One of our first tasks upon arriving in New Zealand was to google how to pronounce Aotearoa, so we’re practically locals now.
The journey to New Zealand was a tough one, we won’t bore you with every detail but essentially it was an overnight journey with an unfortunate time difference and we arrived in Auckland at 5am, thinking it was 2am and having not slept for quite a while. We took the Skybus service in to the town centre and carried our bags the couple of hundred metres uphill to our hostel, Attic Backpackers, thinking for the hundredth time that we had brought too much stuff. As it was only 8am, we were able to get in to the reception area but our room wouldn’t be available for another 5 hours. In other circumstances we could have used this time to get to know Auckland a bit, but we were exhausted and the prospect of further walking was decidedly unappealing. So, after a quick run to the shop for food, we settled ourselves on beanbags in reception to wait and it all got just a bit too much for Caro.We eventually decamped to our room and Caro spent the afternoon doing everything she could not to fall asleep, knowing that it would completely throw her out that night, and James snoozed. We went to bed at 7pm and woke up 14 hours later feeling like humans and ready to explore Auckland. We saddled up our trusty lonely planet and went on a walking tour of the main sites starting with a walk up a steep hill, which seems to be a bit of a theme in New Zealand. Having clambered up the hill, the route immediately took us back down it; first through St Kevin’s Arcade, which hosts some more street art, and then extremely steep Myers Park which a very brave man was attempting to mow.We crossed Aotea Square where many new graduates were gathered with their families for photographs and crossed over to Khartoum Place. The small courtyard is home to a tiled memorial to the suffragettes.Whilst the faces are a little bit creepy, the message is a hugely important one as New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote, a fact we were mortified that we didn’t already know. So, we’re going to shout about it here to make up for that: NEW ZEALAND WAS THE FIRST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD TO GRANT WOMEN THE VOTE, WELL DONE NEW ZEALAND! Just beyond the memorial is the Auckland Art Gallery, which is free to enter and well worth a wander around. There was an installation which was exactly our kind of art as you were allowed to play with stickers; The Obliteration Room is a fully furnished flat that has been completely whitewashed and visitors are given a sheet of coloured dot stickers to place at random, the only rules were no patterns or initials and you had to use the whole sheet. In short, heaps of fun.Having had a play, it was back to the walking tour and we made our way beyond the art gallery to Albert Park, also filled with graduates, where James got his compulsory picture with a gun.We strolled around the shopping areas and souvenir shops in search of a terrible gift for Caro’s brother and gradually made our way down to the water. There was a huge amount of development going on around the waterfront and throughout Auckland, it struck us as a city which was simmering but not yet come to the boil. Our other observation on our short visit was the large number of people begging on the street, something that we hadn’t been prepared for and which took us by surprise.
We had debated whether to climb Mt Eden but decided that we had probably done enough stomping for one day and headed back to the hostel with the intention of doing some climbing on Rangitoto Island the next day instead.
We thought it would take us about half an hour to pick up some lunch and make it down to the pier. As the boat left at 10:00 we decided to leave the hostel at 09:30, ignoring the fact that we didn’t have tickets or know what pier our boat left from. We have since made it our policy to leave 10 minutes earlier that we think we need to. We made our ferry but with some unnecessary jogging involved. The trip to Rangitoto Island takes 25 minutes from Auckland and costs NZD33 per person. If you are going to visit, do make sure to check the timings as the last ferry leaves in the mid-afternoon and you don’t want to end up sleeping on the jetty. Our journey was uneventful although accompanied by the unreal cacophony of shrill laughter that 4 teenage girls are able to create and we gratefully disembarked on the island and gave them a good headstart on the trail.
From the information board in the harbour we learned that Rangitoto didn’t even exist 600 years ago and then the entire island was created by 200 years of volcanic eruptions and the terrain is therefore formed from lava, including the walking tracks. It turns out that lava is actually quite hard work to walk on, which in itself is a really cool thing to be able to say with authority.Once the sound of giggling had died away we started to tramp up the track to the crater. It’s not a hugely challenging climb but it is fairly long and, of course, all uphill. There are two possible routes to the crater, straight up the lava track or a slightly more circuitous route called Wilson Park Track. We took the straight forward route on the way up as, about 20 minutes from the summit, there is a trail that leads off the main route to the lava caves and we couldn’t resist this. We clambered through the caves guided only by phone torches.
We pushed on to the crater and were rewarded with an absolutely spectacular view.You don’t have to walk around the rim of the crater to access the main viewpoint but we would highly recommend it as there are beautiful views all the way round. We stopped for lunch at the top, taking as many photos as we could and marvelling at the view.On the way back down we took the Wilson Park Track, which meant descending down steps and boardwalk for a fair distance before hitting gravel track and then veering off in to the undergrowth. This is normally right up our street, and we did enjoy it, but stumbling your way through undergrowth with very hard and spikey lava underfoot is quite a challenge and we would advise that you wear hiking boots for it as trainers were not quite up to the challenge.
We made it to the bottom and sat waiting for the ferry, watching people leaping off the dock in to the sea and trying to decide if we were jealous or not. On balance we thought probably not, as the idea of sitting on the ferry on the way back, soaking wet, was not particularly appealing. For the first time, we’d run out of water on the walk and we were both feeling very dehydrated by the time we reached Auckalnd and a water fountain with the result that we both had headaches for the next 24 hours. Rangitoto is excellent though so definitely do it, just make sure to take plenty of water with you.
From there it was straight back to the hostel for laundry and packing in preparation for collecting our car the next day and starting the 47 day camping trip that was to make up the majority of our New Zealand visit. At the time of writing we are already several days in to the camping so you will be glad to know that we are alive and well. The stories of our many, and ongoing, teething problems will follow soon.