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TRAVEL Danny does Auckland

Auckland, as viewed from Mount Eden.
Auckland, as viewed from Mount Eden. Pic:

Danny does Auckland

Danny Does ...
Daniel Carey

WHEN exactly did I learn to stop worrying and love New Zealand? I reckon it was about the time I was persuaded to put my hand up a sheep’s backside in an Auckland shop window. I should add, for the purposes of clarification, that a) it was an artificial sheep, b) I did what I did in the hope of winning a ‘$30 off’ voucher, and c) I did win such a voucher. No real animals were traumatised in the making of this episode … and neither was I.
The salesman in that shop regaled me with tales of hitchhiking from Croatia to Barcelona wearing only two t-shirts. He may have been the friendliest person I met since I arrived in the land of the long white cloud for the Rugby World Cup. Mind you, even passport control is full of shiny, happy people who seem genuinely happy you’re visiting their corner of the world.
In the town of New Plymouth, I was approached by a very pleasant woman whose son had been driving the Irish rugby team around town ahead of their game against the USA. She spotted my green scarf and asked: “Are you one of the players?” Given that I am five feet seven and weigh about nine stone, Ireland would want to be fairly stuck to require my services.
But then, the unlikely has become commonplace here. After Ireland beat the USA, I saw a policeman happily agree to take a picture of a group of Irish fans on a night out. Such a request of a uniformed officer might be considered a breach of the peace at home. A man played the piano in New Plymouth library, a lovely touch only slightly spoiled by the fact that his song choice was Celine Dion’s ‘Titanic’ dirge ‘My Heart Will Go On’.
Amidst the sport, shopping and boozing, some of us have made time for culture too. I’ve managed to squeeze in a volcano (Mount Eden), a few art galleries (including one where there was a picture of a giraffe in a phone box), the Sky Tower (offering panoramic views of Auckland) and a few museums, whose curators have an eye for the telling detail.
We learned in the maritime museum that 100,000 red socks were once sold in a week in tribute to yachtsman Peter Blake. Auckland Museum includes a bust of Pelorus Jack, a dog who ‘served’ on HMS New Zealand during the First World War before his death, and whose ‘will’ said that ‘no Dachshund or other dog of Teutonic extraction’ be permitted on board HMS New Zealand except as rations for his successor. Before you ask, I haven’t eaten any dog. Honest.

Daniel Carey, a Mayo News reporter, has taken a year out to travel the world. His addiction to the keyboard remains, however, and this column will carry his reports from life on the outside.