very much like baseball but the one-day matches last about 7 hours.

January 29th, was supposed to be my last free day in Auckland before I found work and shipped off to the South Island for work. I hiked about 6 km along the coast to Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater Adventure. The only word I can use to describe this place is "brilliant". You start in the Antarctic part of the adventure and go through a life size recreation of the hut built by Scott in 1911 as he attempted to reach the South Pole. There were some cool little nooks in the exhibit and it even smelled authentic (think Grandma Buchak's basement on the farm). There is a SnowCat ride as well that takes you into a sub-zero penguin enclosure. I have never seen these birds before so it was cool and I will post the video I took when I get a chance. There was a problem with the SnowCat that I was in so there were many abrubt stops during the ride, including one at the end of the video I took. The next part is the Undersea part which is housed in a former sewage treatment area that has been scrubbed out and modified (no crap smell). There is a massive open topped stingray tank with a 250 kg ray and 2 smaller ones. I watched these beasts during a feeding session which was neat. The other part of the aquarium is cool as well, you walk in a glass tube with a conveyor belt and the sharks, rays, fish, turtles and everything else swims beside and above. I am glad to say that thanks to my experience disecting sharks I can now visually determine the sex of a shark (thanks Zool 225). There were then a few small aquariums with eels and crayfish and a "Nemo" tank as well. It was cool, and I think I am a real nerd for enjoying it so much. I then hiked the 6 km back and was tired so I didn't do anything else exciting.

The 30th is a holiday in Auckland so I am not sure what is going to happen today. I was planning on flying down to the South Island on Tuesday, but I am not sure if I can because I think Auckland has shut down. I will try and get a job picking apples for 10 weeks. The job seems better than one on a farm, and I can earn between $400 and $700 a week, only paying $50 a week for accomodation plus food. I will need to make a call on Monday, and hope that the orchard is still hiring (I don't think it will be too much of a problem).

The 31st was "Moving Day", the day for me to get my act together. It started great, I made a phone call to an orchard in a town called Motueka (I will give a Kiwi pronunciation when I can actually say it). I will be picking apples and pears and it sounds like an equivalent to Canadian tree planting. Accomodation is $20 a week for a room, plus laundry facilities and kitchen (but I won't get a camp cook, I need to learn to cook fast). Work is for 10 to 14 weeks so I hope I can make some decent cash. I then walked about 4 km to the Kiwi Experience office so that I can see the country once my bank account is full. The Kiwi Experience is a backpacker's bus that tours the country and shows the major attractions, I used it to get up to Paihia a while back. So tomorrow I take the bus to Wellington and spend the night, then on the 2nd I take the ferry across the Marlborough sound to Picton and then bus to Nelson where I will spend until about Feb 12th when I can move into my new digs.

I am not dead yet so things are going okay, I think once I start work and get back into a structured lifestyle things will go better. I wasted too much time in Auckland and should have left last week.

Add this song to the playlist: Learning to Fly by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from Into the Great Wide Open, 1991. The jumps and sailing were sort of flying (Skip to a Titanic flashback: I feel like... Like I'm flying).

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