Friday, April 23, 2004

Sydney, Australia--Auckland, New Zealand--Days 82/83/84

Well I have been in New Zealand for just about two and a half days. After a sad goodbye with Emma, I made it to the airport and jumping a few hours later, arrived into Auckland in the late afternoon on the 21st. I had a good flight from Sydney, although I was disappointed to be sat next to the imaginary window seat. You know, that seat that is supposed to be a window but instead you are sitting next to the wall, with no window. I was able to move for some of the flight and sit next to the window for a bit, until the person who had moved decided to come back.

Flying into Auckland I was restless. I couldn’t believe that I was actually coming back into New Zealand (sitting here now I am still pinching myself that I am here) as I spent 6 months in New Zealand just almost two years ago and never thought that I would get a chance to come back so soon. I got off the plane and had to go through immigration, making sure that I declared my hiking boots (they call them tramping boots here) and forgot that they were still completely covered in red mud from Ayers Rock so I had to wait a few minutes for them to be blasted with water and cleaned.

We hit quite a bit of traffic on the way to the hotel but my taxi driver was a riot and had the greatest loud laugh. He thought that my hippo travels sounded like quite the adventure and was happy to have me tell him all about what I have been up to in the past few months.

I checked into the hotel and it was just around 6 o’clock so I thought I would go find my friend Ryan who also went to Macalester College in St. Paul. He has been working on an island off of Auckland called Waiheke and I knew just about that much and that he was working at the YHA Youth Hostel on the island.

So I set off and bought a ticket for the ferry, arrived on the Island, boarded the bus which after quite a while dropped me off at the bottom of a very dark and huge staircase in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. I was told to walk straight up the massive flight of stairs and then walk to the right, and I would find the YHA.

About halfway up I kicked myself for not calling Ryan in the first place. What was I doing walking up these stairs in the dark, not even knowing where I was?

Well, to my luck, I followed the road at the top of the stairs and found the YHA. I walked in and there was Ryan and all of his friends sitting around the table just sitting down for dinner, and boy was Ryan surprised to see me! It was a good reunion and we spent the rest of the night dining and catching up.

The next morning I headed out for the Auckland Zoo. I got a taxi from the hotel and found that it was school holidays so there were tons of kids and families everywhere. I bought my ticket and quickly located the hippos, who were on “hippo river” which actually did not seem to much like a river considering they didn’t get to float down it or anything. Anyways, what I found was more like two separate hippo enclosures, one with two hippos and the other with just one.

I came at the right time. After watching the two hippos for a while (who were doing nothing but sleeping in the water) I headed over to the one hippo and found the keeper there just getting ready for feeding time! Yay! So I lined up with the masses (nudging a few people away and yes, blocking a poor little kid’s view of the hippos, much to the mother’s dismay---sorry!) and got a few pictures before running up the hill to where the keeper was to come out (I hoped) and luckily ran into the keeper on her way out. Breathing hard, I asked her what their names were and although looking at me quite strangely and asking why I wanted to know, she told me that this was Snorkel while Faith and Fudge were in the other enclosure, and that no, there was no time that they were specifically fed, just whoever the keepers felt like it.

Well, at least I got Snorkel. I went back to watch Snorkel eat and get back into the water, then walked back up to where Faith and Fudge were still sleeping. Eventually after a while a keeper magically showed up in a few of the bushes with two big heads of lettuce and got the hippos attention and threw them in, which made Faith and Fudge (as well as all of the onlookers) happy. Including me. Except I still didn’t know which one was Faith and which was Fudge. Around noon, just when I was about to take a break and actually get something to eat another keeper showed up and now it was time for their lunch! The hippos got out of the water and into a separate area behind a wall where they waited while the keeper set out hay and threw more heads of lettuce into the water. Once he was done, he let Faith and Fudge out and they came out (again much to the oooohs and ahhhhs of everyone watching) and I snapped away. When they were both out of the water you could see the definite differences between the two--with one significantly bigger than the other. Its funny also to watch the people watching the hippos. There are those who get really annoyed at them “just sitting” in the water, and then when they are actually out of the water, those who get annoyed at the hippos “just eating.” It does not take long for the waves of people to move through and pretty soon after they started eating it was just basically me, Faith and Fudge.

I snapped and snapped, and got some good pictures of Fudge going back into the water (I learned later on at the information center that Fudge was the bigger of the two--even though Faith is Fudge’s mother!) and of Faith as well. Satisfied, I finally packed up my things when Faith and Fudge went back to sleep in the water and got some lunch on my way out of the zoo.

After catching the public bus back downtown and then getting considerably lost walking around trying to find the hotel, I got a taxi to the hotel and organized the pictures and went straight to FedEx them as soon as I could. What a relief! They all came out, there were no problems, and they were on their way as soon as I could get a chance. Phew.

The rest of the day I spent wandering around and then heading up the sky tower to look out over Auckland (it’s the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere!) and eating dinner at a restaurant that I had eaten at last time I was here.

This morning I woke up and had breakfast, then walked around downtown for a bit before I boarded a Yacht (yes, a Yacht!) that is in the Auckland Harbor that was built to race in one of the America’s Cup. It was really fun and for two hours we sped along (at 10 knots, which seemed to be pretty good) and it was a perfect day for sailing (not like I have actually been sailing ever, but it was really windy) and had a great, if not a little chilly, afternoon. Tonight I am heading to a concert with Ryan (I picked up some tickets on a whim) and tomorrow we might hike a volcano (Ryan does not know this yet--we’ll have to see what he thinks about it!).

Again, I have just about two weeks of a little break, so more hippo updates will be coming once I arrive in Honolulu on the 9th of May. I will do my best to update my NZ adventures--at the moment I’m going to spend a few days on Waiheke Island, then heading to Dunedin to see Emma’s family and Megan, then to Nelson for a few days then back up to Auckland before Hawaii.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Sydney, Australia--Day 80

The past two weeks I have been on a break from the hippos, which proved to be a much appreciated rest from all of the globe hopping! After spending Easter with a my friend Emma's friends of the family (got that?) we drove up Australia to the coast via Dubbo to get the pictures of the six hippos there for a second time (after the mishap the first time!) and Emma was able to see me in action. The hippos were great and we arrived in Dubbo at night then saw them in the morning during feeding time, then headed further north after getting all of the hippo pictures. We then spent a relaxing and wonderful break on the beach and now I am back in Sydney getting ready to head off to New Zealand and the Auckland Zoo on Wednesday!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.