I quite liked this genteel suburb, a reminder of days gone by when captains and merchants took residence here. I had all the time in the world to slowly stroll along the shoreline of Torpedo Bay, a mixture of mussel coated basalt and sand with seams of white and pink shells. I tried to imagine what it must have looked like when it was once home to torpedo boats in hostile times.
At the end of the bay I stumbled across the Navy Museum. It was the naval captain William Hobson, who helped to draw up the Treaty of Waitangi, that established the naval presence at Devonport. Here at the museum, displays and videos revived memories, perils, loss, triumph and humour of the men and women who served, and continue to serve, this country on the ocean waves, through the World Wars and conflicts since then.
As an island nation, the sea has been crucial to New Zealand for travel, commerce, and defence. And the navy has taken a key role in this country's security and development.
A Tree Whose Trailing Branches are Trained to Act as Supports
Contrasting Residential Styles in Central Auckland
Climbing up to the summit of North Head, I took my last lingering looks past Rangitoto to Waiheke Island and the Coromandel Peninsula beyond, and from a different viewpoint across Torpedo Bay to the harbour and the dramatic skyline of downtown Auckland. Just before leaving an area which I may never visit again, I try and freeze an image in my mind's eye, hoping to capture the essence of the area, but I never seem to successfully retain it.
I climbed back down from the Head, and soon I was ambling along Cheltenham Beach, the waters of which were knee deep 50m out. Parents were quite happy to let their kids splash about with no fear of nasty rips to wash their offspring away.
When I got back to the main drag of Devonport, I was content to browse around the art galleries, sip coffee, and people watch, until the rains came. Then it was back to the ferry, back to downtown Auckland, and back to the hotel to check whether my clothes were actually dry or still a sodden heap. Fortunately they were dry, though I was soaked by the downpour. But hey, this has been New Zealand's worst summer in ages.
In the evening I walked down to a local pub which had many screens showing the match between Arsenal and A C Milan, ordered some food and sipped a beer. I could detect English accents behind me; an elderly couple. "Do you want to know the result?" I asked them. "No, don't spoil the tension," they joked.
I was absorbed in the game, even though I knew the outcome, when my concentration was broken by a young woman asking if she could sit at the same table as me. "Help yourself," I told her. "Where you from?" she asked. "England," I replied. "You can't speak English," she blurted out. "And where are you from?" I probed, trying to work out an accent from the drunken words that tripped over themselves as they splattered out of her mouth. It took three attempts for me to gather she was from Auckland. "Who is playing?" she asked, her hand waving wildly with a finger pointing towards the ceiling. "Arsenal and A C Milan," I informed her. She laughed with manic rolling eyes, which looked rather garish behind her bottle bottom glasses. She was suddenly distracted by the background music, obviously a tune that she liked, and she started to sway on her seat, with her hands darting about in small jerks, vaguely following the music tempo. I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was eyeing me up as she gyrated from the hips up. My God, she is not going to drag me up to dance is she, I thought. "My boyfriend is from South Africa. He can't speak English," she gurgled. I started to reply, but thought better of it. "Which one is Beckham?" she enquired, leering through the screen rather than at it, with her uncoordinated finger vaguely pointing at some old timers in the corner of the room. "He is not playing," I kept my answer brief. The music changed, and she gyrated even more, this time with a glass of some transparent liquid in her hand, slopping its contents all over the place. I must have visibly retreated a foot or so. My prayers were answered when she suddenly got up and weaved an uncertain trail out of the door into the rain. A cold shower might wake her up.
"Who's your friend?" laughed the elderly couple behind me. We all had a laugh about the incident. The woman was tickled that the girl had come in for a glass of tap water, obviously already the worse for wear.
The couple came from Yorkshire, and were on their second visit to New Zealand. It was coming up to the chap's retirement, so they had made the special trip down here. The first time they came was after the woman's retirement from teaching. As we chatted I discovered the lady had studied at Manchester the same time as me; small world. They had hired a car, and had stayed in hostels, motels and hotels, and by all accounts had had a wonderful time and met marvellous people. "I would have liked to have moved here 40 years ago," said the lady, "but you can't just pack your studying in. There is nothing much for youngsters back home now, they can't get the work." They were passing through Hong Kong for 3 days before heading back to Britain, and were already wondering where to travel to next. Good for them I thought.