Auckland PT 1

DAY 1

My first night here was pretty shithouse. The backpackers I was booked into was basic at best and I got off at the wrong stop from the airport bus and had to trudge around for ages up and down epic hills just finding the place. Inside it was hot and noisy, and in a pretty bleak part of town. I wondered if I had made a terrible mistake. But for some bizarre reason that Tuesday night I arrived brought epic prices for hotels so I had to book a shitty place until it was safe to afford a decent place.

The only thing redeeming was the cutness of the TV and discovering Cassette 9 – a bar that looked cool, but almost too cool for me to venture upstairs. I walked a few more steps past, then said to myself – “harden up!” And then I was bounding up and chatted with the staff and had a fish-burger and immediatly broke my self-imposed fast on chips. Ugh. I am hopeless. I simply cannot help but eat chips whenever I am travelling.

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Cassette 9

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DAY 2

Dragging my bags down that stupid hill into town wasn’t as bad as I expected. But then I had to go uphill again seeing as my new digs were on the 18th floor of a semi-posh place. But I didn’t get to see the room just yet (as it was only just 10am). Leaving my bags with the conceiege I wandered uptown, and it really is “uptown” anywhere out of the CBD. This city is steep! Not quite like San Fransisco, but really, really close!

Up, and up and up I made it to Ponsonby where all the boutiquey shops lived. I stopped outside a Karen Walker store knowing this was a gimme if (or more acutely “when”) I decided to buy Dee a gift, but I felt too embarrassed to go inside. and a few ks later I was over at “k’road” which was a bit disappointing. All the vintage stores sucked, at least for cowboy shirts.

Next I was just feeling my way towards Mt Eden – one of those 50 volcanos here – and the tallest point nearest to the CBD. I only had to ask directions once which was a bit stupid cause the mountain stood out even more than a deadshit tourist like me.

And suddenly I was atop this beautifully bald mountain and now my yellowy dusty shoes matched, and also echoed the burnt bald grass all around, and I was enjoying a fantastic vista of everything and more about 50ks around. I tried to count those 49 other volcanoes and that was fun, but then it was time to head down.

My first taste of the new hotel room was grand. The TV was awesome and the shower was hot and there was a fridge for any takeaway booze. I rested for a bit, then had a stroll around albert park.

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A gooby out-of-focus shot of me by another touristImage

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It’s pretty spectacular up there.

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Then I found this epic record store with it’s own NZ Alternative section. I don’t think Australia has ever had one of these. Except maybe in Melbourne.

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Albert Park in twilight.

I then threw all my RULES out. I had wanted to save the Skytower for when I was getting bored. But I was so excited I decided to smash up. And cause it was only 300m from my hotel that wasn’t such a hard decision. Suddenly I was in the glass elevator and I wasn’t scared. And this is important cause I was petrified in Osaka the last time I travelled up a skyscraper whose elevator had a view.

I even stood comfortably on the glass floor with the 200 metre drop below.

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DAY 3

Today began with a tiny bit of fuzziness, perhaps explainable by excessive alcohol, which was compounded by the news (just as I managed to have the courage to leave the room)  from the housekeeping staff telling me the lifts were broken.

She explained I could take the stairs and so I took a deep breath and did as I was told even though it felt really weird in there. All the internal doors were locked (which I realised cause I periodically checked) meaning I was trapped here in this concrete monotonus elevated-hell until I got to the very bottom. And even then escape was not guaranteed.

A mild wave of claustraphobia ensued but I soldiered down all 18 floors trying not to panic. I counted each level getting steadily more at ease the closer to zero I got.

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When the stairs ran out I found myself at another locked door and hammering away at the handle with no effect meant my heart (and hungover brain) went a bit internally postal until I noticed a red button off to the side called “door release”. I didn’t care one bit if I set off a fire alarm, I just wanted out. The button worked and I was blissfully outside.

Ecxtatic to be free I headed upwards, (something I was getting entirely used to) towards the Auckland Domain.

The trees here are very spidery. Ancient-looking. Prehistoric even. They’re big and twisted with external root systems, but low, not much bigger than a two-story house.  Crucially – they look gobsmackingly amazing.

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Through the gardens and up and up another fucking steep hill I made it to the Museum – a big, gloriously white, and important-looking building with those massive marble, Roman columns. And it’s set on a hill with sunburnt fields of grass all around.

I needed a break from walking, so I went inside for a look. There was a 10 buck donation entry fee for tourists. I paid it and the dude at the counter, knowing I was from Australia, said – “are you sure?”

I like to pay my way. I don’t like being a cheapskate. That’s just the way I was brought up.

Although the war stuff was horribly emotional and the NZ wars were worse, the highlight was the volcano/earthquake simulation, but the war stuff was pretty emotional too. Particularly the NZ wars. Whoa! I wiki’d that later and was amazed at the difference the NZ civil wars had compared to ours which were more one-sided massacres rather than actual battles.

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Needing food quite desperately I followed signs to Parnell – another boutiquey place, originally the first settlement in Auckland. I only saw one old house but disappointingly it didn’t look much un like an old Queensland colonial.

Then back in the city I took a ferry to Devonport. I had no idea what to expect, but when I saw one of those big volcano hills, with all its baldness approaching, I was excited. I smashed up that grassy-temple following some Japanese tourists. My heart was exploding with the effort but my shoes just fit so snuggly into that browny-red earth which had a billion shoe-holds to conveniently follow.

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ImageInside the old WW2 fort

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That’s Rangitoto in the background there, which will become important laterImage

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When night arrived I went back to Cassette 9 knowing Chicks on Speed were playing. I fully intended on getting an early night, but once chatting with the bar guys and the DJ who was playing awesome tunes, I plonked $20 bucks on the table and committed myself to a big night. COS! a band I had last listened to almost a decade ago. I was a bit reticent and I wondered if I had the stamina to suffer a late night (jet-lag included) all by myself.

But I stepped up and found some souls to talk to including the bar staff and the DJ who was playing some petty sweet tunes. And then after all three bands, of which COS fucking rocked! I then got to do some dancing to awesome music – which is sadly quite a novelty back at home.

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