It’s the Chinese Year of the Monkey and we’ve been celebrating accordingly. Well maybe not celebrating exactly, more like hanging around with thousands of Chinese people that knew what they were doing and were celebrating.
Before I tell you about that though I need to fill you in on what we’ve been up to recentl y. It’s been a bit of a tough weather week down here in Auckland, we’ve been hit by a few days of pretty bad wind and rain. Something to do with Cyclone Winston that has just ravaged the island of Fiji and was threatening to drift south. Luckily for us it didn’t but it was a disaster for Fiji that was badly hit. So we didn’t do a great deal for a few days apart from JWalking 2 planning and a lot of reading. Quite nice really but we felt a bit guilty about not getting out and about.
It all changed on Saturday and after an early Pak’n Save shopping hike we were off. The funny thing about going to Pak’n Save is that we pack all of the shopping in our rucksacks right next to the tills. Loads of funny looks from the ‘normal’ car shoppers especially as I rip as much packaging off everything before rucksacking it. They either feel very sorry for us or think we’re blatant shoplifters.
So what do we do every Saturday? We go to the cricket of course! When I say every Saturday I mean the last one. So off we tramped but over the road from Cornwall Park we noticed that the ASB Showground was hosting the Auckland Travel Expo 2016. A show about travel? Really? We just had to have a nose around didn’t we?
Hundreds of stalls and heavily made-up women trying to sell holidays and trips to unsuspecting punters, brilliant. It was so interesting to wander around looking at brochures and maps and realise that there was nothing that they could do that we hadn’t already done. Smug? Maybe a little but the bottom line is that we came out pleased that we had organised our little trip in our own way not some travel agents. Really fascinating stuff all the same.
On to the cricket then, we found our normal spot under our normal tree and settled down for a picnic and to support our team. Slight issue in that we really didn’t know which team was ours but that was a small problem. Fabulous afternoon though. Jo really has got the bug now, she’s been well and truly ‘turned’.
The Auckland Domain
In the centre of the city is a huge park called The Domain. It’s the oldest park in the city and one of the biggest, given to the people in 1843 by the then Governor Fitzroy. The central plateau of the park is actually the base of the dormant Pukekawa volcano. Right in the middle is the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Cenotaph.
An incredibly awe-inspiring building set in beautiful grounds. Looked amazing. if you look very very carefully with your Action Man Eagle Eyes you may be able to see a bride and groom on the steps in the photo. See them? This is something we keep running into all over Australia and New Zealand, couples in their wedding attire having arty photos taken in iconic places. Obviously its not the same couple that we keep seeing, although I would love it if it were. How outstanding would that be? Bit strange though as it’s always just bride and fella and cameraman.
But did we go to the Domain especially to see the Museum? Did we …… heck. All week different Kiwi-types had been telling us about a huge event taking place there so we couldn’t miss it could we?
The Chinese Lantern Festival
A lantern festival? A festival of lanterns? What? Doesn’t sound all that does it? Well it was all that and much much more. Apparently, and it’s time now for your Chinese tradition lesson, the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations is the Lantern Festival. It’s the first full moon of the Chinese New Year dating back more than 2000 years and the festival represents the coming of spring and longer daylight hours. Hence all of the lanterns. It also used to be similar to Valentines Day in Imperial China but now really symbolises Good Luck for the New Year. The Auckland Lantern Festival.
Hundreds of stalls selling every variety of Asian food you could imagine, and some that you couldn’t. Trees full of exquisitely made Chinese Lanterns in every shape and size and countless huge displays of traditional stories.
The Domain looked incredible and smelt even better with all of that food being prepared. We were obviously there well early (no kidding) so it was quiet and we were able to wander around freely. After a swift beer at the lovely little Wintergarden cafe we headed back into the festival to join the thousands of others that had subsequently arrived. We couldn’t resist the spring rolls and the chicken satays as we watched traditional dancing, magic shows, martial arts demonstrations, strong man displays, and much much more. The highlight for me though was the incredible Auckland Diabolo Group.
I don’t know how traditional or cultural this is but it’s just fantastic entertainment. What I love is that so much practice has obviously gone into it and you can see the concentration on the guys faces as they run through their routine. I was transfixed. So good. Makes my juggling look pathetic, not sure whether to call it a day now.
Our Time in Epsom
Can you believe that we’ve been here two weeks now? We can’t. That means we are halfway through and will be leaving NZ in a couple of weeks. We are trying not to think too much about it finishing as it truly has been one of the most incredible experiences of our lives. Hopefully we can fit in a few more days out before we go.
As long as you promise not to laugh I’ll tell you a little tale before I go. We have a lovely little apartment here in Epsom, beneath Andy and Helens house. Yesterday Jo was reading in the main living room whilst I was doing a little ‘computering research’ at the table in the adjoining kitchen. All relaxed and happy, too hot to sit outside at the time. I decided that I needed a drink so jumped up and reached for my empty glass by the laptop. My jerky jump caused me to whack the glass with my bear-like fist and guess what? It wasn’t empty. So water everywhere. I panicked worrying about the laptop, jumped around the table to grab a cloth and start mopping and shouted to Jo ‘not to worry’. Then turned, took a single step, and did a full cartoon-like body flip right up into the air before eventually falling and hitting the floor ‘THUMP’ flat on my back, head, arms, legs and bum! Not funny at all!
21.2 – 22.2.2016