Having vested ourselves of the plane to New Zealand from Sydney, and having made it through the somewhat mercurial Australian security check points with its “explosive smelling device”, we came to Auckland in the grip of a rain storm. Fat welts of rain pummelled the pavements outside the airport doors throwing up a fine mist and risking localised flooding. Well, this is New Zealand in winter! As (Father-In-Law) Nick put it,
“If you can hack NZ in Winter then you’ll love it in summer!”
Not surprisingly we skipped the bus – a run through the deluge to the stop and a soggy bus ride was not appealing – and hailed a transfer from the airport. This all seemed very civilised until the second hour of the thirty minute journey. It seemed that the driver (a loose definition here based solely on his position in the car being behind the wheel) did not know his way around Auckland, which is always a good start for a transfer. He also couldn’t find our hostel and eventually announced that it didn’t exist.
“You have old copy, not up to date,” he proclaimed when Cesca showed him our Lonely Planet entry for our hostel. That was his defended position until, eagle eyed to technology, I spotted the hostel’s location saved as a favourite on his GPS!
After that he attempted to charge us double.
A shockingly short journey to the later we arrived at Lantana Lodge and were dumped unceremoniously on the pavement outside. Our “driver” raced off into the rain and he is possibly still circling Auckland trying to find the motorway interchange.
As we considered our fate the rain stopped and so we trudged up to the hostel. Lantana Lodge was initially selected for its free WIFI, but I was most impressed by the entire experience as its host was a very nice guy and the hostel had a good homely feel. Such things are important after the cramp, ever buzzing, “cattle class” bowels of modern airline travel.
We immediately went out looking for “real NZ food”. When we found it (soggy chips and meat pie floaters) we quickly decided to forget local fare and have a curry. Over the meal we made ourselves a solemn promise,
“I promise to see New Zealand, to meet its people, drink its wine and spy its creatures. I promise to enjoy this opportunity to the fullest!”
The next day I awoke eager to get out into the wilds and experience the countryside, but first came the now obligatory city visit. I don’t quite need dragging around a city but, since I come from one of the top cities in the world, it takes a lot to impress me.
Auckland has the bustle of a real city and the skyline to suggest money but it seemed at first to lack some of the soul. It would not actually be until I visited Wellington’s Tae Papa museum that I would get to see Auckland’s soul properly and its very strong community spirit.
We swung around the centre and enjoyed a fantastic cafe and a good bookshop then we headed into the shopping district and purchased me a new pair of sun glasses (“sunnies” as they are known here). So far so normal. I was just finishing this blog post off in my head when Cesca suggested a trip form the bay. We boarded the ferry from the south harbour and departed.
Then Auckland got me and I got it.
The trip we took across the bay to the Devonport township on the far side of an extinct volcano was an eye opener and no mistake. The Auckland skyline that had been so uninspiring when I was in amongst it suddenly looked majestic and modern from the water. The bridge, which is a shadow of Sydney’s, suddenly looked like an elegant bracelet spanning the arms of the bay. Not vulgar but understated: the jewellery of a lady not the chunky penis extension of The Goldern Gate. My memories of the city now all hark back to that journey. Once arrived at Devonport the entire feel changes. This is much more of a wide and gentile suburb, seemingly a world away from the city, as the car access was miles around. It sits invitingly across the bay tempting you to commute such a distance. I bet Cesca that the house prices were astronomical and they were. Such water front loveliness costs the earth.
Up the dead-volcano we walked or more accurately climbed. From the top the sheer size of a fully fledged New Zealand city (and there is only really three like this) came to view. Nature is just bigger over here.
But I was not sated by only this view. After an afternoon of relaxing in Devonport we headed back and went up to the SkyCity’s highest viewing platform. This was a great experience at the sundown and I loved watching the cars race back along the roads far below our feet.
So, again, we are in a city and again I cant wait to leave for the mountains. But as before I find that Auckland contains some serious aesthetic beauty and for that I enjoyed it. Even a human city as big as this cannot swallow of majesty of the New Zealand’s countryside upon which it lays and that is its saviour and blessing over lesser cities.