It’s odd to think that a little over two months ago I was still working away, with barely enough time (between work, training and organising my basic travel plans) to actually think what I would be doing when I arrived in New Zealand, let alone how I’d fare a few months later… so here goes, some tales of the travels I’ve done since leaving the UK so far!
(I’ll be kind and do split posts, so that you don’t have to trudge through a full month – and a bit – of travel stories at one time)
So after almost 30 hours of straight traveling, I arrived into Auckland, New Zealand just after midday.
I did the only natural thing that you can do at that time, and after so much traveling by heading straight to the hostel, meeting my dorm-mates and having a well deserved rest, before heading out for a burger and ‘kumara’ (sweet potato to anyone from the UK) chips – and then crashing again for the night.
After taking the following day easy, and exploring Auckland centre, it was time to head a little further afield with some of the people I met at the hostel…
The first stop was the ferry terminal in downtown Auckland, and a short boat trip over to Waiheke Island.
It was here on Waiheke Island that the group of us met the legendary (apparently) Max Walker – with his brilliant banter and tales of touring the island with Miley Cyrus…
We didn’t really have a plan for the day (and mid-winter, morning trips to a vineyard seem like an odd prospect for someone who doesn’t drink much anyway) so we wandered the island, heading first along Oneroa beach, stopping for a bite to eat and then further around to Palm beach – both of which are stunning – I can understand why so many Aucklanders may consider Waiheke as a wedding venue.
View across Oneroa Beach, from the Little Oneroa Walking Track – Waiheke
Palm Beach, views out to Nani Island – Waiheke
View back over Auckland City skyline and the Skytower, from the evening ferry
I met up with Michelle, the girl from Auckland I lived with in London. We caught up with all that was new with her, before she showed me around a lot of the suburbs, including stopping in Davenport for coffee, going to North Head to look over the city.
Then we had lunch and then heading out to Piha with its black sand beach, and the ‘Lions Head’ splitting the north and south beaches. I think it’s the first time I’ve been to a black sand beach – it’s quite odd to see, along with the hard-core body boarders who were still heading out into the surf despite the winter weather – but I imagine the sand would get scorching hot and the good waves and current for surfing, along with the views, make it a really popular in summer too.
The view around Auckland bay from North Head
Piha’s north and south beaches, separated by the ‘Lions head’
The group of us from the hostel headed down to the ferry terminal again – this time to catch the 10.30 ferry out to the volcanic island Rangitoto.
We decided to go the less popular route (away from the rest of the visitors it seemed) and walked anti-clockwise up to the crater via the scenic/ocean route, before it cut up through the forest. It was tough work in some areas, and really strange along the track at how quickly the scenery would change… one minute harsh volcanic rocks around, looking like a scene from The Road, the next a beautiful little sandy beach, and then up into the forest!
We arrived at the summit just after 1pm, so after having lunch at the summit, we started to head back towards the ferry port – as the last ferry was at 4, and that was it until the following morning – so we didn’t want to be stuck there. The plan was for us all to go back via the volcanic caves that were close to the crater, but as a couple of the girls weren’t that keen on seeing them, and were more anxious about missing the last ferry, we split off into two groups.
So I headed towards the caves, and between us we set a pretty brisk pace (so instead of the route taking the suggested 20/25 mins, it only took 10). The caves were interesting with their sharp rocks – but much smaller than I had imagined, they would probably take about 5 minutes to get through if not for the bigger groups of tourists. They also formed part of a ring route, so there was no avoiding going through them unless you just waited at the start of the ring. Amazingly, there were a fair few people still heading towards the caves once we had made it through, so it didn’t feel like too much of a hurry to head back to the ferry. As it happened, we walked fairly fast anyway, and managed to get to the ferry port about two minutes after the other group, which meant we still had about 25/30 mins before the ferry to sit and enjoy the ‘winter’ sun!
Rocky walking track around the western coast of Rangitoto
View from the crater summit, back across towards Auckland
The volcanic caves route
View across the bay, out to the Rangitoto lighthouse
The sandy beach, off the rocky track around the coastal route
Two of the other girls from the hostel (Rachel and Desi) and I had all been talking about our travel plans for New Zealand, and so after much discussion, started looking up routes and information about hiring a camper van between us… which was good as it also allowed us to rest our feet from the 20+km we had walked around Rangitoto!
The three of us decided to make the most of our last day in Auckland before heading out to pick up the camper van the following day. So we headed up to Mount Eden, or Maungawhau, mid morning – which I’d been told had some of the best views over the city from the craters edge – very true, and a great recommendation!
Mount Eden is a volcanic crater just a few kilometres from central Auckland, and the Maori story is that the god Mataaho lived, there in the crater ‘Te Ipu-a-Mataaho’ – or the bowl of Mataaho. After his wife left him (and took all of his clothes – forming the other volcanic cones) the goddess Mahuika sent fires to warm him – hence the volcanic crater.
The view across Auckland, from the top of Mount Eden crater.