We spent time in Auckland on 2 occasions, on arrival in New Zealand, and on departure, having chosen the capital city as the pick-up and drop-off location of our rental van. We didn’t do much either time, needing to rest, save money, and avoid the cold and rain outside!
Our first stay was short, and we were still recovering from jet lag after our long flight from Buenos Aires. New Zealand has very strict bio-security laws, so we were instructed to handover our tent for inspection. This was returned to us, cleaned of all remnants of South American soil, at the arrivals hall. We looked like real hobbos packing up our tent in the middle of the airport!
Our backpacker’s was fairly central, so that evening we went out for Indian curry and a stand-up comedy show at The Classic. We thoroughly enjoyed all 3 acts, although I (Steph) was still battling to stay awake!
That night we caught our first glimpse of the iconic Auckland Tower, all dressed up in neon lights, and looking suspiciously exactly like its more famous sister in Toronto…
We stayed longer the second time round, needing to rest again, and work on the blog and plan our Australian itinerary. We returned to the same backpacker’s, which felt a bit clostrophobic, but seemed to be the only in Auckland to provide free, unlimited, good quality wifi, which was essential for the completion of our tasks.
We met a few foreign students and travellers there, and had interesting conversations (some in Spanish again!), but most people don’t stay in Auckland for fun (work or studies), so no-one was in party mode. Some people were even participating in medical trials to pay their way, so no drinks or toxic substances for them! Very different from hostels in South America! So we went out just the 2 of us, for Nando’s dinner (a South African chain), and a movie at the Imax (Guardians of the Galaxy).
We also passed by a graduation ceremony in town, hundreds of students all dressed up in ceremonial gowns and hats. Some of them took this opportunity to organise a musical perforance to stand up against oppression in North Korea.
Daytime was spent at the hostel, or shopping/hairdresser, on rainy days, or exploring the city on sunny days. Renaud visited the waterfront (cafes in shipping containers and open-air libraries), and parks in the city center, while I went to Birkenhead, on the other side of the bridge.
This part of Auckland can also be accessed via a reasonably-priced ferry, but I took the bus. It is dotted with by-gone volcanoes covered in lush green forest. Many parks, trails and even beaches, are accessible on foot.
I went there because Birkenhead is home to a branch of the spiritual organisation I am part of, the Aetherius Society, where I participated in prayer sessions to send out healing and positive thought, energy and light to our world. Afterwards some of the members, who I was meeting for the first time, kindly took me out to lunch at a local eatery.
We left Auckland, and New Zealand, with mixed-feelings. This green oasis is undoubtedly beautiful and rich in cultural and historical significance. But so are many other countries which doesn’t make New Zealand unique, contrary to all the hype around it, or justify its exhorbitant prices. To be fair, if we had had better weather, and a heftier budget, our experience would have been quite different. But having come from Patagonia just before, we couldn’t help but compare, and Patagonia, with its cheaper and freer travel and more dramatic and varied lanscapes, wins hands-down…