Charles, Camilla greeted like rockstars

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By David Barber

Wellington -

Prince Charles and the duchess of Cornwall on Monday received what one newspaper called a “rockstar” reception from hundreds of people who defied heavy rain to see them on the first “meet the people” day of their New Zealand tour.

A handful of anti-royalist protesters, including one with a sign reading, “Get a job, royal bludgers,” and the arrest of a man allegedly “preparing to commit an assault” in their vicinity could not take the shine off a busy programme in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city.

It was an informal day after the sombre formality of Sunday's Armistice Day start to the final leg of their three-nation Pacific tour marking Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee.

The prince started Monday off with a sweaty hug from rugby player Linda Itunu at the national sports training centre, where he also accepted a challenge to try to shoot some goals on a netball court and laughed off a swimmer's suggestion that he would look good in a pair of brief Speedo togs.

“He was cool,” national netball player Anna Harrison said after the couple left to a riotous farewell from schoolchildren.

They went on to a performance with hundreds of schoolchildren of the New Zealand children's classic Hairy Maclary, which the duchess has declared one of her favourite books. They chatted with the juvenile actors backstage and were introduced to the author, Dame Lynley Dodd.

Despite the rain, crowds of people six deep lined a stretch of Queen Street, the city's main thoroughfare, to see the royal couple. Florist Lan Park presented the prince with a bouquet of 64 red roses to mark his 64th birthday on Wednesday.

The prince of Wales - patron of the international Campaign for Wool, which promotes the use of natural vs synthetic fibers and seeks to preserve the livelihoods of sheep farmers - showed off his double-breasted suit made of New Zealand wool at a exhibition centre on the waterfront before going for a ride in a coast guard boat on the harbour.

The duchess, meanwhile, visited a primary school noted for its organic vegetable garden and kitchen where the children learn to cook and even reportedly used her fingers in eating a slice of their carrot cake.

Ending the day at a dinner organised to thank donors to the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Trust, Charles said his wife, making her first visit to New Zealand, was “already engaged in a crash course in all things Kiwi.”

The couple have a rest day free of official engagements Tuesday before flying to the capital, Wellington, where he would celebrate his birthday at a Government House party with 64 New Zealanders who were also born on November 14.- Sapa-dpa

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