The feeling of being outside of time and space continued when we got off the plane in Auckland . It was the end of winter when we left home (granted that winter in Florida isn’t exactly brutal but it still is winter). We arrived in Auckland at the end of the New Zealand summer. Outside of the terminal, the air was the soft, warm, quiet air of a summer morning. Flowers shone in the sun and something that sounded like cicadas hummed in the trees.
We took a bus into town and directly to our hotel for $15 each in New Zealand dollars.
(The conversion is about .8 so $15 NZ is $12 US.) It was also a nice introduction to the city. Auckland is a city of over 1 million people and probably as many cars. There’s lots of traffic and no roads wider than two lanes in each direction - its congested so there was plenty of time to look out the window at the city.
A view of the harbor and one of the hills (volcano)
Auckland is between ocean bays to the North and South and is built around several extinct volcanoes which have been turned into parks. Roads wind around the volcanoes and seem to change their names every few blocks. The ocean bays are filled with boats and the Sky Tower and Harbour Bridge are visible from almost everywhere.
This is a photographer’s dream. The light is wonderful, reflected from all the bays and boats, the volcanoes are textured with shadows and flowers, and even the trees try for sculptured shapes.
My husband and one of the trees with sculptural roots
We could hardly decide what to do first. The harbor and a boat trip across the bay to Devonport won out. My husband and I grabbed some coffee and took the 12 minute ferry ride to Devonport, a historic fishing village and Royal Navy port since 1841. Devonport has little wooden cottages, tearooms and shopping. It also has a tour bus to the top of its two tall hills. From the top of either Mt Victoria or North Head there are great views out to sea or back across the harbor to Auckland.
Later we left our driver Tom and his tour bus and walked along Cheltenham Beach and thru the park where I took the first of what will probably be many bird photos. Of course there was lunch and window shopping in Devonport before we took the ferry back across the harbor to Auckland.
Devonport fountain and my first bird photo
It was now about noon (New Zealand time - we had arrived at 8 am at our hotel and our room wouldn’t be ready until 2 pm so we were walking to stay awake.) We felt much better than we usually do after a long flight so we climbed the first of what was to be too many extinct volcanoes. We’d looked at the map and decided to visit some parks, not realizing that the parks were all on top of very steep hills. The first one near downtown is Albert Park and is right next to the University of Auckland.
U of A is a large school with a campus of new buildings and also old houses converted to Department Headquarters. Languages seem to be a major study. Lots of very tall students were sitting in the sun or walking around in the parks. (I’m tall at 5’ 11” but some of the women and many of the men towered over me). We walked on (down one volcano and up the next) to Auckland Domain, a large park with gardens and the War Memorial Museum. You really need to have good walking shoes here because everybody walks and all the interesting stuff is on top of a hill.
Trees along the path through Auckland Domain Park.
The parks are full of sculptures and the War Memorial Museum has much more than its name implies. Only the top floor is devoted to warfare relics (from the Maori Wars to the latest UN support).
The Ground floor has some amazing Maori artifacts including a traditional carved meeting house and a war canoe at least 100 ft long carved from a single huge tree. The Maori were the first people to settle New Zealand and arrived here only about 1,000 years ago from Tahiti in similar large canoes. The carving is truly beautiful. The middle floor of the Museum is devoted to Natural History including a Moa (bird) replica made over an actual Moa skeleton. No wonder the Maoris hunted the Moas to extinction - the largest birds were over ten feet tall, docile, flightless and had drumsticks that would feed a village for days.
A view down the length of the Maori war canoe in the Auckland Museum
We walked back through the Parnell district which has lots of cafes, artist galleries, and unique shops. More importantly to us by then, it doesn’t have any hills. We had walked over 15 miles, climbed several volcanoes and had spent the previous night sleeping on a plane. We didn’t think we could stay awake long enough to have dinner in a restaurant so we bought a bottle of wine and cheese and crackers for dinner in the room