Auckland and out.

Last stop in New Zealand was Auckland in the North Island, which is the biggest city, but <boring fact alert> is NOT the capital (that’s Wellington).

I’d decided not to travel the North Island. Mainly because I found I couldn’t push my flights back (well, I could have, but it would have cost me a few hundred quid instead of being free) but also I’m not sure I really wanted to. I’m getting towards the end of my trip now, with only a few weeks to go and I’d done so much on the South Island I kind of felt done. So I decided to keep the North Island to do at another time, perhaps with someone else one day, maybe in a campervan and with more money.

So, I flew from Christchurch to spend a few days in Auckland before heading to San Francisco. Luckily I had somewhere to stay; with my friends Ross and Emma who I met in South East Asia. We all met in Laos at the start of the 2 day slow boat journey down the Mekong river. Unluckily for Emma (but luckily for us) she had been ill and they’d delayed their journey by a couple of days, meaning that we got to meet! Me and Nick then bumped into them (literally, while walking down the street) another 4 or 5 times after that throughout Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. I then tried to arrange to meet up with them in Australia and the South Island but every time we tried to plan it we were always a few days out of being in the same place at the same time!

So what do you want to know about Auckland? It’s nice. Hmm, that’s one of those words that’s just a bit, well, shit isn’t it? But, it sums up Auckland perfectly for me. It’s a nice city. It’s got a good feel, there are some pretty areas, there’s beaches nearby and hills to climb up to get a good view. There’s a decent amount of shops and loads of places to eat. I could live there. But, I don’t feel strongly about it. I don’t feel passionate about it. There was nothing that really stood out as it being different or totally amazing. But, there’s nothing really bad about it either. I suppose I’d maybe say it’s a bit indifferent, I don’t really feel one was or another about it. Well, I’m more positive for sure. And, I did find that the longer I stayed there the more I liked it. So maybe I would love it, were I to stay a while.

I didn’t do the whole tourist thing. I wasn’t out and about every day, filling each second with something (I’ve been there, done that, and frankly after 11 months of it, it’s exhausting and quite often unnecessary). It was nice to stay with friends in their apartment and just hang out. It was like being back with my friends in the UK. Get up, chill out, watch TV (especially the Come Dine With Me omnibus – YES, just like a lazy weekend at my brother and sister-in-laws), surf the net, eat, chat and repeat. Interspersed with little trips out for a few hours. Oh, it was bliss, and a nice little chill out before my last leg of my travels in the USA.

But, I did go to Devonport and Takapuna, Mission Bay and Mount Eden. I did go and watch a rugby game at Eden Park (Auckland Blues vs Sydney Waratahs), I did go up the Skytower for cocktails. I did go for a stroll round the Viaduct and CBD. Oh, I actually did quite a bit really. The best of both worlds.

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And so Auckland marked the end of my New Zealand trip. Just under 2 months here, which has probably gone the quickest out of all of my travels. A magical wonderland with scenery that is so stunning it doesn’t look real, and skies and clouds so colourful, vivid and clear they could be a painting. A wonderland filled with lovely, kind people and hardly any traffic. A land where driving is a pleasure; something to be enjoyed. A land where the pace of life is slow and relaxed, not rushed. A land where life is lived, not viewed through a window because you’re too busy.

Thanks to everyone that I’ve met along the way who’s made it a trip to remember.

Now Dad, when do you want to go?

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Recovery in Christchurch.

My first stop in New Zealand was Christchurch, flying here in 3 hours from Sydney. You may remember I broke a rib while in Sydney, so I was still in quite a bit of pain and discomfort when I got to Christchurch. Mike, a guy I’d met while travelling in Hong Kong, had arranged for me to stay with his mum in ChCh which turned out to be the best thing EVER. She looked after me, gave me the comfiest bed in the world, cooked me food and helped my recovery no end. By the end of that week I was feeling loads better and ready to tackle the South Island in Mike’s ute.

I really enjoyed my week in Christchurch. I didn’t do a huge amount really, just relaxed and rested and caught up on some admin. I went for a few walks around the city, went out for lunch, went to the seaside and enjoyed the botanical gardens, felt like I got a bit of a feel for the city.

Like a lot of others, I’d heard about the 2011 earthquakes on the news, but it didn’t really register, mainly because back in the UK, New Zealand is so far away and I didn’t know anyone over here. It’s only when I got here that I could see the devastation for myself, 3 years on, and you realise how much of an effect on everything there has been. There’s roadworks everywhere, buildings being demolished or sitting empty, building still half in ruins, and business relocating to the suburbs making the city centre feel a bit like a ghost town. But, there’s also a huge sense of opportunity. Of people making the best of it. Of taking chances to make things better. The city is littered with art and tributes, in some of the strangest places. There’s a mall made out of shipping containers which I’m not sure whether it’s a long term thing, but I think it should be, it’s pretty ace.

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I was staying right next to Hagley Park, an ideal haven for runners but I couldn’t run because of my rib. So I had to be content with slow shuffles around it instead. Equally as lovely, it’s a massive park with the Botanical Gardens right in the middle of the city. I especially loved the rose garden, mainly because it smelled amazing, and it reminded me of the roses in my mum and dad’s garden back home.

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I feel a bit sad I never got to see Christchurch before the quakes, because by all accounts it was pretty immense. But, I’ve no doubt that it’s set to become even more incredible in the future. And I’m sure I’ll be back one day to see it.