AUCKLAND - DAY TWO
The weather is still “brisky” as I take a walk towards Victoria Park and Market. The city is alive but there is no madness as people and cars maneuver streets and crosswalks in a civil manner. No honking horns just an unusual beep and clicking sound when the pedestrian crossing signal is activated. Some intersections offer diagonal as well as normal street crossings.
There are a few hills to maneuver as I criss cross the city but I eventually end up on Queens Street and have my first sample of New Zealand lamb. Kebab On Queen has a NZ$5 Special on Kebab that is huge with your choice of meats, salad and sauce. The Lamb Kebab with Sweet Chili Sauce is delightfully pleasing to my palette.
Bypassing an earlier planned Harbor Cruise NZ$33, I hop a local ferry service for a short ride across the bay to Devonport NZ$10. I miss out on a tour-guide but save NZ$23 and am rewarded with the same views of the harbor and Auckland City.
With map in hand I begin a self guided walking tour of Devonport heading east along King Edward PDE towards North Head.
Auckland City remains in view on my right as I pass a few of Devonport's still deserted beaches. On sampling the water it is still a bit frigid and I guess too “brisky” for swimming.
At the end of King Edward PDE, I turn north through a neighborhood of quaint houses where the air is filled with the sweet aroma of spring flowers in bloom. Yards are beautifully landscaped and are as unique as the houses they surround. The end of this neighborhood brings me to the entrance of North Head Historic Reserve.
Once used to defend Auckland's Harbor, North Head's history can now be peacefully experienced by three different hiking paths … Coastal, Tunnels or Land. Each path takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. I chose the Coastal Path as a gentle sea breeze blows across North Head. I begin my hike on a carpet soft grass path with a view of distant islands and Cheltenham Beach a hundred feet below. Around a few curves and a rugged coastline with black rocks can be seen from above.
I am entertained by the crashing waves as birds chirp in the canopy of trees along my path. Nature's
noises are relaxing as I enjoy the scenery complimented with occasional wildflowers. Soon I reach a narrow stairway passage that I descend to about 10 above sea level and continue my trek.
Near the end of the Coastal Path I discover a tunnel entrance but I am a bit nervous to explore it without a flashlight. A cautious short walk in and there is archway of light to my right. I make a dash for it. I am rewarded with a bit of history left behind in the form of railroad tracks that were used to move artillery and machinery into various positions around the fort. Retracing my steps I find another tunnel darker than the first but I can see no light at the end of it. I am nervous but my curiosity is peeked.
I set my camera flash to manual-on and with my heart racing I run in a sprint into total darkness. Just as I am thinking “What the hell am I doing”... It hits me! Light is shining down a set of staircase that takes me out of the abyss.
Descending from North Head, I leave a set of size twelve footprints
as I walk along a tranquil and lonely Cheltenham Beach. Beautiful homes line the waterfront giving their occupants spectacular ocean views with sailboats riding the west winds.
Along Vauxhall Rd a short stop to quench my thirst with a “Creamin Soda” and I make way through another cute neighborhood to summit Mt. Victoria Reserve. The views are rewarding along with the brief friendship I share with a few four legged “kiwis”.
School lets out as head back towards the ferry and the air is filled with “cute” little accents. “Come on Charlie, Let's take the crossing”. The walk back offers numerous shops, restaurants and bakeries. An alluring scent and I can't resist the temptation to enjoy a date filled scone... Dr Atkins be dammed.
In a Forrest Gump kind of way it is amazing how you can be 10,000 miles from where you live and strangers find a way to make you feel right at home. At 5:30pm, I am sitting with 30-40 strangers drinking Tui (the local beer) and playing Texas Hold'em Poker! Xbase a great backpacking hostel sponsors this daily event.
We are playing for a NZ$100 bar tab and just like home I
don't win but there is a lot of fun and camaraderie. As the afternoon wears on all the poker players are Sharpie marked with a black “X”, most on the hand but a few on the forehead. I guess we ain't strangers no more.
“X” marks the spot for FREE PIZZA!!!! Domino's shows up around 8pm with an assortment of pizzas that we all enjoy in a civil manner. Free Poker, Free Pizza. Where's My Miller High Life? Does it get any better than this?
Around 9:00pm I leave my poker pals to check into Mercure Windsor (58 Queen St) for another night in Auckland City. Soon I will explore what “The Kiwis” do once the sun goes down.
AUCKLAND CITY - AFTER DARK
A light rain is falling as I walk north along Queen Street. The sounds of future Kiwi Rock Stars can be heard criss crossing an almost deserted Queen Street which has it's share of Karaoke Bars. A brief visit to one of them but I restrain my urge to share Frank Sinatra or Neil Diamond with them.
Soon enough I am having a pint of Tui at a British
Tavern before it's Dr. Dre “California” and again I feel right at home.
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