Part 2: The Northern Isle
"This place reminds me of the Disaster Transport from Cedar Point." Dave had a good point. The gaudy fixtures and the tacky decorations bore an eerie resemblance to the roller coaster. The similarities stop there though. A strong stench of rotting fish and cheap fog machine air permeated the room. "Is your group interested in the full package?" One of the female workers was asking Dr. T if our group wanted to pose with a giant poster of Emperor penguins like campy tourists. I loved her accent. Ever since I've gotten here, I've been keenly listening whenever a Kiwi speaks. It tickles my fancy. What's not to love? For instance, though I heard her murmur, "Wewld yoa kuds luk to tek e pucture wut t'pingween?" She was actually asking, "Would your kids like to take a picture with the penguin?" OK, I probably butchered that sentence trying to break it down into recognisible Kiwi English, my apologies.
Dave jolts me out of my stupor and we continue moving deeper and deeper into Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World. Apparently it's one of the hot-spots of Auckland and a likely site for our environmental science class to visit. The center offered loads of educational information about the vast underwater domain. I walk over to where a man in a wet suit was talking to a crowd. At first I couldn't understand what all the commotion was about, but then I glanced into the pool and everything became clear. The man was waist deep in a pool with half a dozen sting rays. Those bastards! One of their relatives or cousins killed Steve Irwin. Of course that was in jest. Sort of. Wet Suit Guy was explaining to the gathered crowd about the docile and elegant creatures as they gracefully glided all around him. It's hard to imagine that such a beautiful creature could take down the Crocodile Hunter.
I hopped on board the ride that toured the penguin exhibit. The contraption was a replica snow track that smelled horribly of fish guts and god knows what else. I was accompanied by Dr. T and the other instructors: the graduate teaching assistant and a Professor of Urban Planning, Missy. Dr. T and Missy were deep in conversation about the various species of penguins that lived in New Zealand. GTA and I were simply anticipating the imminent arrival into the penguin habitat.
I'm not sure why I was so keen on seeing the penguin. I'm not a huge penguin fan. In fact that honor goes to this girl in the group, Krissy. I guess paying attention to the penguins kept me from thinking about how awkward it was to be cooped up in a tin box with my professors. This was definitely dropping my social status a few notches. I'll have to do something to make up for this totally uncool moment. Luckily the ride wasn't unbearable. The penguin were quite the stars and I spent my time behind the looking glass, snapping off a few shots of them. Finally the ride ended and I hopped off and away from the professors without another word.
I wandered into the section of the aquarium where they house the fish. All sorts of obscure sea creatures that you wouldn't even know existed unless you saw them yourself. All the usual suspects were there: clown fish, sea horses, sharks, etc. The real treasure was stumbling upon the crayfish exhibit. I was completely taken back by what I saw. Back at home, there was a creek that ran along the park where a few friends and I would go fishing for crayfish. Except, the crayfish that I was looking at was easily two feet long. I couldn't understand how it could grow that big. Steroids anyone?
As we boarded the bus, I was eagerly anticipating the nightlife that Auckland had to offer. Dr. T was giving us the night off to find dinner and explore the city. My mind began to wander while considering all the options that were laid out before me. I could hear the excited chatter at the back of the bus. My thoughts were interrupted as the bus came alive and rumbled down the road.
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