Auckland 2017 – The Sixth Day

You may remember, gentle reader, that I mentioned towards the end of my last entry that I had suffered a small glitch yesterday afternoon while leaving the Auckland Museum in the rain. I mention it again only in case it may have slipped your mind. Hold that thought…

I awoke this morning in slight discomfort, a discomfort that centred around the knee and ankle of my right leg, the same leg that, for some unbeknownst reason, didn’t quite fulfil its purpose yesterday in keeping me sure footed and upright. When I realised in my pre-coffee fogginess that the discomfort I was feeling was the direct result of yesterday’s glitch, words escaped from my mouth that were both foreign and unrepeatable in polite company such as yourself, good reader. Suffice to say, I was not a happy camper!

Not to let such a thing set me back, I resolved to get up, and get out and about and do something with the day that lay ahead. I was not going to let a mere glitch upset my day nor my holiday.

As I mentioned I started off with some degree of resolution. I returned to the same cafe as yesterday, again walking the short distance from the flat to enjoy a couple of lattes, and some pages of the book I am currently reading. I resisted the temptation to replace the absent lemon tarts with something else, if only because nothing else there took my fancy at the time. The ‘stroll’ to the cafe was a little slower than yesterday, and towards the end I was very much looking forward to sitting down and taking the weight off my leg. Nevertheless, I thought a bit more gentle exercise, i.e. the walk back to the flat, would be enough to get me back into the swing of things and allow me to head out to do those things I had planned to do today.

Reality, however, had a different thought.

By the time I had return to the flat, I realised that my resolution was misplaced. There was no way I was going to be able to stay on my feet to walk through the New Zealand Maritime Museum on Auckland Harbour today. It would have only made things worse, and the impact would have lasted for many days more. Reluctantly, I opted to postpone my visit to the Maritime Museum and to, put my feet up – particularly my right one – in the hope that by resting and the usual other treatments for such things I might be able to salvage the rest of my holidays.

And so, having made the decision, I did exactly that. I stayed in my flat, and kept reading. I did venture out late in the afternoon, but only to the supermarket so I could have some food for dinner.

While disappointed that I’ve had to take a ‘rest day’, it’s not like I’ve missed anything. My general approach of only planning ahead one day means that my trip to the Maritime Museum is only postponed not abandoned, and the day in the flat (more like an afternoon really) also meant I could give some thought to what else I might do in coming days. But you’ll have to wait for further updates to find out what’s been planned.

Auckland 2017 – The Fifth Day

After my journey up to the peak of One Tree Hill yesterday where the wind was plentiful and strong, I awoke this morning – early! – but with a definite ‘twinge’ in my sinuses. Knowing what this might be the harbinger of, I decided, spontaneously, that today should be an ‘inside’ day. And by ‘inside’ I don’t mean staying in my flat all day but rather doing things would would allow me to be indoors and out of the elements. As it turned out, my decision was slightly prophetic since it started to rain just after I had finished lunch and hadn’t let up by the time I had retired to bed.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Having made the decision to have an ‘inside’ day, I had to work out what I should do with myself. The easiest option to bring that to fruition was to grab a coffee! And so I availed myself of one of the suggestions of my host for a local cafe within walking distance and, having grabbed my book, sauntered the 750 metres to a delightful little cafe where I lingered over a couple of lattes, a lemon tart, and the book I’m currently reading. At some point during my second latte, I decided that today might be a good day to visit the Auckland Museum, located within the Auckland Domain, that I had glimpsed while out and about on Monday. By the end of my second latte, the decision had been made to visit the museum after lunch.

Returning to my flat, I indulged in a light lunch in preparation for my museum venture and it was while eating lunch that I noticed through the window that the rain had started. And this was not just a light shower that I had seen a few of during the last couple of days. Oh no, this was rain, steady and consistent. I was momentarily tempted to abandon my proposed museum adventure but rallied myself, donned my shoes and sallied forth via my trusty hire care for the 15 minute drive to the Auckland Domain and the Auckland Museum located therein.

Given the rain I was prepared to park in the underground car park (even though it would be a little pricey) but as luck would have it, or divine intervention intended, a (free) on street parking space opened up just 50 metres from the entrance to the museum. It was clearly meant to be and so, preparing to run the gauntlet of the rain for that short distance, I took what was on offer.

Purchasing a ticket, and preparing my camera (photographs being allowed inside the museum), I entered the three story Auckland Museum. The museum, which like other museum features exhibitions of the natural and cultural world in which it sits, also acts as the War Memorial, with one of its entries overlooking the Court of Honour in which is located the Auckland Cenotaph. Wandering through the museum allows a strange coming together of these different streams of Auckland’s (and New Zealand’s) corporate and historical life.

The first floor looks primarily focuses on the cultural background of Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly the Maori and broader Pacific cultures, and also included a special series of ‘stories’ about the Treaty of Waitangi (or Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Maori). The displays in this part of the museum were incredibly beautiful and highlighted for me the sophistication of the Maori people (which is not meant to sound as elitist as it does in writing) and their culture and knowledge. I took many photos in this part of the museum, but as some of them feature patterns and images that the Maori consider to be sacred, I won’t be making them available on this blog or my online photo albums.

The middle floor of the building features displays and exhibitions focussing on the natural history of New Zealand, with displays on the geology (earthquakes and volcanoes), flora and fauna. Again there is attention paid to the Maori understanding of this aspect as well. Again, I found this exploration quite enlightening and fascinating, though less so than what I seen on the ground floor.

The top floor is reserved for the military history of New Zealand and features two Halls of Remembrance – once for World War 1 and another for World War II – as well as other displays concerning the military history of New Zealand, from the Maori Wars to current involvement in United Nations peacekeeping operations. There was also a small room remembering the Shoah or Holocaust of World War II. As I often do when visiting such memorials, I found this room particularly poignant. The most moving sight in the whole third floor, however, was in the World War II Hall of Remembrance where, alongside other marble tablets inscribed with the names of those who died, there is a set of blank marble tablets with a simple inscription along the lines of “Pray that these tablets are never filled.” Amen, amen, amen.

Having spent a delightful few hours wandering the museum, it was time to leave (if only to avoid ‘peak hour’ traffic) but I couldn’t resist a visit to the Museum Gift Shop. It was there that I purchased a gift for myself – a ‘talking stick’ (or rakau korero or tokotoko) to be held by the one who is speaking in a gathering as a sign of authority. Perhaps I might bring it out when I preach…just as a reminder.

The only ‘glitch’ in my whole day was the ‘almost’ fall as I was leaving the museum. I may have already mentioned it was raining? My foot didn’t quite completely grip the last of the four steps I was descending as I was leaving, and started to go from underme. I managed to avoid hitting the ground, and there was a momentary jar in the knee and ankle, but hopefully nothing that will set me back. Stay tuned for updates on that one!

My ‘inside’ day was brought to a completion with a nicely cooked meal, cooked by myself I hasten to add. It was nothing fancy, but it was all the more satisfying because I had prepared it myself.

Auckland 2017 – The Fourth Day

Today was a good day.

It started a decent and civilised hour – either my body has adjusted to New Zealand time or the alarm was set properly. Being up early enough meant that I was able to attend to some ‘household’ chores – washing primarily – before setting out on the adventure I had planned for the day.

And the plan was to visit Cornwall Park and, in particular, One Tree Hill that sits at the centre of the park. Cornwall Park sits almost in the middle of the city of Auckland, and is simply a place of quietude and recreation, an open space that is available to anyone and everyone for recreation, for picnicking, for simply being. It is a ‘public’ space that had its origins in a private estate owned by Sir John Logan Campbell, termed the ‘father’ of Auckland, who was both a commercial and civic presence in the city from his arrival in 1840 until his death in 1912.

In 1901, Campbell gifted the land that is now Campbell Park to the ‘people of New Zealand’, together with an endowment that has meant that the land is free to be used by the people of New Zealand for ever. It is the kind of wonderful philanthropic largesse that was common among some of the successful and wealthy of the day. And while there was certainly some aspect of self-memorial involved in the gift – Campbell is still remembered one hundred years after his death – the sense of gift is still very much central to the existence of Cornwall Park in the life of the City of Auckland today.

At the heart of Cornwall Park is One Tree Hill, and at the top of One Tree Hill is an obelisk that marks the final resting place of Sir John Logan Campbell. It was this obelisk that I noticed on Sunday as I was driving in from the airport and wondered what it signified. Some research – by which I mean reading through some of the guides mein host provided – revealed the significance of that landmark and I resolved to visit it at some point during my stay.

Today was that day.

I spent a delightful day in Cornwall Park, and although I didn’t walk all the way up to the peak of One Tree Hill – yes, I was lazy and drove – I did spend many hours just wandering through the park, looking at the plants and trees that are lovingly tended, watching the sheep and cattle who graze in the fields (yes, it was my first sighting of sheep in New Zealand), and lunching and coffee-ing at some of the delightful eateries scattered in various parts of the park. It was peaceful and a simple delightful way to spend my day.

The photographs I took from the peak of One Tree Hill, including those of the obelisk, can be found here.

By the time I had wandered for several hours, it was indeed time to return to my flat, to eat, and to retire to bed for an early day.

Auckland 2017 – The Third Day

So my body clock is clearly still adjusting to being in New Zealand. I awoke at a time that would have been most suitable – if I happened to be on the east coast of Australia. Or it could have been that the alarm wasn’t set properly. In either case, I wasn’t up as early as originally intended, but still early enough to make the most of the day.

Before retiring to bed last night I was tossing up some possibilities for what I would do today. I had narrowed it down to two options – either travelling over to the north head of Waitemata Harbour at Devonport, or visit the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy at Torpedo Bay. Both destinations looked appealing and not being able to make up my mind, I resolved to make a final decision this morning.

Refreshed by coffee (God bless coffee!) I made the rather pleasant discover that Torpedo Bay is, in fact, located in Devonport, and so it would be possible for me to do both destinations today with relevant ease. This revelation made up for the ‘sleep in’, and I sallied forth from my flat mid-morning to navigate my way across to the north shore of the harbour. The task would have been a little easier if Ms. GPS hadn’t decide to take the morning off and I having to rely on Google Maps on my phone (not ideal when it’s not mounted in a place within eyesight). Thankfully there wasn’t a wrong turn taken and I managed to arrive at the Naval Museum unscathed and without having caused any traffic incidents – at least that I’m aware of.

The Naval Museum is fairly small, but contains a goodly array of displays outlining the relatively short history of the RNZN and of the Royal Navy in New Zealand before that. It’s probably not the kind of museum that most people would find interesting. Having an interest in military history, however, made this an almost ‘must see’, and I spent a very pleasant hour or so meandering through the exhibits, reading some of the stories, learning about the naval history of New Zealand.

The highlight of this museum visit, however, was not in the historical exhibits, but in a piece of art that has been installed in a very well lighted room of the museum, a room that looks over the harbour back towards the city of Auckland. This artwork is a representation of hands reaching up from a shallow pool of water, against the background of a ship’s ladder that extends up through the glass roof, and which has water dribbling down towards the pool of water. The artwork is the only object in the otherwise large room. The photograph I took doesn’t really do the work justice.

It is haunting. It is demanding. It is unmissable.

After a quite enjoyable lunch at the museum’s cafe, I drove the short distance to the North Head Historic Reserve, which similarly to the north head of Sydney Harbour originated as a base for the military defence of the harbour at a time when there was a great fear of Russian imperialist expansion. The present reserve, known as Maungauika to the Maori, continued in various military functions up until 1996 when it was handed over to the Department of Conservation and becomes a Historic Reserve.

The scenery from this headland is simply stunning, and one can understand why it would make an ideal military post from which to observe and defend the harbour it overlooks. I spent an hour or so wandering and exploring the site and the sights, the photos of which can be found here.

Towards mid afternoon I headed back to my flat, detouring via the supermarket to grab some food for tonight’s dinner, there to relax into the evening.

Auckland 2017 – The Second Day

Today was an unplanned day designed to do two things. Firstly, there was a need to begin adjusting my body clock to New Zealand Time, which I think is going to prove somewhat difficult since it seems determined to stay on Australian Eastern Time. Though my alarm went off at the designated time of 7.30am, I didn’t wake until almost 9am – which I am going to put down to a long day of travel yesterday.

The second aim for today was to ensure that I stocked up on the necessary food supplies that will allow me to base myself here in my Epsom flat, and only have to have light snacks while I’m out and about.

With that in mind I sallied forth this morning to familiarise myself with the local surrounds, particularly in terms of coffee shops (vitally important to know) and supermarkets (less important but still significant). In the process of doing so (by which I mean I took a few wrong turns despite the best intentions of Ms. GPS) I discovered the Auckland Domain, and spent an hour or so wandering around that lovely and luscious green space close the city of Auckland. There was some lovely and breathtaking views, and some interesting memorials and structures dotted around the Domain. My intention is to return there before I leave to take some photos of both the views and various structures.

Leaving the Domain, I resumed my search for a supermarket close by my place of residence, and after a little bit of searching managed to find a medium-sized iteration not that far from the flat. After obtaining a few supplies and returning back to the flat, I ate a late lunch and then collapsed for a nap. Again, I’m blaming the day of travel yesterday.

In the evening I decided to go to the movies to see the film Dunkirk. I would thoroughly recommend this (relatively) short movie (it’s only 106 minutes) to anyone with even a passing interest in the military history of World War II. The story of the Dunkirk evacuation is told through the eyes of soldiers, sailors and flyers – and the wide array of civilians – that were involved in that singular event in the timeline of World War II.

It was a wonderful performance by an ensemble cast – as movies such as these tend to be – which didn’t pull any punches though wasn’t gory in terms of its depiction of violence. It was the stories that were much more important, and they are told with care and honesty.

After the movie it was back to Epsom and to my bed where I attempted to get to sleep at a ‘civilised’ hour and continue the adjustment towards New Zealand time. But more of that tomorrow…

Auckland 2017 – The First Day

I hate 5am wake up calls!

The first day of my overseas journey to Auckland and surrounds started very, very early. Having to be checked in at the airport by 7am at the latest, an early start was required. The benefit of such an early start, however, and flying business class on this particular trip was the invite to wait within the Qantas Business Lounge once I had proceeded through bag drop and passport control. And what a benefit it was: food, drinks, comfortable seats, free internet, and all the other amenities one could possibly want. And as for coffee – which was definitely required at that time of the morning – there was the ‘choice’ of high-quality instant coffee, or barista-made espresso. Not really a choice in that context.

It was a pleasant way to spend the two hours I had to wait between arriving at the airport and boarding my aircraft. I may never fly economy again!

Business Class aboard my Qantas 737 is a small part of the aircraft – only the first three or four rows – but the seats were certainly wide and comfy. Given that I am quite tall, I was able to stretch out fairly easy which made the trip quite comfortable. The food was pleasant – almost silver table service from our own dedicated crew member – and plentiful. The only ‘down side’ of my Business Class experience was the family of five sitting in the row behind me. Not that I have a problem with a family travelling together; just with a family that includes someone (anyone!) who hasn’t quite mastered the concept of the ‘inside voice’, particularly the ‘inside voice’ appropriate for a small aircraft embarked on an international flight.

The trip itself was surprisingly short – just on three hours – to the point that it was almost a domestic flight! And the airport experience at Auckland International, which was undergoing some renovations, was smooth and friendly, not that I expected anything less from the Kiwis. I managed to get through passport, customs, and biosecurity control with a minimum of fuss during a peak period, and then managed to collect my hire car and be on the road within forty minutes of touch down. It was impressive I must say.

I navigated easily to my chosen residence thanks to the GPS in the hire car, and was greeted by my host’s daughter (since they’re away) and

welcomed into a small but roomy apartment that is going to prove quite a pleasant base over the next two weeks. It is on the front right of the photo to the left, and is well appointed for visitors with all that you could possibly want for a stay.

It is located in a quiet suburban street, a refugee from the hustle and bustle of everything else, and a place where I can retreat at evening time after a day’s journey. I would highly recommend this place, which I found via AirBnB, and am only too happy to ‘spread the word’.

After settling in and unpacking, my only adventure was to head out to Mass. I’d had researched the possibilities on this, and discovered that the Cathedral in Auckland (of St Patrick and St John) had a Mass on Sunday evening at 7pm. I know, right? Very, very late Mass, but the assembly was large, so the time must be popular.

Unfortunately, Mass wasn’t the experience I would wish: the presider played fast and loose with some liturgical norms, the acolyte was overly pious and therefore distracting, and homily was far from nourishing. The homily hardly touched on the Scriptures, and was a mix of psychological babble and spiritual platitudes. There was no meat to it, and I left Mass feeling incomplete, diminished even, and wished I had done something else. But anyway, I fulfilled my ‘obligation’…

A quick meal and then bed…to sleep, perchance to dream.