Back to Auckie to get my Sea Legs

Auckland Travel Blog

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Auckland Itself

There is a bit of a dichotomy about Auckland: To an outsider like me it’s a fabulous cosmopolitan city with everything going for it…it has a distinct centre, fabulous cuisine, a lively entertainment scene, impressive buildings and beautiful coastal views on almost every corner. But then once you tune in to it there’s a current of Anti-Auckland bitching sweeping all over the country. Even Aucklanders seem a bit apologetic about their city although they’re not entirely sure why.

The problem is not least its size: at 1.2 million it’s residents number over a quarter of all New Zealanders. Perhaps the lure of wealth drains resource from the rest of the country, or does it feed into it?…I don’t know, I’m hopeless at Economics.

The 2 other bones of contention are that ‘It lacks character’ which is not at all true. It has bundles of character; It just happens to be that Auckland’s particular character is pleasant and middle class and convenient and new. Perhaps the council need to scatter a few decaying buildings about, held together with wattle & daub (ancient building method using dung) and sprinkle the odd junkie around the edges, to pacify the soul seekers who took a wrong turn when leaving Europe.

The final favorite whinge is about the public transport system, which is entirely justified as it’s awful!

On board Galantis.

When Delicate Attributes were being handed out I was dearly hoping for delicate fingers, or ankles, or cheekbones….

Good Ship Galantis - a 'Cutter'
But instead I got a very delicate Inner Ear. This means that I get motion sick incredibly easily. Standing on a mattress can have me retching. Numerous times I’d come back from a work meeting in London, for which a taxi (sorry, Executive Car) was necessary and I’d spend the entire journey going greener & greener in the passenger seat. Back in the office I’d have to take a half hour lie down in the green room. (Seriously it’s called that! and is the only place with a sofa and a closed door that’s not the CEO’s office)… before weaving my way back to the desk.

Anyway I digress, what I meant to say was that I get very motion sick, so it was with vast helpings of stupiditude that I decided I wanted to learn to sail.

In the interests of word preservation, here’s an e-mail I wrote shortly after returning from the week on board the good ship Galantis, which basically sums up the whole escapade:

Hi There,

Happy New Year! Blah Blah Blah Blah

This week I've been learning to sail in the Huaraki Gulf.

Tom. Truly worthy of the accolade 'A Legend'
My skipper was a retired Scottish RAF special forces guy; he's more like Sean Connery's Bond than SC himself!! Nothing would ruffle him, & at night he'd regale us with stories of international espionage & undiscovered islands. It was wonderful. That said, I am an absolutely awful sailor; the waves make me sick, I navigated 180 degrees in the wrong direction, I tied the knots into bows and I can't pull in a sail to save my life!

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

Stay well - Love Nat x

What this message doesn’t do justice to is the Total, Absolute, Comprehensive, There-Could-Be-No-Other Coolness of Skipper Tom. If I were a man I’d want to be this man: He’s softly spoken, yet as tough as an Ox. He has no pretences and sees the world as an adventure playground but not without being sensitive to the serious bits.

I’m keeping the memory of Tom close by so that I may always spot Life when it’s there for the taking, safe in the knowledge that a person like this exists.

One last thing I didn’t mention: The Huraki Coast is breathtakingly beautiful; there’s billions of islands, islets, coves and harbours, many playing host to rare & beautiful birds. The sea’s a fresh twinkling blue and full of cute aquatic creatures. My favourite is the Pacific Blue Penguin which I saw twice. My least favourite is the Dolphin, which I did not see once, but everyone else swears are abundant so I can only assume they were avoiding me on purpose.

The Mount: Bay Of Plenty

The proper name for The Mount is Mount Maunganui which is a playground town with a stunning extinct little volcano sitting at the end of an attractive peninsula.

On one side of the peninsula there’s a surf beach with a specially created reef to increase the waves; on the other side there’s the harbor. In the middle there’s lots of cool apartments, shops and cafes.

I was fortunate to be invited to join the Auckland crew; Graeme, Carole, Jenny, Dave, James & Jenna to spend my last NZ weekend at the Mount.

Less fortunate was the weather, which was so remarkably unsummery that it made national news. When we arrived at the mount on Saturday, all that could be seen was thick, thick fog. The others kept telling me ‘I can’t believe this, it’s so beautiful and you’re missing it!’ We kept crossed fingers for a better day tomorrow but if anything the fog solidified overnight, like a milk jelly in the fridge.

So when it was time to go I left without having properly seen the Mount at all. It was a shame, but really not important compared to the brilliant, indulgent evening we spent at an Italian restaurant, and the relaxing Sunday morning watching lithe beach basketball players (whilst the sight of fit bodies prompted much regret about the extra brussetta from the night before.)

Breeding time at The Zoo

My final adventure in Auckland was to go to the Zoo with the express intention of seeing a real live Kiwi. Kiwi's are nocturnal so their hut is all dark save for some soft red lights. its almost impossible to see anything inside which is exactly what I didn't see on my first trip. So I went off instead to the African Adventure Park as a sort of practice for the real thing in 6 months time.

It was here, as I dodged a long line of mums and kids waiting to feed the Giraffes that I felt a bit strange. Strange because it dawned on me that no other normal 30 year old women were here on thier own. They all had babies and children in tow. I tried to shrug it off as rising panic bought about by spending 3 weeks in the company of friends deep into coupledom, with the Notion of Marriage constantly hovering in the backround like a timid but determined salesman . So I went to see the Lions, the Tigers, the Elephants, and Oh God! Even the bloody animals all have offspring at their heels..... Help! I'm an old tin can drowning in a sea of procreation!

Thankfully before I became consumed with panic and made a move on the (very young but probably legal) boy collecting tickets on the gate, I spotted a lone Hippo, well actually a twentieth of a Hippo: a nicely asexual lump sticking out of the water, lolling quietly.

I love you Tigger!
Panic over, I returned to the Kiwi hut were my patience was rewarded with a a Real Life Kiwi scuttling about in a agile fashion; S/he was big and round with twiggy legs and a comically long beak. It was so cute, even in the half light.....My trip to New Zealand is complete.
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Good Ship Galantis - a Cutter
Good Ship Galantis - a 'Cutter'
Tom. Truly worthy of the accolade …
Tom. Truly worthy of the accolade…
I love you Tigger!
I love you Tigger!
photo by: Fulla