New Zealand 13: Auckland

My 3pm Manabus from Tauranga arrived at 172 Quay Street, Auckland, just before 6:30pm with the Manabus driver advising us “not to leave anything on the bus, unless it is cash”. Brilliant. I walked about 15/20 minutes to The Station Backpackers on Beach Street and checked in, dumped my stuff and had some dinner before starting a slow walk across to Silo Park, which is located just past the wharf to the West. The sun was beginning to slowly set and the air to cool, so it was a really pleasant stroll along the waterfront with views across the harbour.

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During the summer months Silo Park hosts different events and activities, which includes an open-air cinema every Friday evening, all for free (except for any food, drink, craft purchases you make from the many stalls, of course). I arrived around 8:30pm so there weren’t many stalls left open but the food and drink trucks were still in action and fairly busy at that point. Having already eaten I resisted the Thai, Italian, Osaka, Indian and Japanese delicacies, instead opting for a bottle of Zeffler red Apple cider for $8.50 NZD. I mean, I really should be reining in the spending but there you are. I settled down on one of the wooden benches and at 9pm Monty Python’s The Life of a Brian was projected onto one of the giant silos. I haven’t actually seen it before and, despite getting progressively colder as the evening went in and having to purchase a hot chocolate for $5 NZD in the 15 minute interval, I really enjoyed it.

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The following day was my only full day in Auckland so I had decided to get the ferry over to Waiheke Island, but not before I had to get a train to NewMarket and back to exchange the $100 Nike leggings I had bought in Wellington that had already come apart at the seams. Frustrating at the best of times, let alone when you are travelling around and have splashed out a significant amount of money on a product you hope will be durable for various different uses (hiking, casual wear, etc). But anyway, I finally made it to the Wharf to buy a return ticket at $36 NZD (I am fed up with these high prices but it doesn’t seem to be stopping me from indulging) with Fullers for a 40 minute journey each way, not actually managing to leave the Wharf until midday. So a lot of my day already gone.

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It was a really calm, beautiful ride across the water, taking about 40 minutes in total and passing by little islands on our way. Once we arrived at Waiheke Island I took advantage of the facilities by going to the toilet and purchasing an orzo salad and Coke Zero for my coastal walk from Matiata Bay round to Oneroa Bay. 

 

There is a direct bush walk that takes about half an hour but I felt like I needed a good walk and to take in the sea views around the island. I didn’t exactly come wardrobe-equipped for “tramping” along the coast, opting for unforgiving denim shorts and slippery sandals that I had to kick off when it came to descending a particularly steep, grassy hill. But the weather was on my side – if not a little too scorching for an uncovered route over the mountains – and I barely crossed paths with anyone else so I had incredible views all to myself for most of the duration.

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A walk that is advised to take 2 hours 20 minutes in total took me 1 hour 45, but I can be known to charge a bit and establish a pace, plus they often compensate for slower/older walkers anyway. Once at Oneroa bay – a more pebbly and less picturesque Bay than I had expected, but the sailing boats and still blue waters made it appealing enough – I changed into my bikini and hopped into the sea for a cool-down, asking a nearby kiwi family to watch my bag. Then I basically laid on my arse for 2 hours doing absolutely nothing other than soaking up the sun and daydreaming/reminiscing about my travels.

Just after 5pm I put my clothes back in and took the 30 minute “bush” walk back to Matiata Bay and boarded the 5:45pm ferry back to Auckland. My plan was to head back to my hostel to put on a wash and pack ahead of flying to South America the next day, but Claire’s last words of “You must go to The Gin Room” kept ringing in my head so, after wandering helplessly around the streets and finally getting some directions from the Money Exchange dude, I stepped into an empty Gin Room at 7pm and settled on a stool at the bar whilst chatting to the owner who, incidentally, is from England.

Now Claire had told me you could simply tell him what sort of flavours you liked and he would make a gin cocktail that perfectly suited your tastes (this is what she had done with her fam and all were really happy with their drinks). However I decided to order direct from the menu as I was so won over by the cocktails on offer – yet completely spoilt for choice that making a decision took a lot of questions and pondering (I say this as though it isn’t a regular occurrence anyway). I’m gonna say about 15 minutes later I finally ordered my drink; the award-winning Savouring Private Collins with Haymans gin, Aperol, celery syrup and soda. Much to my delight it was garnished with raw beetroot.

 

It was really refreshing but perhaps not as strong as I would have liked – when you’re paying $18 for a cocktail you want it to hit you hard. Still I was enjoying sitting at the bar and chatting to the few groups of men whom had turned up, one lot being a band on tour playing in Auckland the next day. AND the bartender kindly gave us a complimentary shot glass of banana daiquiri. So naturally I ordered another cocktail, this time opting for the one that spoke my language both in ingredients and in its name; Perks of Being an Elderflower with Hendricks gin, Saint-German, Aperol and lemon. This time the strength was really good but the elderflower (St Germain) fairly subtle and there just wasn’t enough of it (I drink cocktails like a fish). BUT it was pretty…

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I checked out around 9:30am the following day and put my luggage into storage before going off on a walk, firstly meandering through Auckland Domain to reach the War Museum; a grand-looking building punctuated by the war memorial out the front. My gripe would be the couple having a photo taken in front of the memorial, grinning for the camera – I just don’t understand the need for selfies or smiles at something so tragic. 

I continued my walk through the main streets and towards Mount Eden Domain, climbing the steep steps for 10 minutes up to the summit to be rewarded with 360 degree views of Auckland city.

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Another hot and bright day, a city that isn’t usually the most popular with tourists shows its own appeal. I walked back down and back through the city streets, passing by Aoeta Square where they are hosting Auckland Live Summer in the Square and the current performance was Opera singers – I took a pew on the steps nearby and sat in the sun whilst listening to impressive live singing. 

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Finally, tired from the sun, I wandered back to my hostel to pick up my bags before walking to the Queen Street Skybus stop to catch the Skybus to Auckland Airport – at $17 when booked online – for my 6:20pm flight to Santiago, Chile. Well, New Zealand, you have been beautiful, but it’s time for me to go…

LS.

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