Depart: Perth AU (PER) Terminal 1, 16th Mar 2013 17:50 Western Standard Time (GMT+8) Arrive: Auckland NZ (AKL) Terminal I, 17th Mar 2013 05:15 New Zealand Daylight Time (GMT+13) 3,317 miles (6 hours 25 minutes)
What I remember most from this flight was theHobbit inspired safety video that was presented to us just before take off, apparently it has won a lot of awards! The Lord of the Rings theme carried on after we landed, where London Heathrow has posters of red tuniced guardsman and beafeaters Auckland has elves and hobbits!
Auckland is built on a narrow istmus where you can walk from the east to west coast in about 4 hours. It is also pitted with about 50 volcanic cones and craters and half the city seems to spend their free time jogging up and down them trying to keep fit. The most famous of these are Mount Eden (Auckland's highest volcanic cone) and One Tree Hill of U2 Joshua Tree fame and whose tree was chopped down by a maori activist in 2000.
One Tree Hill - minus the famous tree on its summit chopped down in 2000
One Tree Hill from Mount Eden
Auckland including the Harbour Bridge and Skytower from Mount Eden
The summit of Mount Eden at sunset
In my opinion however the cone with the best view of Auckland is Mount Victoria on the North Shore of the harbour above the naval base at Devonport. On top of it is Fort Victoria and its disappearing gun built in 1899 in response to the threat of Russian expansionism in the Pacific. Offshore and dominating the view out to sea is Rangitoto, the largest and youngest of Auckland's volcanoes which last erupted about 600 years ago.
The disappearing gun at Fort Victoria overlooking Auckland Harbour
The spectacular view of Auckland Harbour from Mount Victoria
The Fossil Forest exposed on Takupuna Beach in front of Rangitoto, Auckland's largest and youngest volcano
Just like Freemantle when Australia won the America's Cup in 1984, Auckland's harbour side attracted a lot of investment and got a major revamp after New Zealand won the Cup in 1995 and 2000. Several multi-millionaires have their luxury yachts in the Viaduct Harbour (one 5 star hotel even offers them berths!) and the New Zealand and Italian America's Cup Teams are still based here.
New Zealand's 1995 America's Cup winning yacht NZL32 "Black Magic" in the NZ Maritime Museum
The luxury yacht Ulysses moored in Auckland's Viaduct Basin
The Headquarters of the New Zealand America's Cup Team
The Italian America's Cup Team are also based in Auckland
Thousands of yachts are moored in the Marina and demand for berths is so high that one company even offers multi-storey berths promising to have a customer's boat in the water within an hour of receiving a phone call. Across the mouth of the Viaduct Basin is the $3.7 million Wynyard Footbridge which opens to let boats through and is popular with tourists and cyclists.
The Skytower viewed behind a forest of yacht masts in Westhaven Marina
Whatever next? A Multi Storey Boat Park down on the waterside in Auckland
The Wynyard Footbridge across the Viaduct Harbour
The Wynyard Footbridge is raised to let a private yacht out to sea
Also by the Viaduct Harbour is New Zealand's Maritime Museum which in addition to galleries on the arrival of the Polynesians, early pioneers, immigrants and the America's Cup also has twice daily sailings around the harbour in the Ted Ashby, a modern reconstruction of ketch-rigged deck scow typical of those used to transport cargo around New Zealand's coasts 1870-1920.
Hoisting the Sail aboard the Ted Ashby in Waitemata Harbour off Auckland
View of Auckland from the Waitemata Harbour
While sailing on the Ted Ashby we sailed under the Auckland Harbour Bridge completed in 1959. Originally it only had 4 lanes which was very quickly found to be inadequate and by 1969 a Japanese construction company had been engaged to add a further 4 lanes which ever since have been affectionately known as the Nippon Clip-ons. It is also possible to do a bungy jump from a bungy pod close to the southern pier of the bridge; we narrowly missed catching someone jumping as we passed underneath!
Me approaching Auckland Harbour Bridge aboard the Ted Ashby
The bungy pod close to the south pier that they jump from underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge
Returning to port aboard the Ted Ashby off Auckland
Not far to the west of Auckland is the 70 square miles of the Waitakere Regional Park with its visitor centre at Arakati with views of Manukau Harbour, Auckland's second harbour facing west connected to the Tasman Sea.
The Arataki Visitor's Centre in the Waitakere Regional Park
View across to the West Coast and Manukau Harbour from Arataki
Me in a picture frame of the view of Manukau Harbour from Arataki
The Park was formed in 1940 to protect the remaining local NZ bush and allow what had already been lost to regenerate. This includes the Kauri Tree (which can live for 2000+ years), Rata Tree (which start as vines growing up other trees) and New Zealand's national emblem the Silver Fern. At Karekare there is a waterfall in a glade that was used for scenes in the Oscar winning film "The Piano".
Rata Tree near Piha in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
Karekare Waterfall in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
Close up of the Karekare Waterfall and the beach used in the film "The Piano"
Our final stop was Piha, famous for its iconic vista over the beach and Lion Rock. Beaches on New Zealand's west coast facing the Tasman Sea have iron rich black sand originating from volcanic dust while those on the east coast facing the Pacific are a more usual sand colour.
Me sat at the Lookout overlooking Piha Beach and Lion's Rock
The big park near the centre of Auckland is called "The Domain" and is the site of yet another currently inactive volcano (called Pukekaroa) whose crater is now used for sports fields (there's got to be a cliche there somewhere!). Dominating it all is the Auckland Museum, an iconic building that looks like a Greek Temple that also serves as the Auckland War Memorial, an approach I have seen adopted in several other New Zealand towns as well.
The volcano's crater at the Domain is now used as a sports ground!
Me stood outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum
Looking down on the Grand Foyer of the Auckland Museum
The ground floor of the Museum is dedicated to Maori Culture with the impressive Maori Court containing amongst other things a Maori Meeting Room, Store House and a large War Canoe. The Maori arrived in New Zealand (called Aotearoa in Maori) about 1000 years ago from Polynesia. Meeting Houses are at the heart of every Maori marae (village) and are full of symbolism of the ancestors. There are protocols that need to be followed before a stranger is allowed to enter a marae (non Maori are called pakeha).
The Maori Court at the Auckland Museum
Maori Meeting House - complete with posing Maori warrior!
Inside the Maori Meeting House
Large Maori Pataka (Storehouse)
Maori War Canoe
The highlight of the Maori Court was the Cultural Performance, after being greeted and taken into a small theatre we were given an explanation and display of traditional Maori dances. The most famous Maori dances for women are with tethered weights known a Poi. There is also the Ti Raku where a stick is thrown from dancer to dancer, this is the basis of many children's games and it is considered bad luck to drop the stick! However the most famous Maori dance of all is the Haka War Dance and this was used to close the performance.
The Ladies of the Maori Dance Troupe prepare to do the Poi
Maori Poi Dance
Maori Ti Raku Stick Dance
Haka War Dance
The next floor of the museum was devoted to nature and as the Kiwi bird that symbolises the country is nocturnal I (as it turned out wrongly) assumed the stuffed specimen I saw here would be the only one I would see in New Zealand. Also covered on this floor were the volcanoes and earthquakes that have moulded the country's landscape. This included a room that looked like a normal Auckland suburban lounge with a patio door looking out onto the bay and a news channel being broadcast on the TV in the corner. The news follows the emergence of a new volcano in the harbour that can be seen through the patio door and then as it erupts the cloud moves towards you and the floor of the room shakes mimicking an eruption and earthquake - definitely one for the kids (including older kids!).
A stuffed Kiwi on the Natural History Floor of the Auckland Museum
The Earthquake Lounge in the Auckland Museum
The top floor of the museum is devoted to New Zealand's military history and emergence as a nation through the loss and suffering of war. There were galleries covering every conflict New Zealand has been involved in since the Maori Wars of the 19th Century with particular reverance to WWI and WWII including a WWII Hall of Memories where the names of the fallen of Auckland are inscribed on the wall.
World War I Field Gun at the Auckland Museum
World War II Hall of Memories at the Auckland Museum
World War II Field Gun from the Italian Campaign in the Auckland Museum