Hitting the south side of the world: my travels in New Zealand, part 1

Visiting New Zealand was technically a side trip I made because it was a spare connection I had due to my visiting America. It was difficult though to make out what I really thought of the place in such a short time frame to see it. Arriving that early morning on Sunday to massive travel queues, I was in Auckland. Having been picked up by a family friend I spent the first day having a sparkling cider Sunday. In fact it was one of those weird days that centered around heaps of alcohol and the general changing of moods and emotions throughout the day (it was the hottest day in New Zealand by far; the weather left a lot to be desired). Also, being the only person there who wasn’t a teacher, the experience was a bit like being let into the staff room after hours. I was particularly surprised when one of the people I met got emotional when discussing a nine year old bringing in a copy of Marian Keyes’ Watermelon (mainly because this emotional response wasn’t expected), but then again, in twenty-first century schools anything goes…
Unsure of what to do, I headed out of my south Auckland hub to visit the Botanical Gardens where along the way, I stopped at almost every garden to take in the sights. In New Zealand, every house looks different and has a generous amount of colourful foliage in the front gardens, which is the easiest sign to work out that suburbia is shining all around me. South Auckland itself though is a slice of suburbia, and little else. The best tidbit I could garnish came from one of my hosts who stated that one street was permanently featured on one of those late night shows regarding bad, crime-ridden neighbourhoods. That gave the district 5 much needed points, even if it wasn’t necessarily something to celebrate. The gardens were naturally amazing (I don’t know why I seem to have such an obsession with these gardens but I evidently do) because they were calm, serene and hidden within a pocket of the sprawling city. I found these gardens a great individual experience for myself which contrasted nicely with how lonely and alienating a city experience can feel. With the gardens being bountiful and the fact I wasn’t sure what else to do, I returned to the house where my hosts kindly took me to a secluded beach where we had fish and chips. I approved of the Kiwi personality after those two days of their company, they were warm, friendly and inviting.

In the gardens of Eden

Not being sure of what to do in this sprawling capital I decided there was always safety in wine and what could be more enjoyable than a wine tour? This particular wine tour was on island by the name of Whaikeke. Therefore you had to take a boat specifically to this tour giving you a feeling of true exclusivity. The Island had a rugged terrain and was all on a steep gradient demonstrated by the different heights of the trees. As I was the only one doing the tour, which I discovered after, it was a very exclusive tour. The guide was highly communicative, giving me a great depth of information about island life, the advent of roads, fishing, the works. I appreciated his company but felt rather disappointed that this tour, my opportunity to build on that feeling of camaraderie from my first tour was aborted because I choose the middle of the week to do it. The wines were indeed thoroughly palatable, and the final vineyard I visited even gave me near unlimited samples of this incredible peanut brittle, which I was in unbelievable rapture with.

My final day in Auckland was another “what shall I do today kind of day?” I settled on hitting the Auckland museum (when in doubt always pick the museum) which was free and fairly interesting focusing on the difficult relationship between the Maori people and the Europeans, although in fairness, I realised that spending those four days in Auckland were far too long. I should have hit Wellington, which from friends sounds like the kind of semi-hipster city I could admire from afar. Fundamentally the island bought the first part of my trip to a far better standard but Auckland is a stopover city at best. 3/5


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