December 6th, 2007


Day 2: Whangarei

What surprised me most about my visit to Whangarei was how much has changed. I don't think a whole lot changed in the ten years that I lived there. Certainly nowhere near the magnitude of the changes that have happened since I last visited 13 years ago. There was only one place that was almost exactly how I remembered it.

As my previous post demonstrated, I started the day at 7. Admittedly, we weren't ready to check out of the motel until 9:30.

The owner had a chat to me when I dropped off the key, apologising for the ruckus last night (it was around 4am). Apparently, they've had some navy guys stay with them for several months and this was the first night that they'd misbehaved. :P Lucky us. The owner said I should have phoned as soon as the noise started up because we had a right to a good night's sleep. It only kept me awake for about 10 minutes though.

It rained constantly this morning.

After an interlude with a train, we stopped off at Mair Park. I was hesitant about leaving the car alone with all our stuff in it, but eventually I decided we could venture down into the park. We walked down to the river (in the rain) and took some photos on a bridge with Jeff's camera. I probably should've taken my camera out as well but I didn't want to get rain on it.

We decided to head out to Whangarei Heads because we couldn't think of anything better to do in the rain. It's about a 30 minute drive out there. Jeff took some photos on the drive out and managed to get an awful lot of photos with windshield wipers in them. :P I got out at Ocean Beach and snapped some pics there. My most vivid memories of that place involve getting sunburnt and walking on hot sand. No such luck today! On the way back, the rain stopped long enough to get some photos of Marsden Point oil refinery across the bay. Maybe I'm just weird but I have fond memories of that oil refinery. :P

Back in town, we wanted pies for lunch so I drove up to Kamo to a bakery we used to go to when we were kids. That still looked the same, more or less. The pies were damn tasty, too. I'm convinced that Australians don't know how to make good pies.

We wandered down the main street of Kamo but didn't bump into anyone we knew. Had a bit of a drive around Kamo. Took photos of the house we used to live in. Visited the house of a longtime friend but no one was home. Drove down to the old sports ground and that was exactly as I remembered it! The only difference was they'd erected a new playground, but everything else was just how we remembered it, right down to the rusty old tractor.

On the way back, I decided to drop into an old school of mine, Kamo Intermediate, at the protest of my brother. At the front desk I asked to see someone who used to work there back in '92 or '91. We met up with Mr Nicholson, the old art teacher who was now the principal of K.I.S! :D He even remembered my name with a little prompting.

He gave us the grand tour of the school and I was amazed. They've now got about 600 students, up from 400 when I was there. They've added a whole new wing to the school, plus a music/computer/drama block. They have digital projectors in all the classrooms. The students have Macs to play with. They build boats now at the school! It's freaking awesome and I wish they had all that when I was there!

Mr Nic said we had obvious Australian accents. That makes me a little sad. ;>

I looked "squinty and short" when I went to K.I.S. Mr Nic pulled out the old photo albums and told me what all the teachers are doing now. Oh, and apparently the brother of my best friend at that school is now famous and reads the news in Wellington for TV3. Incredible!

Jeff and I drove up Mt Parahaki afterwards but a thick blanket of fog covered the city so we couldn't see much. Sigh. When we got back down we popped into Quayside and bought some shiny stuff from a souvenir store. I must have a t-shirt fetish. I can't resist getting a cool new tee to wear.

Then it was Escape from Whangarei. I thought it was well worth the trip. Maybe a tad short. Perhaps a bit disappointing that I didn't catch up with more people there. Some things brought back memories but mostly I felt like I'd left that city behind a long time ago and it was almost foreign to me now. I've spent half my life here but there isn't much Kiwi left in me anymore.

Chilling out now with a Steinlager in Auckland. This is the same holiday park that my family stayed in the last time we stayed in Auckland, back in 1992 or whenever it was. Steinlager's actually a pretty good beer. I should drink it more often. ;>

I tried to make a booking for the Orbit revolving restaurant in the Auckland Sky Tower. Unfortunately they're booked out for tomorrow night. It's my fault, really, for not making the booking a couple of weeks ago when I decided we'd be spending Friday night here. Maybe we'll just go up to the observation deck and have a coffee or something.

Kinda wish I had wifi access right now. There's a chain of cafes in NZ called Esquire where you can get free wifi if you buy a coffee. There's one not far from the zoo, which we'll be going to tomorrow. Mmm...precious internets.