Auckland: Introduction to New Zealand

by Britta on 3 December 2013

in Down Under

City of Auckland

City of Auckland

Our entry into New Zealand was not a rough one. Despite the 9-hour flight, the shortest route from the U.S. to New Zealand, by way of Honolulu instead of LA, and the fact that we lost a day—Tuesday, Nov. 12 simply didn’t exist for us—New Zealand, Auckland specifically, wasn’t so dramatic of a change for us that we felt lost and culture-shocked upon our arrival. They drive on the other side, they speak with charming accents, their money is colorful (I mean, colourful) and made of plastic, but for the most part, the country felt only slightly unfamiliar. We could still read signs and newspapers, (mostly) understand the comments and questions posed to us, and easily recognized the Starbucks on every corner.

So we really weren’t feeling too culture shocked when we arrived. Not, that is, until we saw the sheep grazing in the middle of the city park. That’s when we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Sheep in Cornwall Park

Grazing Sheep in Cornwall Park

We were hiking through the city of Auckland, on the Coast to Coast walkway. Yes, that’s right, we hiked from the west coast of New Zealand to the east coast, from the Tasman Sea on one side to the Pacific Ocean on the other. Nevermind that the whole thing was only 16km (about 9 and a half miles). Auckland is on an isthmus, at the narrowest point on the North Island, and dotted by bays and inlets and estuaries, so walking from one side to the other isn’t quite as big a feat as it would seem, though it was a pretty interesting walk. We took the train to the other side of the city and then searched for the trailhead for half an hour before we started on the trek. It was a great overview of the city, starting in a suburb and passing through several of its neighborhoods and parks before ending downtown on the wharf.

Eastern Rosella in Cornwall Park

Eastern Rosella in Cornwall Park

We saw the sheep in Cornwall Park, home of One Tree Hill, which is a volcanic cone with a monument on top bequeathed by John Logan Campbell, the colonial landowner, to the Maori who had inhabited the area before him. The one tree is no longer there—it’s just a stump—cut down by Maori activists a dozen years ago. That tree was apparently not the original tree, though. The original tree was cut down by British colonists, and the last tree was planted as a sort of appeasement, but it was a non-native species, and the current feeling is that once the native land claims to the area are resolved, the proper tree will be planted again. Or at least that’s the story I’ve cobbled together from a few different sources. There are actually several trees on the hill, though there are none at the top, near the monument, and the stump is actually downslope a little bit, with other trees nearby.

In addition to sheep, we saw pheasants in the park, and parrots in the trees. We got all excited about them until we saw locals wander nonchalantly by on the path, not even bothering to look up. They must be like squirrels for us, we concluded, an animal we have not seen yet since being here. We also saw a car with an Alyeska Resort sticker in the parking lot.

America's Cup Yacht

New Zealand's America's Cup Yacht

We visited the Maritime Museum on the Auckland waterfront, which chronicles the history of New Zealand waterborne endeavors from the first Polynesian sailing canoe through the arrival of European explorers like Abel Tasman and Captain Cook, and ends up with a space dedicated to one of the recent America’s Cup yachts, complete with broken mast and sail. New Zealanders are proud of their ocean going heritage, apparently, sailors serving as national heroes for many, so the museum was put together with care and zeal, with quite a few interactive displays, from a ship’s hold that tilted and rolled, meant to recreate the experience of immigrants traveling in steerage, to a station where you could create your own America’s Cup yacht.

We happened to be in Auckland on the weekend of the 5th Taste of Auckland food festival, perfect for us foodies to eat and drink and learn about Auckland’s cuisine in the process. We met up with some friends who used to work at the Resort with us, who are also part of the F&B world, and together we talked about living in New Zealand (they have been here 4 months and are working on getting resident visas), things they missed (having a car) and things they loved about their new home (best gelato in town is apparently outside the theater on Queen St). We sampled beer and wine and cider, crayfish meatballs and calamari and wagyu beef and saw the biggest prawns we’ve ever seen on the grill next to lamb chops and pork belly.

Auckland at Night

Our View of Auckland's Skyline at Night

Auckland is only a two hour difference, time wise, from Honolulu, so we didn’t experience any jet lag. We were tired upon arrival, but mostly due to lack of sleep on an overnight flight (and a missing day). Once we were rested up, we got back into our normal rhythms quite easily. So we were pretty sure we weren’t experience lack-of-sleep hallucinations when we saw a street blocked off in front of a department store and a huge Santa dangling off a crane on his way up the building. But wait. It’s 20 degrees today (70 F), and getting warmer. It’s late spring, nearly summer, and they’re putting up Christmas decorations? Now we know we’re far from home.

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: