Day 1: Auckland

Words by Andy | Photos by Chris

Day 1: Auckland

After three a half years, the day finally arrived and we made our way to Adelaide International Airport which is basically Adelaide Airport with a diversion downstairs to the passport clearance section before resurfacing to far fewer retail and refreshment options. Some things we learned just in that first step: if you’re carrying water in your water bottle, you’ll need to run all the way back upstasirs to the toilets and empty it out before rejoining the queue; if your’re carrying a 125ml face spritzer, it’s 25 ml over the 100ml allowance and will get confiscated; and when you put your passport into the fancy scanner thingamie, you need to grab it when it slides back out.. it does’t come out the other side, so the customs staff member will need to go back through the gate and get it for you. Also, you need to present your passport when buying bottled water, because apparently they track everything you buy. Phew. That’s a lot to remember, but we’ll know for next time!

The flight was hassle-free. A bit bumpy towards the start, but not as bad as they hinted it might be. I settled in with A Man Called Otto on the small screen in front of me, enjoyed the chicken and polenta meal on our direct flight to Auckland. It was dark by the time we arrived. You lose two and half hours between there and Adelaide, but I’m pretty sure we’ll regain them on the way back. Clearing customs was pretty smooth and we were soon on the road to our first destination: staying with Chris’s dad and his wife in St Hellier’s, about half an hour from the airport.

The car we hired is comfortable to drive. Plenty of space for us and our luggage, although Chris was frustrated the dash didn’t seem to have adequate lighting as he fiddled with the settings to get his phone connected to the sound system. I was a bit too busy trying not to turn off the wrong exit to troubleshoot but eventually located the issue about five minutes from our destination: I’d been driving in the dark with no headlights. Problem solved and dashboard lights now aglow, as were we: we’re in New Zealand!

We’ve got some friends who moved back here nearly six months ago now, and we arranged to meet them for brunch on our first day at a cafe in Mission Bay, only five minutes from where we’re staying. The great thing about staying with locals is they know all the great spots to go and see, and our friend Vanessa had a special spot she wanted to show us. To say we were stunned by the sight she showed us would be an understatement, but more of that later.

The coastline gently curves around from bay to bay, leading to the city towards the south. Some pretty meaty looking seagulls make themselves comfortable in the park as the memorial fountain shoots jets of water into the air, and into the faces of passers by when the wind picks up. We enjoyed a nice meal at the local cafe with Reniza and Vanessa in Mission Bay then headed back to base to prepare for an afternoon excursion around Auckland.

Murray and Maree are gracious hosts, and Murray gave us the deluxe tour of some local spots around town. This photo is Reniza, Vanessa, Chris and me at Achilles Point, which is north of Mission Bay along the esplanade.

The views across the harbour are spectacular with countless islands, actually dormant volcanoes, dotted around and within. It was a bit breezy, so the aquamarine waters were a tad choppy, leaving us a little glad we hadn’t committed to a ferry ride today. 

What would a local trek be without a drive through the most expensive street in Auckland? Paratai Drive in Ōrekāi didn’t disappoint, feeling a bit like a drive through the Hollywood Hills with sprawling mansions and carefully manicured gardens. Murray told us a story of how he been on an exchange billot program in school and showed us the house on the street he got to stay in, which is a palatial 1950’s masterpiece. The boy he swapped with stayed in his house at Rotorua. Equally as palatial, I’m sure.

Our next stop was The Domain Wintergarden. Built in the early 20th Century and restored in the early 21st Century, it feaures two large glass houses, one heated for tropical plants, as well as a large fern grove. 

We spent a good while wandering around and appreciating the begonias, tropical plants and ferns. I even got to try on a new hair style!

The silver fern has been recognised as a national symbol of New Zealand since the 1880’s. This isn’t a photo of one, because Chris didn’t like the way he captured it, but if you can image a fern like this, but underneath the colour is actually silver, you’ll know what a silver fern looks like.

Mount Eden is a dormant volcano. One of many around Auckland, and is a brief but fairly steep climb from the bottom car park. I had expected the crater to be a rock-lined gravelly surface, but it was flooded with green, grass having taken root long ago. The area has recently returned to Māori ownership, and measures are now in place to restrict traffic from entering the very top. Bboardwalks are under construction, too. All of this is to preserve this eye-catching space. The immediate scenery is breathtaking, as are the views across Auckland from the top of the crater’s edge.

Viaduct Harbour is another popular spot, providing an easy boardwalk experience through what used to be the fish trading area. It was jazzed up when New Zealand won the America’s Cup and is a pretty lively area right there in the city.

Some of the public seating is kind of funky, too.

The waterfront in Downtown Auckland has got some beautifully preserved Victorian architechture and street features, and right down the end of the wharf is a replica 1950’s style house. It’s an art installation called The Lighthouse / Tū Whenua-a-Kura.

Inside the house is a gigantic silver sculpture of Captain Cook, surounded by colourful neon lights. A striking exhibit after walking past a series of historial displays explaining Auckland’s colonial history.

As much as I’d love to say this yatch is our next mode of transport heading south, our budget and propensity for motion sickness are petty strong indicators that won’t be the case, but thought the image was worth sharing anyway.

And what of that special spot Vanessa was keen to share with us?

It was at the start of the day, just after I enjoyed the seafood chowder for lunch as we explored the Michael Joseph Savage memorial at Bastion Point. She was so excited to show us this place, old gun bays from the second world war. The guns are long gone, but there was the promise of stunning views from a secluded sitting area where the guns use to sit.

We headed down the grassy track and through some bushes and yes, we were stunned.

The view was now obstructed by the bushes that had grown since the last time Vanessa had visited, and sadly there were shattered beer bottles on the ground and graffiti now plasterd the historical remains. It sill made for a colourful photo, nonetheless!

Tomorrow we head to Hobbiton!

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