...... previous day next day ......
Auckland Auckland

3rd December 2011

An Enjoyable Day Down by the Waterfront Just Soaking Up the Sun and Atmosphere

Rigged Vessels
    I began the day buying a few items for my "on the move" travel. I regard these as disposables; I will sell, give away or just bin them after I have done my New Zealand stint.
    That taken care of, the rest of the day was mine to do as I pleased. It would be a waterfront day, the rough plan being head down to the ferry terminals, then cross to Viaduct Harbour and the recreational area just beyond.
    I made my way down Queen Street. Unlike high streets in Britain which seem to become very hectic at the weekend, here folk appeared to be relatively thin on the ground compared with a working day. I passed a down and out sitting on the floor propped up by a shop window. There were very few such folk in Auckland. He had a small paper cup at his feet, hoping he might get a few cents. He looked so far gone, drink or drugs I'll never know, that he wouldn't even notice if somebody ran off with his cup. A bulky Maori chap was standing in a doorway close by, his holdall on the floor. At first I thought he was a street performer going through a rap routine; I had seen one yesterday. It didn't take me long to deduce there was something odd about him. As I got almost alongside him, he started turning into the doorway, and putting his hands down the front of his oversize pants, muttering God knows what in a tongue I did not understand. "Good grief," I thought, "he's going to urinate." I didn't hang around to find out. I've seen a man urinating in a main street in Manchester, a woman urinating in a major square in Brussels, and my grandson weeing his pants just before a family photo shoot three weeks ago. So why can't Auckland have some of the action?
One Corner of Millionaire's Row
    But back to the harbour. The first people to see and sail on the Auckland harbour were ancestors of New Zealand's original settlers, the Maori, who arrived here from the eastern Pacific about one thousand years ago. According to tradition they named this harbour "Wai te Mataa", a reference to obsidian, the black volcanic glass prized by the Maori. On a fine day the harbour's waters were said to glint like obsidian, although a popular translation of Waitemata, as it is now known, is "sparkling waters".
    When Captain James Cook circumnavigated New Zealand in 1769 he did not venture into the Waitemata. However, the harbour received regular European visitors from the 1820s, and when John Logan Campbell, "Father of Auckland", first saw the Waitemata in 1840 he described the sight as "unequalled" and "unsurpassed". Auckland was established that same year, and its first wharf soon began creeping out into the harbour from the foot of Queen Street, then the settlement's main thoroughfare.
These Beat Deck Chairs Any Day
Auckland Tram Decorated for Christmas
    As New Zealand became more prosperous, the 1950s saw the rising popularity of sea travel for the greater number of New Zealanders wanting to go abroad. In the days before airliners, the voyage to Britain took about a month, going via either the Panama or Suez Canals, and calling en route at such exotic ports as Papeete, Kingston, Gibraltar, Aden and Bombay. Princes Wharf became familiar as both a departure point and destination.
    Down by the Hilton, which sits at the end of a pier jutting into the harbour, I watched the scow, Ted Ashby, enter the small basin. This flat-bottomed craft was almost identical to one I'd seen the other day at the end of Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco. In both locations, such wide flat-bottomed vessels were ideal for delivering heavy bulk materials in shallow coastal waters. It moored up between two other rigged vessels; a pleasure to behold.
    I weaved my way through throngs of people (perhaps that's why the high street was sparse) to Viaduct Harbour, popping into a Rugby World Cup shop on the way. The rugby and sweat shirts were cool. An extra bonus, the sale prices had reduced costs from $140 to $100. Strangely, on seeing that, my pockets got deeper and my arms shorter. Funny that. I'll check the costs again next March when I return.
Rather Large Gin Palaces
    Viaduct Harbour was once a busy but scruffy fishing port, until it underwent a major makeover on the lead up to New Zealand's successful defence of the America's Cup in 2000, making it the largest super-yacht marina in the Southern Hemisphere. Nowadays, particularly during the summer season, ostentatious super yachts are moored up. The backdrop to this opulence was the tall buildings on Auckland's Central Business District. I smiled to myself as the string of millionaires' vessels took me back to D�sternbrook marina in Kiel, where about 8 months earlier Alan, Rex and I moored Kiitaja in "millionaire's basin" without realising the exclusivity of the zone. Ashore, the pretentious "admirals", and anyone else for that matter, can spin their yarns in themed bars, fashionable expensive restaurants, or wind down in the exclusive apartments lining the waterfront.
Pretty Tree Flowers
    Just beyond the harbour was a recreational area with neatly kept reed beds and children's' play areas. Preserved old grain silos were left standing within this area, reminding Aucklanders of their heritage. The setting was tastefully and cleverly created; one would never guess there was a working oil terminal less than 100m away. A stage had been set up on a decent sized green, on which a band was blasting out some good music. Between songs, the spiel oscillated between English and Maori, which didn't seem to create any problems for the audience stretched out on the grass. There were quite a few "hippy" characters floating around the area. I had picked up on the "hippy" presence the other day, and had even commented about it with the three guys I met yesterday. The city seemed to be in a time warp. The blokes had agreed, but weren't that bothered about it.
    Just past the recreational area lay berths for enormous multi-storey gin-palaces. An army of contract painters and polishers was engaged in furious activity touching up one of these giants. There is no shortage of money here. I looked across St Mary's Bay towards the Harbour Bridge, with Westhaven Marina situated before it. The myriad of masts backed up the statement that Auckland is the "City of Sails".
    I ambled back to the Ferry Building, idly watching a ferry land its ramp on a floating jetty so that its cargo of cars could disembark. The ferry was bouncing up and down with the swell, as was the floating jetty, but not in synchronism. The cars were having to judge when to make a dash for it, or face getting their undersides grounded on the flexing ramp.
    Once I reached the Ferry Building again, I decided to carry on in the opposite direction. My route took me past the Ports of Auckland, a vast container terminal built on reclaimed land. I proceeded to Teal Park where I was afforded superb views across Judges Bay to Devenport. I walked out along a breakwater protecting the coastguard station, and sat for a while on basalt rocks taking in the sea air and the magnificent surroundings. Basalt is found everywhere here; on breakwaters, walls and all the kerb stones. After all, the city is built on basalt.
    From here, it was an interesting walk across out of the way roads to get back to the hotel, taking me through university buildings and past the High Court.
St Andrews
High Court
    Thinking I ought to eat to replace all the calories I had burned up today, I indulged in a Thai meal, and very tasty it was too. I have no complaints about the food in Auckland. Wending my way back to the hotel, I came across a bar with large screens inside showing racing, football and rugby. My eyes lit up at the latter, the HSBC Sevens in Dubai were being shown live. Sipping a cool beer and watching that, I was happy as a sand-boy, totally oblivious to the noisy, crowded Saturday nights-out that I was surrounded by.

...... previous day next day ......
Auckland Auckland

Uploaded from Quadrant Hotel, Auckland on 4th December at 09:32

Last updated 3.12.2011