Today I leave for Asia. Luckily, I happened to have done things right for the departure of this trip. I booked a flight from OKC to LAX for 6:00 PM. That’s actually an excellent time to leave for an 11:00 PM departure from the Los Angeles LAX airport. I was able to get through security quickly with my new TSA Pre number. I arrived into LAX in 4 hours and 20 minutes after the plane left the Jetway and that included a one hour delay on the tarmac as weather conditions in Los Angeles were bad. I had built enough time into the layover at LAX that the one hour delay didn’t cause me any problems and I still had a couple of hours to wander around the Los Angeles airport. I had forgotten just how big the Tom Bradley Terminal is.
The flight was relatively smooth. The only problem was that the 13 hours of sitting in an airplane seat wasn’t kind to my buttocks. I vowed spend an extra $3,000 USD to fly First Class the next time I flew that far, a vow I know that I’ll never keep. However, thanks to the fact that I cycle a lot the damage wasn’t too bad. I got off the flight, got some money and bought a card for the local bus/train/ferry system. The bus/train ride into the Auckland Central Business District (CBD) set me back about $4.70 USD and took me about an hour. Along the way I got to see some of Auckland. At the downtown transportation center I got off the bus and walked to the hostel. By the time I arrived I regretted not having done a little training for the trip by walking with a loaded rucksack prior to actually taking the trip. Once at the hostel I got a bed in a dorm which set me back about $21 a night for two nights. I occupied one bed in a six-bed room with a bath down the hall. Not luxurious, but the room was very clean and there was a security locker with an electric outlet in it for charging my electronics overnight. That’s a nice touch that I haven’t often found in hostel dorms.
I left the hostel and went exploring. I caught the bus to the transportation center in Auckland which is in the heart of the Central Business District. Auckland seems to have a nice public transportation system. By the time I would leave Auckland I would found that I became attached to their system. It helped me to travel around town nicely and at a very reasonable cost. The trip from the hostel the heart of Auckland had only cost me $0.35 USD. I decided I was going to be taking the bus a lot more in Auckland and walking a lot less. I could see a mi-afternoon nap or two in my future. While I prefer not to take taxis because of the potential cost differentiation between taxis and public buses, I’ll be the first to tell you that taxis will almost always be more convenient than buses when getting around a large city. I’ll also tell you that learning a bus system in a city can be something of a huge pain and it’s almost always a bit challenging at the very least. Bus systems can easily take a week of trials and errors for me to become acclimated to them and I am often out of a city in less time than 7 days if the city isn’t a major tourist destination. The only salvation I can see for riding buses hours and hours in the wrong direction is that I get to see a lot of a city. If that view of the city ever becomes a little “rougher” than I might want, I simply get off of the bus, walk across the street and find a bus top where I can board the same bus number going back to where I came.
My first stop in the tourist areas of Auckland was the Sky Tower, an observation and telecommunications tower which rises to a height of almost 1,100 feet making it, supposedly, the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere. I wanted to see it because statements like that impress me. I’m into statements like “tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere” and other superlatives. While I consider worshiping at the alter of superlatives a character flaw, I, like most people, seem to get hung-up in it. The Sky Tower is also a part of the SkyCity complex which houses a casino, hotel and events center in downtown Auckland and I have another character flaw of enjoying a cruise through a casino. There is something that’s sadly exciting about it. The big thrill of the Sky Tower isn’t the proximity to the casino, it’s the SkyWalk and the SkyJump. To get the full impact of the experiences you might want to start with the videos. If you want to know whether I even considered either of the extreme sensual stimulations the answer would be a resounding “No!” I didn’t part with the $20 USD it costs to go to the observation deck. While I would have liked to have gone up there, it just wasn’t worth $20 to me. Another option, which was my first preference, was to have lunch in New Zealand’s only elevated revolving restaurant that is located even higher up the tower than the observation deck. The restaurant, however, has a $21 USD minimum purchase for lunch and a $28 USD minimum purchase for dinner. I think I would have done lunch there if I hadn’t been in more than my share of observation towers over the last few years and I had been in a more significant tourist location than Auckland. The potentials for the SkyWalk and the SkyJump did cause me to spend some time watching the video. Do I think I could ever be persuaded to do either of them? For the right amount of money, sure.
I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Auckland CBD trying to get my bearings and seeing how difficult it was to find some of the landmarks and attractions I had on my list. This was also my first real effort to use my new phone and the maps.me software to help me find my way around the city. The maps.me software allowed me to use the built-in GPS on my phone to be able to pinpoint my location on a very detailed map without having to be connected to Wi-Fi. I could actually watch my position on the moving map which would help me to find some of the attractions I wanted to see and to find them with relative ease. I had practice with it at home but I knew that my familiarity with my location in Oklahoma City meant that I wasn’t learning how to use the software as well as I would have liked. Trying out the new moving map technology without the aid of an Internet connection was my goal. I wanted to learn how to use the technology really well so that I could find tourist attractions with relative ease.