Sunday, 21 February 2010

An early morning walk, an interesting offer and a "hole in the wall"

This morning I went out for a walk around 6:15.  I wandered to the end of the wharf and looked out to see a cruise ship on its way in.  This wharf is a working wharf and one of its functions is to cater for cruise ships.    I walked back down the centre of the wharf which was beginning to buzz a bit.  Security guards and customs officers were standing behind barricades, event management staff were wandering up and down, towies were busy towing away the cars of residents who had forgotten to move them prior to 4:00am.

When a boat comes in, the residents of the wharf who have parked in the centre of the wharf are supposed to move their vehicles to ensure there is plenty of room for the boat provisioning.  This morning a lot of them had failed to do this and the towies were very busy.  Quite a lucrative business for them as there was  $120.00 charge per car and they moved at least 20 cars.

I moved to nearer to the land end of the wharf and took a few photos of the ship coming in.  I was vaguely aware of someone coming up behind me and looked around to see a short chubby chap standing there with a camera.  I had that slightly sinking feeling I get when I realise I am about to be involved in someone's passion.

"Did you know they back this boat into place", he said.

"Errr... No, I didn't", I replied and then somewhat fatefully added, "Why is that?"

"All it's servicing ports are on the port side.  Do you know the history of this ship?  It's the Saga Ruby.  It was built back in 1953 and is amongst the last real ship like design for cruise ships before they started building those big boxes.   It used to cruise with its sister ship, the Saga Rose, but it's waiting to be beached at the moment.  You know they take them out about 4 miles to sea, point them at the beach and them wind them up and let them go. The idea is to get them far up the beach as possible. I like ships and I don't like to see them lying around being preserved.  It's a good idea to pull them apart at the end of their life."

He then launched (note the nautical term there) into the history of the ship, its design, its previous owners, its past names, its current owners, its function (British over 50s cruises) and so on.  He was certainly very knowledgeable about it and, I suspect, a lot of other ships as well. 

Quite suddenly he excused himself and left leaving me standing there somewhat bemused.

I continued my walk around Auckland's waterfront and close by streets.  I ventured up Albert street and then into Queen street but these were quite dull.  All glass front shops, businesses and banks and all closed.  I moved onto the side streets.

Quite quickly the glitz of Auckland disappeared and I was wandering a more seedy area populated by clubs, strip joints, pool rooms and other low end places.  Quite a few of them were still open or in the process of closing.  Down a few alley ways drunk and/or stoned people were spilling out and the thump thump of bass reverberated around. 

I passed a Maori woman who had just exited a club doorway and was busy stowing things in a car. 

"Morning", I said breezily as I am a friendly chap and often greet strangers while walking around.

"Morning", she replied.  "Would you like a massage?"

"Whoo", I thought.  "Now, THAT's friendly!"  But I replied, "No thanks", and smiled at her.  She smiled back quite pleasantly and I continued on my way thinking, "7:00am on Sunday and she is still willing to work.  How productive of her!"

Speaking of seedier sides, Camille and I spent quite a lot of Friday driving around Auckland and at one stage found ourselves in Otahuhu which is part of South Auckland and one of the worst areas for gangs and violence in New Zealand.  There has been a lot in the news about Sth Auckland, its huge number of hole in the wall style liquor outlets, robberies, murders etc. recently. 

We decided to stop and buy a case of beer for later in the day and found a shopping centre with a liquor outlet and headed for it.

Interesting to say the least.  As I got out of the car I realised this was a quite different place to what I am used to.  A lot of surfaces were decorated by spraycan artists.  There was a group of gangsters standing around a shelter some metres away.  Standing outside the liquor store on either side of the entrance were two very big, very large Maori blokes dressed very roughly but not, as far as I could tell, decorated with any gang insignia.  They were obviously there as paid guards and as I approached they straightened up and eyeballed me.  I sailed past them (for Auckland is, after all, the City of Sails) and entered the store.

It was long, narrow and dark.  The floor was filthy.  Down one side, behind the counter was floor to ceiling spirit bottles and nothing of any particularly good quality, just cheap.   The rest of it was mostly beer and RTDs.  I have been in quite a few liquor stores over the years but I have never seen anything like this before.

It was run by an Indian as are most of the liquor outlets in Sth Auckland.  He was very friendly to me and we chatted about how his day was, how my day was, what I was up to etc.   I purchased the beer and left and it was at that point that I realised that I was quite possibly the only white customer he had had for several days, if not longer.

We continued driving and we noticed that these hole in the wall type outlets were everywhere.  Some of the shopping centres had more than one of them.  I did a quick google on this and the density in some places is incredible.  One place has 5 of them within a 600 metre stretch. 

Definitely a different place and a different lifestyle.