Auckland Automobile Adventures

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December 20th 2015
Published: January 3rd 2016
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We had planned that our time in Auckland would be a time for us to rest and recharge our batteries. For this reason, and to save on cost, we decided that we wouldn't have a car for most of the time we were here. We had a vehicle for a few days to get us on our feet and then returned it.

One morning we walked out of the house and found two police officers lurking around the car. They asked me to confirm my identity and then checked the boot. Apparently they suspected me of fencing stolen goods. Fortunately they were satisfied that I was innocent when they found the boot completely empty.

We went out for the afternoon to a place called Piha in the Waiketere Ranges Regional Park. This is a massive forested expanse bordering the Auckland region. To get to Piha you drive forty minutes until you suddenly drop down from the high hill you have been gradually climbing, down a steep road to reach the rough Western Coast. Here the sand has a high iron content so is a yucky shade of black. The sea roars against the shore, casting large waves which attract surfers. We crossed over the sand dunes and onto the beach and then walked towards the huge stone edifice in front of us, Lion Rock. Here we were brought short by a six inch deep and twenty foot wide tidal estuary. As we weren't in a paddling mood we just moved on. The beach held a harsh beauty, compelling but not pretty.

We moved on from Piha Beach and drove a few miles back into the range. Here we found the start of a track. The path led us through the Kauri forest, up a steep hill, down into a deep ravine to the forty metre Kitekite Waterfalls. The falls plunge over three tiers into a crystal clear waist-height pool at the bottom of the cliff face. The pool is a popular swimming spot, though there isn't really space for more than wading. The walk through the woods was very pleasant and we had a lovely time in the sunshine and fresh air.

Driving around Auckland is an unusual experience as it feels like none of the roads actually meet at right-angles. The street plan feels more like a maze than a grid... If you miss a turn it's equally likely that you will turn left, right or right round to correct it. We miss lots of turns because it's not entirely clear how to get to one place from another. Also, due to the numerous hills around the city, it can often be difficult to see where you are going. Approaching a five entry roundabout on the summit of a hill with all five roads going uphill is quite an interesting experience!

Our last adventure with the car was on the morning we took it back to the airport. We decided we would explore a little more of the city. I looked at the map and found what looked to be a scenic route down a road called "Kiwi Esplanade" and then an island which looked interesting... All within a few kilometres of the airport. Our first way-point was the small commercial area of Mangere which turned out to be dingy and run-down. We quickly moved on to the Esplanade. This was a road along a housing estate on a headland with grand views across the bay of... industrial works. Not really what we were after! According to our map the road should have taken us through a Regional Park but we found it wasn't a through road. We turned around and found a less scenic route to the island. After these misadventures we were sure we must find something amazing at the island. Imagine our consternation then when we discovered that all along the causeway to the island was treated effluent. We were in the midst of a sewerage treatment plant. We put our windows up and pushed on. On the far side of the causeway we came to a sign telling us the island was private property. Thwarted, and still with the smell of waste in our nostrils, we turned around and just drove back to the airport... That part of the city was obviously not supposed to be seen by tourists!

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