Adventures in Auckland

Our first adventure occurred earlier than we had planned, when we started hearing a thumping sound as we drove along the highway. We pulled over to check, and found that one of our tires had blown a strap. Fortunately we had a spare, though it was buried under all our luggage. A passing motorist had a jack, and then another guy volunteered a portable air pump, so we were able to get back on the road, albeit at reduced speed.

We tried to find a place that would sell us new tires, but it was Boxing Day, so even the shadiest discount shops were closed. So we drove the rest of the way to Auckland on back roads, with Jazz and Captain sharing the back seat with a busted tire.

We checked into what turned out to be a very nice AirBnB. Clearly someone actually lived here at some point, because they had the nicest collection of wine glasses we’ve seen in ages, a huge six-burner gas stove, working fireplace, and even two stacked drawer-dishwashers and a huge back porch. After fork-lifting our jaws off the floor, we took a walk around the Parnell neighborhood to find some food. Along the way, we ran into some leftover Christmas decor, and the neighborhood cat, who looked like she may have had a quest for us.

We returned home to find that Captain had settled in nicely, and had a nice relaxed evening chilling out and treating all our hiking-related mosquito bites. This zapper has turned out to be an amazing investment.

Our next morning was a little delayed: a few calls revealed that we still wouldn’t be fixing the tire that day. We were almost ready to leave when Jazz couldn’t find her wedding rings. We aren’t in the habit of wearing our metal ones, because salt water, and so our systems are a little shaky. She was sure she’d put them in her bag, but they weren’t there, and we commenced tearing the house apart. Andrew eventually found them tucked into a pocket of his bag… on his third time looking there.

Once our adrenaline had worn off and breakfast was eaten, we set off for a trip to the aquarium. The featured exhibit is their colony of gentoo and king penguins. (For some reason we were expecting to see the native korora, or little blue, penguins instead.) They waddled and swam, and we got to see them get fed, and it was all very entertaining. There were even penguin chicks in the rookery!

There was also a lot of stuff more typically associated with an aquarium, like a walk-through tunnel of big fish and sharks. And seashorses, pipefish, and jellyfish. And, of course, a giant jaw-bone.

In the afternoon, we went to Garage Project to sample some beers, and then took a walk up Mount Eden for a view of the city. The Mount Eden district is also a hot spot for Asian food, and we stopped to sample some soup dumplings before heading home.

Captain woke up for his late-afternoon zoomies, so we took him for a walk in the Auckland Domain, the park conveniently located just behind our temporary home. To get there we had to pass by a train station, which would have been very convenient had it been in service, and which had a great sign with a cat in a travel carrier.

Then we settled in for a late-afternoon drink: we’d bought a special sour from Garage Project, and it was fantastic, but also it was a lot, and we found that one glass each was all we wanted. Before it got too dark, we went out for what turned out to be excellent Thai food at JoyBongThai. We don’t have pictures, but their food was good enough to merit a call-out, especially since they were able to make everything Jazz-safe. Then nearby we found this little fairy door.

The next morning we headed downtown for a walking tour. Here we have the ferry building, modeled after the one in San Francisco and made of stone imported from Australia. Next, our guide sits on a grafiti crest melding a bunch of iconic New Zealand images: a meat pie, silver ferns, a kiwi riding an (extinct) Moa, and a crate of returnable beer bottles. Then we have the street where the first beer in NZ was poured, and Sky Tower in the distance.

Left, some street art. Right, more art, in a plaza commemorating New Zealand being the first sovereign nation to give women the right to vote.

The ornate wooden roof of the Auckland art museum, a statue of Queen Victoria, and a clock outside the university. The hands have been removed to prevent the engineering students from riding them, part of a popular but destructive drinking game. Below, a facade at the university, and a plaza broken by skylights for the underground train, with free bean bags just chilling.

Our favorite stop on the tour, outside the university there is a park full of huge, twisty trees, which have been reinforced with steel bracers to make them robust against climbers. During the school year, they are full of studying and loafing students, but school was out so we had them almost to ourselves.

Along the way, our guide gave us a recommendation that echoed a top-fifty list we’d found earlier. So we headed back to Bao & Noodle, where we had amazing hambao and dandan noodles, and an OK but not great bowl of glass noodles.

We also passed back by the Auckland Art Gallery. The building is amazing, with fossils visible in the polished stone. The exhibits at the time were less so, with lots of indecipherable modern art.

Coming home, we found Captain full of zoomies and in full explore mode. Jazz and Ben kept him occupied at home, while Andrew went off to get new tires.

In the evening, we went out for underwhelming tacos under the Sky Tower, before meeting up with the same guide for another walking tour. This one was tour of five historic bars, and in each one, we had a beer or glass of wine and heard stories about Auckland’s history. The venues were diverse and gorgeous, some not normally open to the public, with styles from gaudy art deco to converted police station. Pictured first, at Brew on Quay, the precursor to the one-way mirror that officers used to listen in on interrogations. At the rooftop bar, Mr. Murdoc’s, we heard the story of the convict-turned-pirate Charlotte Badger, which has many twist and turns. The third stop was Vulture’s Lane, one of several claimants for location of the first pint drawn in New Zealand.

We passed through a closed bar, normally a tour stop, that had kindly left their doors open for us, and heard about how this was once the center of Auckland’s red light district. Then we crossed the street into the opulent Hotel De Brett, where we learned the absolutely wild story of Jean Batten, a female aviator and arguable con-woman.

Our final stop was the Shakespeare Hotel, New Zealand’s oldest micro-brewery-pub. There, we watched an intoxicated patron get cut off in the gentlest, most New Zealand way. We returned home to find a comfortable Captain Cat waiting patiently on the counter. We’re really going to have to do something about teaching him where he can and can’t go, once we move back to somewhere permanent. In temporary places, there doesn’t seem to be much point, though it would be nice if we could curb his more suicidal exploratory urges.

In the morning we had a nice “Full New Zealand” breakfast around the corner, and headed to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. We were a bit confused, but it turns out that the museum is at a memorial, and it does has some war-related content, but is mostly just a general museum of New Zealand. There’s a lot of pre-colonization Maori art..

And a bunch of New Zealand natural history..

They also host twice-daily haka performances, which was an easy if somewhat canned-feeling way to see a little bit of Maori culture.

We walked home through the Parnell neighborhood, which was now a little more open than it had been on Boxing Day. Here we have St Mary’s church, sadly closed when we passed, and some intricate alleywork in a little restaurant district. We ended up grabbing a snack in the area, and received beer in Panhead glasses with an nicely themed pour line. Pour markings are universal here, so we infer that there’s a law.

That evening, we again met up with Wes and Susan, this time at a comedy show. There were ten local comedians on the billet, almost all very funny, and the they kept us laughing for three hours. We sat up front, got mildly roasted by the MC, and had a wonderful time. Andrew was quickly identified as an “arrogrant c&nt” after we were outed as Americans, and the MC spent a surprising amount of his time trying to get a laugh out of a rather stoic Ben. Also Andrew bought a pitcher to share, but was immediately challenged, hence his improper use of the glassware.

By the time the show ended, Wes and Susan had missed their ferry, but Auckland has Uber so everyone made it home safely, and we had our last nights sleeping in real beds before heading to the boat.

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