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‘Everything’s so green…’
This was the first thought I had going down the highway into Auckland’s CBD. Of course, Auckland provides only a small glimpse into how scenic and beautiful New Zealand’s landscape can be. Though I was leaving Australia during a week in which bushfires were burning my home state, the greenery was enough to make me want to stay for even longer. Travelling further up and down the two islands to see those famous mountains and forests that Peter Jackson has shown to the world is definitely on the travel bucket list.
Of course, coming from Australia, I never felt too far away from home in Auckland. Most of the chain stores are the same and most people you speak to can relate to you about Australia. Or make fun of you for being an ‘Aussie’. I got that quite a bit. One delightful man in a tourist shop in Auckland’s CBD copied everything I said in a very belittling and over-exaggerated Australian accent, thus making my purchase of a kiwi-bird-shaped soap really awkward and much louder.
However, the snippets of Maori culture everywhere – the Maori population, the ‘Kia Ora’ on the signs and the wonderful carvings spread around the city – made me feel like I was further away than just across the Tasman Sea. But with more and more Kiwis coming to live in the land of Oz, it was nice to do the opposite and visit New Zealand’s biggest city.
One thing I loved about moving around in Auckland was how convenient and easy it was. Auckland has really got their inner city transport worked out – brightly coloured buses that follow loops in and around the main city centre and inner suburbs. Perfect for clueless travellers like me who only have to remember which colour goes where – red for apartment and city centre; green for that clothes shop I liked.
But I never minded going for a walk. With the Harbour Bridge never too far away, there was always something picturesque to look at while you were meandering around Auckland.
There are also diesel trains (yes, diesel – Auckland is in the process of electrifying the network) if you want to head further out of the city. The shiny new transport centre, Britomart, is quite stunning. Being underground, the light filtering in from the skylights matched with the haze from the diesel trains makes Britomart feel magical for a few seconds. But I’m sure an absence of diesel fumes will make the station even easier to move around in.
Of course, no trip to a harbour city would be complete without some ferry hopping. Although I felt like a complete tourist on this boat, and became one by taking more than an acceptable amount of photos of Auckland Harbour, I still really enjoyed it. The weather in Auckland during summer is great, with an average of 26 degrees the whole weekend I was there – easily jeans or shorts weather. Regardless, it was a relieving change from high 30s Melbourne weather.
But Auckland isn’t completely placid. New Zealanders have also chosen to live near the ‘ring of fire’, which leaves them prone to volcanoes and earthquakes. So if you get a chance, head up to the Sky Tower where you can see volcanos aplenty (some extinct, some dormant) dotted around Auckland. You can also jump off the Sky Tower – the highest tower in the southern hemisphere – if that suits your fancy. But as with many extra-curricular activities that get your heart racing, it’s not cheap.
Of course, being the student traveller that I am, I found many things to do that were free. The art gallery and museum were good fun. The museum has a whole floor dedicated to Maori and pacific islanders – which is worth a look if only to see the humungous boat that takes up most of the floor – but my favourite section was an exhibition on New Zealand children. The fact that they had magazines that I read and a Playstation 1 in the museum exhibition made me feel significantly older than when I had walked in.
I feel, however, that the best time I had in Auckland was when we took a drive down to Mission Bay and I spent the night eating too much food and hearing some local Auckland bands (I really should have picked up their business cards) play
at the function centre behind us. With the sunset and Rangitoto in the distance, it made my usual distaste of the beach disappear. I forgot all about the sand that was embedding itself forever in my shoes and my bag, and just sat
back and enjoyed the night.
After that night, I could easily see myself doing the same at every beach along New Zealand’s coast… Except for the travelling musician bit.