Auckland and the Bay of Plenty
24.11.2013 - 01.12.2013
Budget airlines are fine for short hops to continental Europe, they're bloody awful for 10 hour long-haul flights. Add in surround sound screaming toddlers and over-enthusiastic air conditioning and there was never going to be much sleep on my JetStar flight from Singapore. I was welcomed to a gloriously sunny Auckland by my Mum's cousin Jonathan and his wife Linda, who I'd met in the UK a couple of years ago. We decided to make the most of the weather and they took me on a whistle stop tour of the surrounding area, starting with the black Western beaches.
Crossing back over the Waitakere Range we stopped for cake at the aptly named Elevation cafe, with stunning views over the city.
Then to Mount Eden, a dormant volcano in the heart of Auckland, for more views followed by a well earned glass of wine in an actual pub. By this time I felt I had my bearings, but fewer than two hours sleep in 30 had taken its toll and I escaped to bed after my first home cooked meal in 14 weeks.
Feeling refreshed I headed in to the city centre on Monday for lunch with Jonathan and explored the harbour front and Albert Park, home to the excellent Auckland Art Gallery. The next day I accrued some serious granddaughter brownie points by visiting Gran Gran's oldest friend, Ann, who lives in a retirement village on the north shore. It was lovely to hear all her stories and about the history of New Zealand, a topic on which she can talk for hours.
In the afternoon I climbed One Tree Hill, now something of a misnomer as the tree has been twice cut down by Maori activists.
In the evening we had fish and chips at Mission Bay with a view of Rangitoto before watching the sun set. Next morning, Linda, Michael (their son) and I took the ferry out to Devonport, where New Zealand's historical coastal defences are sited, although they were never used.
I used Auckland as a base to visit Dan and Sarah (who were in the year above me at BSMS) in Mount Mangaunui where I kept Dan company post nights and climbed the aforementioned hill. It was lovely to catch up with them and a close call as they are about to return to the UK after working out here for a year.
From there I went to Rotorua, home of hot springs and the smell of eggs, a result of geothermal activity just under the crust. I've wanted to see the bubbling mud since I was I child and saw pictures in an ancient copy of the children's book 'I am a Maori', which I read every time I visited Gran Gran.
After a final night in Auckland, complete with a delicious BBQ with family and friends, it was time to say goodbye to Jonathan and Linda who had made me so welcome and provided the perfect start to my time in New Zealand. The next morning I was off to Wellington, by train of course.