I am writing this in some dive pub just a few doors down from my hotel and I just saw someone on a fucking tall bike. Ugh. But this hasn’t taken too much shine after what has been, so far, not such a bad day.
I was intending to get the 9am ferry to Rangitoto Island, but wisely chose more sleep and a bit less of a panic to get ready for my trip to that quasi-remoteness. Rangitoto is the most recent of Auckland’s bazillion volcanos. Only 600 years ago it simply wasn’t here and the next day it was – although it took about 200 years to stop erupting and settle. It’s formation was witnessed by the Maori on the neighbouring island – itself an older volcanic outcrop. Can you imagine the drama of this event? I guess whatever was on TV was suddenly irrelevant.
I was going to do this walk on a weekday, but figured I should do it on a weekend cause there were more boat options home. The first thing I noticed as i got off the boat was all this dirty-looking “mud” everywhere. Except it wasn’t mud, and I got a bit of a shock when I got a bit curious and touched a bit of the stuff to find it was rock.
And the more I walked it was just everywhere. Quite a bizarre landscape. Naturally I smashed up the mountain super-eager to get to the top. I think I only know a handful of people who are faster walkers than I. And walking in a brand new setting means I am extra-swift. Just before the summit is the big crater and then a bit more climbing brings you to an old wartime observation post.
Littered all over the island are these traps for furry mammal-pests — New Zealand having no indigenous mammals. Even possums here wreak havoc on local fauna.
After this selfie I couldn’t help but run down. That seemed easier than stomping down at a walk on such a steep gradient, anti-intuatively trying all the while to slow your progress. I took a side trip to a lava cave which ran for a good 50 metres. Quite spooky inside and dark!
And then i was back at the jetty in time to have a snack and catch the next boat home.
After a one-hour nap, which was so necessary after such a big hike, I ventured off to Cassette 9 again, if only to ask for directions to somewhere else just as awesome. It worked out!
The bartender recognised me immediately, much to my embarrasment, cause I had no idea who he was. I told him to never mention Thursday night again, but slyly tried to pry out more details of my previous misadventures. Luckily I had not made too much of a fool out of myself and he was willing to guide me uptown to a place called the “wine cellar”.
I staggered up the road, up that stupid hill towards k road. I turned right and just looked around fr signs of interesting people amongst the detrious of homeless people, porn venues and shitty bars. I spied a woman in a beautiful red velvet dress and asked her where it was and she greeted me with an amazing smile and genuine enthusiasm to help. But perhaps that was because I was literally standing right in front of my destination, though up a flight of stairs.
Inside there was one of those “homemade” looking bars, but behind, through a concrete tunnel deathzone was a room with armchairs and people rockin out – albeit accoustically. It was pleasant sinking into the 2nd hand sofos, but I soon got bored as none of the performers grabbed me. And when the last guy did a final song, then an encore (which really didn’t garner much support), he then did a double encore. I stayed for that song, but then he started playing another. WTF? I had had enough by then.
Today was kiwi day. And by “kiwi” I mean that literally. I was off to see the bird everyone here is so enamoured with. I have never seen one in the flesh and with my new appreciation of birds this was something I just had to do while I was here.
Meanwhile I should note I am writing this in a bar that seems to have been a driveway once upon a time. Fittingly it is called “Imperial Lane”. It serves pretty good hot dogs – the only food here I have actually been impressed by. But in saying that, I haven’t really done any fine-dining. It’s hard to go to decent restaurants all by your lonesome. I am told you just need to bring a book, but something about that seems defeatist. Maybe that’s just me.
So getting back to today.
When I woke up it was raining outside which must have been fantastic for the locals as it seems NZ is in the grip of a drought ATM. Which is quite bizarre for a country renowned for it’s epic precipitation — being stuck in the middle of an ocean and having really tall peaks to trap all that weather.
Of course I only realised it was wet because there’s an outdoor camera hooked up to channel 12 on the hotel’s TV feed. And I was so disbelieving of the technology I drew the drapes and confirmed it for myself. Being in a hotel can often distort your understanding of the world outside.
So after that shower I expected the world to be chilly, but once outside all the rain had gone and it was another perfect day. Trudging across the Pondsby/Hernes Bay ridge I got to see some of the suburbs of Auckland on this trip. Nice art deco and big wooden houses with huge bay windows abounded. This was where I would live if I ever lived here.
I walked all the way – maybe 7 kilometres, up and down this crazily-hilly town in temperatures that wouldn’t be entirely unnatural at this time of year in Brisbane — which lies in an entirely different tropic at least 1000kms north. Along the way there, apart from the amazing houses, my path took me right up next to their beautiful harbour. But then I saw a house that must have just burnt down the night before with locals gawking and a fire investigation crew wandering around looking serious.
And as I trudged on I accidentally approached the Zoo – a big fucking place it should be noted – from the point farthest from its entrance.
Eventually I got to Auckland Zoo and headed straight for the Kiwi bird enclosure which was no easy task. It should be said I am not a big fan of zoos, but I guess there’s some reasoning to the existance of these places. I think this is only the second zoo I have visited since I was 14. I imagine they function somehow protecting endaged stuff and possibly raise awareness in kids about conservation. Maybe.
But as I gushed at the amazing fauna everywhere I still wept at their captivity, their existence mostly for our amusement. Especially the birds. I made a point of queuing up “Free as a bird” in my playlist just to be stupidly poingent.
The Zoo was a maze but eventually I found them. You’d think they would make a bigger deal outta them, but what would I know?
It was really dark inside and the romance was almost lost as I immediately came so close to knocking over a small child, utterly invisible in these conditions. After ages hunting around the enclosure with eyes taking forever to acclimatize to the gloom, I enventually spotted one – there s/he was. A bit like a quieter version of our chooks, always poking at the leaf litter. After seeing my very first Kiwi in that perfect lighting for such romance, I tried to find a way out.