AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – 31 October – 3 November 2018
The plans for this trip started almost 12 months ago, was postponed by a few months (due to the lambing season) and then had a few days added to it so that some of us could spend time in Auckland. It’s been 48 years since I visited Auckland (and NZ) … a lot has changed!
Johan V picked David and me up from Thornleigh at the ungodly hour of 4.30am and drove us to the airport … I guess when you consider that JV left his house in the Blue Mountains at 3.30am, 4.30 wasn’t that bad. Everything went according to plan and we were at Auckland Airport to meet Jox at 1pm. Hire car sorted and checked into our hotel by mid afternoon, ready to check out the sights.
The gardens in the Domain are remnants of the 1860s. In 1867 the Auckland Acclimatization Society was granted four acres of land which was cleared, then gardens, aviaries and a house (for the curator) were erected. The gardens were used to propagate imported grains, grasses, shrubs, flowers and fruit trees. The aviaries were used to acclimatise song and other birds which were imported.
We had dinner that night at a French restaurant (which specialised in crepes) just up the road from our hotel, the food was so good, we made a reservation for the following evening!
The following day we caught the ferry to Rangitoto Island. Situated 8k northeast of Auckland, Rangitoto was formed by a volcanic eruption in the sea between 550 and 600 years ago. We were there to see the Lava Tubes.
This story of the first ascent of the volcanic peak gives an indication of what the early explorers had to contend with: “there was no track or path after we left the beach … (it took) more than 3 hours in the ascent, every step over huge masses of brittle substance, sometimes so thin as to break under our feet … at last we reached the summit, all quite exhausted … we found the top of the mountain was a steep hollow and surrounded by irregular peaks, apparently formed by the action of the volcano throwing up heaps of ashes or scoria in several directions … We began our descent … the sharp rocks and scoria had worn my boots to pieces and my dress of grey merino was torn to shreds struggling through the thorny brush and by the sharp edges of the rocks. Thankful was I to see the shore and boat at last.”
We were about 30m from the tourist track where the guys were waiting and as we made our way up to them via a faint food pad, we happened across another big hole in the ground and upon closer inspection, this was another tube, within 10m of the track. I called JV and David down to check it out – they reluctantly made their way through the scrub but were happy once they got there!
We caught the 3.30pm Ferry back to Auckland and caught up with the guys before heading back to the French restaurant.
A big thanks to Jox who was the co-ordinator of our three day sojourn in Auckland!
Over the 11 days I was in NZ (our Auckland trip and our caving adventures), we experienced a real cross section of the country …
In Auckland, we were staying in the tourist precinct downtown and had driven around the northern suburbs, checking out the mansions and beachfront houses along the coast-line. We’d eaten at great restaurants and bought coffee off a charming Japanese man in a coffee “shop” the size of a telephone box. We’d enjoyed the street performers and the cosmopolitan flavour of the city. There were lots of street people though, living rough – confronting for me ’cause I rarely see them on the Central Coast.
Over the next week of caving, we were in the country, more green grass than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, charming country folk with their quaint accents, far, far removed from Auckland. It was rich pastoral country, lots of cows, goats, turkeys and millions of sheep (with lots of lambs). And, it was the first place that I’d been to in a long time where water wasn’t an issue, NZ is like one big drain, water everywhere!
Then on the last day before we caught our flight, Jo, Ed, Heather and I took a small walk on the wild side looking for a place to buy lunch before boarding our flight. We drove aimlessly around looking for a fish and chips shop. We ended up in a suburb a few k from the airport and stopped at a strip of shops. Looked very dodgy, every shop had bars on the windows plus roller doors in front of the bars (double security). We had stumbled upon an area populated by Tongans, Fijians, Samoans and Maoris, (many of them in traditional dress) … didn’t see a single Caucasian for the half hour we were there. All the shop keepers were Indian, I suspect from Fiji. I for one was a little suss about the takeaway shop we went to (although the food I got was good) but Jo said it was the best battered fish she’d ever had. It was eye-opening to see the “other side” of NZ that we’d stumbled upon.
Stay tuned for Part 2, Our Caving Week … once I sort through the 750 photos taken!