Our round the world trip (18): Auckland

Day 19 (Saturday) was spent in Auckland – the morning in a group tour of the city and the afternoon free to explore as individuals.

The group tour took just over three hours and our NZ tour director Mark greeted us in Maori with “Kia ora” (“Good morning”). He explained that Auckland used to be the capital of New Zealand until 1965 when Wellington took over. He told us that Auckland is known as “the city of sails” because one in three owns a boat of some description and certainly there are lots of large marinas all around the harbour. We drove through the affluent districts of Ponsonby and Parnell and the red light area of Karangahape Road.

As we crossed the Harbour Bridge to the north of the city, Mark narrated how quickly the bridge had needed to be widened and how a Japanese company had managed to add a couple of extra lanes on each side of the bridge with constructions known locally as “Nippon clip-ons”. On the north side, we stopped at a place called Bastion Point by Mission Bay. For most tourists, this is simply a wonderful vantage point for excellent views of the city skyline. For Roger & Vee, however, it had political interest because there is a monument honouring Michael Joseph Savage (1872-1940) who was New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister who implemented important social reforms.

Then we all went on a one and a half hour boat tour of Waitemata Harbour in weather that was warm and pleasant like the best of an English summer day. As well as local islands, at Devonport Naval Base we saw two of the 13 ships in the New Zealand Navy. Our boat was awash with Thai schoolchildren and Roger befriended three young girls who, according to their name tags, were known as Boom, Cream, and Nook.

The afternoon was free time and Roger & Vee started with a bit of retail therapy on the main shopping thoroughfare of Queen Street as Vee bought a top and a jacket for the colder South Island. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon – almost three hours – at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. We could have been there a whole day and still not seen all the contents of this grand building because this is in effect three museums, each equally fascinating in its own way.

The ground level is called “People Of The Pacific” and is devoted to Polynesian and Maori exhibits which include a 25 metre war canoe that could carry 100 warriors and a real carved meeting house with amazing wooden faces all along the long walls. Level 1 is titled “Stories Of Our Land And Sea” and covers the local oceans, forests, animals and volcanoes. Level 2 is known as “New Zealand’s War Stories” which start with the New Zealand wars of the 19th century before examining the First and Second World Wars.

As if all this was not enough, we had lunch at the museum cafe, we purchased presents at the museum shop, and we witnessed a thrilling performance by the Tatau Dance Group, bare-footed, big-bellied, tattooed-bodied Maoris. Just to top off a splendid afternoon, the museum is located in the city’s most beautiful park, Auckland Domain.

For dinner, we went out with a member of the group called Andrew, a fellow Brit who was travelling without his wife.


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