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After having been in Auckland for less than 24 hours, I had been pleasantly surprised to find I loved the place.
We were staying in Parnell, a rather chic suburb which I do rather like but isnt terribly suited to a backpacker budget. Even Mark loved it when we first walked around, lamenting that he wanted our normal lives back so we could go in the amazing restaurants that lined the main street of the suburb.
We went out exploring on our first afternoon and ended up at a some rather costly bars while we discussed whether to throw caution to the wind and have a fairly fancy meal to reward ourselves (for what I don’t know – lasting 5 weeks in Fiji – such trauma). But a few bars later, including one where the man who ran the bar and I had a fascinating (to us, not to Mark) converstatoion about the social history of New Zealand and much of Europe. He also helped me plan our entire route around the North Island. Needless to say, we never quite made it to that sophisticated meal but instead went to a burger bar, which to be fair, was the most expensive burger bar known to mankind so I think it could still be counted as ‘fancy’.
The city centre was generally unspiring, but then aren’t they all. You only had to walk a few blocks from the central city to find somewhere interesting or nice though. We were surprised to find around some of the harbour area was quite cool things with a restaurants built in big cargo crates and our personal favourite, the oversized sun loungers which both of us could lay on with still room for another one or two people (yeah I know!). They’d made what was once an incredibly industrial, harbour area into a stylish and unusual area. I believe this whole area was regenerated for last years rugby world cup. There were lots of restaurants and a fish market but it was quite quiet so I do wonder if it will last. It’s a lot of high capacity restaurants to fill.
One of the other things that have found impressive (this is really old lady of me) but the public transport is just fantastic. Incredibly cheap, quick, on time, frequent, with the news and weather on a tv screen and free wifi on-board – are you kidding me?? It’s like public transport on the Truman Show or something. It’s just nice, at the very least, to see that the drivers don’t have to be encased due to the threat of violence.
One day after being the city, we decided to get off the bus at the K Road area, described as having lots of vintage and eclectic shops. I’ve fallen for this ruse before and have ended up going to some rubbish place with shops run by rich, bored housewives full of new stripped pine furniture and shabby chic stuff (plenty of that stuff in Hove!) or vintage clothes that cost three times that of buying something new, but no, K Road is the real deal. It is fantastic – tons of op shop style places with lush second hand clothes and accessories (Sunny G’s -god help me resist), tattoo parlours (god help Mark resist) with a few cool bars and cheap eats. It also looks like may be main gay area, which always is a good advert. I was practically swooning over all the cool stuff on sale. How unfair I can’t buy any of it. *Stamps feet stroppily*.
We really liked Auckland, me particularly, it has a calm vibe yet is efficient and artsy. But after a few days, we were really struggling with our budget. We kept going to bars and eating out and we realised we have so much to learn about backpacking and had to kick some of our bad habits. That kind of took the shine off of Auckland a bit, without a car, the shops we went to for food were pricey too, but we tried to be good and eat in the hostel and resist all the temptation that surrounded us.
We also did a lot of walking. I like walking around cities. I think it’s the nosiness in me to some extent, but I also find it useful to get my bearings. But OMG – Auckland is soooooooo hilly. Just to get out of the hostel to get onto the main road each day was a choice of 1 of 3 steep hills. One of them was almost completely vertical – worse than the worst hill we went up in San Francisco even.
The major downside was it showed how unfit we were. The upside being that after a few days we were already much fitter.