Auckland, the City of Sails, is by far the largest city in New Zealand, with about one third of New Zealand's total population (1.3 million out of 4.8 or so). Of course, this means that everybody else hates Auckland. It also sprawls over an enormous area; our bus driver claimed that it was the fourth-largest city in the world in physical area (I'm guessing Los Angeles is number one). And, after having spent two days of my vacation there, it's pretty boring.

We started out in Auckland, because it's the airport where most international flights arrive. Sonia and I stayed at Auckland Central Backpackers (ACB), which worked out really well. We booked our room ahead of time via the web, and when we arrived, we found that it was centrally located, and had great facilities, including a 24-hour cheap internet cafe, and a travel agency that was really good. In fact, when we arrived, we had no plan; my planning for the trip consisted of buying a plane ticket and a Lonely Planet guide, and reserving two nights at ACB. When I met up with Sonia, we put our heads together with the Lonely Planet, figured out what we wanted to do, and booked everything via the travel agency. It was a piece of cake and we were all done within a day (Aug. 19 for those keeping track). Very convenient.

Then we spent a day (Aug. 20) wandering around Auckland. There's not a lot to do in Auckland. Its downtown is like pretty much any other big city in the world; in the same block as ACB was a McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Starbucks. We went up in the Sky Tower (pictured to the right in all its blue nighttime glory), which provided some nice views of the Auckland area, as well as including a section where the floor is made of glass so you feel like you're standing on air. While we were walking out, we got to see somebody do the Sky Jump, where you leap off of the Sky Tower and float gently to the ground suspended between two cables.

After that, we wandered over to the War Memorial museum, pictured on the left in the middle of the Auckland Domain, a large park. The museum was mainly interesting for its collection of Maori artifacts, and its exploration of the similarities and differences between various Pacific Island and Polynesian cultures; Sonia got a chance to point out several of the artifacts that are in use on her island. We also got to see a demonstration of Maori song and dance, which was quite well done. The museum also serves as a War Memorial, as is obvious from its name, which lead to this amusing exchange:

Sonia: That's a Zero!
Eric: How do you know?
Sonia: Well, I think so, I've only seen them underwater.

[Sonia's been doing a lot of scuba diving in Truk Lagoon in Micronesia, so she's seen several wrecks from World War II]

After that, we hopped a ferry over to Devonport, a suburb located just across the water from Auckland, mostly to get out onto the water and check out the Auckland skyline. The picture at the top of this section was taken from the boat. And one of the pretty pictures was taken from Devonport.

Then we took the ferry back, ate dinner, and crashed hard into sleep.

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