It felt strange to be back on the move again after calling Melbourne home for eight months. I had a month to explore New Zealand, which after 5 days of being on the North Island I had already decided was not long enough to see everything and that I would have to come back.
I arrived into Auckland, the city of sails, aptly named for the number of boats moored around it, punch drunk from lack of sleep on the Sunday afternoon after the All Blacks win over Australia in the Rugby World Cup Final. Despite that they had only won a few hours before the airport was already filled with congratulatory signs and advertisements for their win, waiting to welcome them home. First step to getting into New Zealand – customs – so my first 40 minutes on New Zealand soil were spent helping the customs agent take out the thistles that were lodged into the bottom of my hiking boot with tweezers. He had taken them out back just to wash them off and then came back to collect me 5 minutes later asking me to bring all my bags with me. When I got through he had my shoes over a sink ready to attack again with tweezers. He asked me where I got them and I went through the possibilities, and coming to the conclusion that they were from my trip to the outback a year ago when we were collecting firewood. As he struggled to get them out and I started in on the second boot, I felt like saying, “I am pretty sure they won’t come out as the thorns have been in there for a year” but as he held the fate of my shoes in his hands I stayed mum and discussed the All Black win, what I should do in Auckland for 24hours and where exactly Nova Scotia was situated on a map.
Eventually, myself and the shoes were free to go and I caught the Skybus to Nomads where I was staying for a night before heading to the North North of the Island. This meant I had less than 24hrs to see the city! So taking a quick cat nap I then went out to explore the waterfront, which is definitely the heart of the city. Auckland has the feeling of a city that has been married to the sea since its settlement. The air, the number of boats, and the architecture old and new all scream it. The Hilton, for example, is situated on one of the wharfs jutting out into the harbour and has been designed to resemble an ocean liner. I lazily strolled down the boardwalk, checking out the restaurants, the photography exhibitions, bars and eventually coming to Silo Park. A green space complete with basketball net, metal scaffolding that has been turned into a walkway and viewing point and empty silo’s where in the summer months they show films and people relax on the grass.
Next on the hit list was The Viaduct, an area along the waterfront of bars and restaurants which all open up to the harbour.i had been told I should have brunch there but I wouldn’t have time so I decided that dinner my first night in NZ would do. I ended up by mistake on the North Warf at a Spanish tapas restaurant called Pescado as they had seafood chowder on the specials board and as we were sitting on the sea I figured it would be good. I promptly ordered seafood chowder and a cup of green tea as it was absolutely freezing, albeit a beautifully sunny night. It was a bit of a surprise when it arrived at my table as it is not at all like Maritime Seafood Chowder. Maritime Chowder is milky in consistency and thickened by potatoes and of course seafood. So it is a more chunky soup I guess. New Zealander’s believe seafood chowder, according to a cafe owner I spoke with in Russell, that the thicker the better. It is supposedly milk based even though it looks as if it’s been made with full cream. According to the cafe owner they use flour and a
seafood base to thicken it. This results in it being able to hold a spoon upright and it being more of a smooth creamy soup. Still it was very tasty and they had put grated cheese into it so it was extra rich and creamy.
The next place I was told to explore was Devonport. A short 10 minute ferry across the harbour, it is a small heritage maritime suburb of Auckland. It’s picturesque with a coastal park that when I was there had a display of white crosses in commemoration of past serviceman, the buildings date back to the 1840’s and there are some cute little shops and cafes on the high street. But the best thing about Devonport is Mt Victoria. A 20 minute walk from the terminal to the very top of the volcanic plug it commands views over the Auckland skyline. It is the picture you see on most postcards of the city. There is a meandering road which wraps its way around the old volcanic plug however, I of course chose the clambering up option in 3 minutes, popping up at the top out of no where and looking embarrassingly slightly winded. I think I took a few people by surprise and I quickly walked off to take in the view as if what I had just done was completely normal.
When you leave the ferry terminal in Devonport there is a map outlining a two and a bit hour walk called the Green Route which goes from there to Takapuna, the next suburb over. Takapuna had also been on my list so off I went cutting through the residential areas of Devonport, past some great old graveyards, parks and nature reserves and headed to Takapuna. Two hours later I arrived in downtown Takapuna and walked down Hurtsmere Road towards the beach looking out for cafes along the way. I decided on the one beside the beach. Takapuna Beach Cafe & Store is a small and modern seaside cafe which does take away and eat in and I think, really good ice cream by the number of people buying it. I chose to get take away so I could sit on a bench over looking the water. Within minutes of me opening my brown paper bag packed with steaming home cut fries and a juicy, cheesy, slightly curry flavoured sauce wagyu burger I was joined by two wry vocal and slightly bold ducks whom would become my lunch buddies. My first taste of the no fear, curiosity and boldness that seem to be a common trait of all the birds in NZ. I finished my burger and headed off to find a bus stop so I could get back to town as my bus to Paihia left around 4pm. It was so easy and before I knew it I was back in the city, bags strapped on, awkwardly waiting for Naked Bus to start my next adventures.