Auckland: Auckland Zoo, There and Back

As a friend pointed out in a comment on yesterday’s post, while I’m here in New Zealand, I’m a day ahead of people back in North America for most of the day. Don’t worry. I won’t give away any spoilers about what’s going to happen in the world in your tomorrow. After all, I wouldn’t want to introduce a rift in the space-time continuum, or spoil the excitement for you. But I will say that in my today, your tomorrow, I went/will go to the Auckland Zoo.

As is my wont when traveling, I walked there and back. That might have been a mistake. I didn’t time it, but I’m pretty sure it took me more than an hour and a half each way. Plus, I did a lot of walking around at the zoo.

My Fitbit tells me I walked a little more than 30,148 steps today. And, because there were a couple of high hills on the way, my Fitbit also tells me I climbed the equivalent of 120 flights of stairs today. (It counts only uphills, not downhills.) My feet, legs and other parts of my anatomy tell me that might have been a tad too much.

Apart from the fitness benefit, which I’m not convinced is all it’s cracked up to be, one advantage of all of that walking is I got to see a variety of interesting streets in Auckland.

Auckland Zoo

My visit to the Auckland Zoo started wonderfully. The zoo offers a seniors discount. If I must be a senior, as experts say I will be for the rest of my life, I appreciate being compensated for the affront of old age. But the discount wasn’t the best part.

In the Kiwi house, but not a kiwi
In the Kiwi house at the Auckland Zoo, but not a kiwi

When I asked for a senior’s ticket, the ticket-seller carded me. I showed her my driver’s licence and pointed to where the Province of Ontario placed my birthdate on it. Feigning sincerity very well, she exclaimed, “But you look so young.”

I replied, “Aren’t you nice.”

She answered, again dripping with sincerity, “No, seriously. You look so young.”

In truth, I didn’t want to say, “Aren’t you nice.” I wanted to ask her if she’d marry me. But I didn’t have an engagement ring handy and she looked young enough such that it was highly likely that it was biologically possible for her to have grandparents my age, or possibly even a little older.

Between that and my pathological shyness, I didn’t ask her to marry me. But I did wonder whether it is appropriate to tip a zoo ticket-seller. I didn’t tip her, but I did contemplate emptying my wallet in thanks. I’m incredibly easy to flatter.

Un-American

Not in the Kiwi house, but not a kiwi
Not in the Kiwi house, but not a kiwi

After flattering me, the ticket-seller asked me where I’m from.

I quickly answered, “Canada.”

She sheepishly said, “Oh, I was about to say something bad.”

I asked he what she was about to say. She hesitated. Reluctantly, she answered she was about to guess (despite seeing an Ontario driver’s license) that I was American.

I don’t know if she thought that saying I’m American would have been bad because she didn’t recognize that my license was Canadian or if she thought there was something bad about being American. I would have asked her, but I feared it might lead us to jointly ranting about Donald Trump for the rest of the day. As much as I enjoy a vigorous, daylong mutual tirade against Donald Trump, I wanted to see the zoo.

Auckland Zoo Animals

Also not a kiwi. Not even a bird.
Also not a kiwi. Not even a bird.

Oh, yeah. The Auckland Zoo has animals. The zoo organizes its exhibits geographically. It includes New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Sri Lanka, and South America sections.

The zoo is also in the process of redeveloping a large South East Asia exhibit. From what I could see through the observation holes in the hoarding, it looks like it will be fantastic. When I was there, it looked like a construction site.

The New Zealand section includes a kiwi house. I went there in time for a scheduled feeding and keeper’s talk.

The Kiwi House

A volunteer who directed me to the kiwis recommended that I don’t walk around in the kiwi house until my eyes adjusted. During zoo hours, they keep the kiwi house very dark. I should have taken the volunteer’s advice. It took five or ten minutes for my eyes to adjust to the dark enough for me to see what and who I was bumping into.

Certainly not kiwis
Certainly not kiwis

In her talk, the keeper explained that they leave most of the lights off during the day and turn them on at night to simulate day for the kiwis then. The reason is, kiwis are nocturnal birds. If the lights were on during the day they wouldn’t come out for us zoo visitors.

The kiwi house has two separate glasses-fronted enclosures. I looked in one and thought I saw a beautiful, big, long-beaked kiwi eating food the keeper left on the ground. Then the bird flew up and swooped in the air through the enclosure. OK, not a kiwi. They’re flightless.

Absolutely, positively not a kiwi
Absolutely, positively not a kiwi

I looked in the other enclosure. It turns out that’s where the kiwis were. I saw one nibbling on some food on the ground. Unfortunately, I saw it through the gaps between the human heads of the large crowd in front of me. So I couldn’t get a decent picture before the kiwi walked, not flew, out of sight. I waited for a while but it didn’t come back out of hiding.

After her talk, I asked the keeper what the bird was that I originally thought was a kiwi. She told me, but it wasn’t a bird I’d heard of and, with her accent, I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly. (Yeah, yeah. I know. Down here, I’m the one with an accent.) I tried to look it up on the Internet when I got back to my hotel. However, I couldn’t remember what I thought she told me. A few Google searches that were variations on “what is the flying bird in the kiwi house at the Auckland zoo?” didn’t provide an answer. Sorry about that.

There and Back

A park on the way to the Auckland Zoo
A park on the way to the Auckland Zoo

As I said above, it was a long walk there and back to and from the zoo. I basically set out in the general direction of the zoo, then took a random set of streets that continued to take me in the right general direction. Every once in a while, I pulled out my phone and made course corrections as required.

I followed the same strategy, but a different set of streets, on the way back.

This took me through a diverse set of street types.

My hotel is in the centre of Auckland, so the streets around it have a somewhat downtown vibe. That probably gives an incorrect impression. Auckland is not a huge city. There are tall buildings, but they’re nowhere as thick on the ground as, say, Manhattan or my hometown, Toronto. But there are some buildings that can pass for skyscrapers. And there are lots of shops of varying classes and other businesses.

A stream on the way to the Auckland Zoo
A stream on the way to the Auckland Zoo

Further out, I walked along pleasant residential streets, many of them well-treed. Some had glancing views of the harbour. I also traversed some almost small-town-like shopping streets with mostly single-story stores and restaurants.

All-in-all, from what I’ve seen so far, Auckland is a pleasing city. I’ll spend more time here on the tail end of my trip before flying back home from Auckland airport.

Maniac Drivers

A well-treed street on the way back from the Auckland Zoo
A well-treed street on the way back from the Auckland Zoo

One thing I learned from all of that walking is that Auckland drivers are maniacs. To be fair, I didn’t see any who appeared to be speeding. And they seemed to obey most of the rules of the road. But all drivers here—every single one of them—drive on the wrong side of the road. It’s a hazard, I tell ya.

Yes, I know this isn’t the only place in the world where drivers universally exhibit this behaviour. But at least in London they paint “look left” or “look right” on the pavement at most pedestrian crossings so you know on which side the wrong-way wretches will whack you on if you’re not careful.

Moving Signals

A view of downtown on the way back from the Auckland Zoo
A view of downtown on the way back from the Auckland Zoo

When I was in Madrid on my last trip, at the end of one of the posts, I wrote an aside about the pedestrian signals for couples. I don’t want this to become a thing where I write a series about non-standard pedestrian signals. However, Auckland has some of a type that I’ve seen only in one or two other cities.

The signals outside of the downtown are the standard static green or red stick figures indicating walk or don’t walk, respectively. In the core of the city, however, while the don’t walk signals are the standard red static stick figures, the walk signals are animated walking green stick figures.

They are cute. But they annoy me.

I think they’re mocking or, maybe, judging me. I’m pretty sure they walk at a faster pace than I do.

I’ve slowed down somewhat with age. I’m still usually not the slowest pedestrian on whatever sidewalk I’m on. But I’m no longer one of the fastest, as I used to be. I haven’t performed a scientific study, but I suspect I’m no longer in the top 50-percent of perambulators in that regard.

In my younger days, I could have significantly outpaced these animated whippersnappers without even thinking about it and without elevating my pulse at all. Now? Not so much. Do they have to remind me of that every time I cross a street?

Here’s an idea. If the city insists on using animated walk signals, give the stick figures walking frames (aka walkers) and have them walk at a pace that would get them across just as the light turns red, even if they start as soon as it turns green. I’d probably stand paralyzed at the intersection for a few light cycles trying to decide whether I am allowed to cross without a walker, but at least I’d feel better about myself.

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