Our round the world trip (17): from Sydney to Auckland

Just how early can an early start be on this amazing round the world trip of ours? On what is probably Day 18 (Friday) – the days and dates are starting to merge into one another – the hotel gave us an alarm call at 3 am for our 4 am departure to Sydney Airport. Six of the group that had toured Australia together were now going on to visit New Zealand: Americans Bob & Tommi Ruth, Canadians Vic and Sue, and Brits Roger & Vee.

Our aircraft was a Boeing 737-800 and the flight eastward from Sydney to Auckland was only a little further than our three internal flights in Oz: 2,165 km (1,353 miles). This took 2 hrs 40 mins and, since Auckland is two hours ahead of Sydney, we landed at 11.40 am local time.

New Zealand – or Aotearoa (“Land of the long white cloud “) as the Maoris call it – is geographically slightly bigger than the UK but has a population only just over half that of London (4.4 M compared to 8.2 M) . Some 15% of the population is Maori and 7% Pacific Islanders, while another 9% is Asian.

Politically New Zealand is very unusual in having a unicameral parliament. Economically the country rests mainly on farming and tourism. Normally the country has a moderate climate but the summer leading up to our visit had been the driest on record.

Auckland, on New Zealand’s north island, has a population of 1.4 M – around one-third of that of the country as a whole with the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. Located around two harbours and built on or overlooked by around 50 dormant volcanoes, surveys regularly identify Auckland as one of the best places in the world in which to live.

We were met by our tour guide for New Zealand Mark Hockley and driven to our hotel, the Skycity Grand Hotel. We arrived about 1.20 pm and, although there was nothing scheduled for this first day, Roger had arranged to meet a former colleague at 2 pm, so there was barely time for a quick sandwich for lunch while we waited for our room to become available at 1.50 pm.

Dave Simpson used to work for Internet service provider Easynet in Britain where he was responsible for regulatory affairs and knew Roger through his membership of the Ofcom Consumer Panel. Three and a half years ago, Dave emigrated to the land of the Kiwis – together with his wife and two daughters – to take up a job with Telecom New Zealand as Regulatory Affairs Manager and this tour was a great opportunity to link up with him for a brief while.

The weather was pleasantly warm (21C/70F) when Dave collected us from the hotel and drove us north across the Harbour Bridge to the lovely area of Devonport where we went up to the top of two volcanoes – Mount Victoria and North Head – for fabulous views of the harbour and Auckland, before we enjoyed a cold drink and a chat at a cafe at Torpedo Bay. We learned that NZ Telecom is taking fibre to the home (FTTH) to most premises in the nation and Dave himself already has an Internet connection providing 100 mega bits per second (Mbps) download and 50 Mbps upload.

Back a the hotel, we had the first gathering of our group for New Zealand. It was immediately very apparent that the logistics and dynamics of this part of our holiday are going to be very different from our experience of Australia. Whereas in Oz, we had a small group of 13 travelling mainly by aircraft, on this leg of the trip we have a really large group of 38 travelling mainly by coach.

We all walked over the road from our hotel to the Sky Tower. This is 328 metres (1,076 feet) high and we took lifts with external glass sides and a glass section in the floor shooting up to the 53rd level which houses the Observatory Buffet Restaurant at 194 metres (636 feet). After an extensive buffet, which introduced us to the delicious New Zealand ice cream flavour known as “Hokey Pokey” (vanilla & caramel), we were able to observe a bright red sunset in the west.


  • dave simpson

    Was great spending time with you both today and sharing the delights of State Highway 1 at rush hour!

    I’m looking forward to reading of your continued antipodean adventures and catching up next time our geographies collide! Take care. Dave

  • Trish Hughes

    So happy that you both arrived in NZ safely. The weather was very kind to you also. Have a great time there I’m sure you both will enjoy it. Very different from Australia but a beautiful country. All the best regards Trish xo

  • Curtis Litchfield

    Roger, Thanks for the update on your first day in NZ. Safe travels


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