New Zealand- Chapter Twenty-Seven: All Roads Lead to Auckland

I woke on my twenty-seventh day in New Zealand emotionally and physically spent from the previous day at Cape Reinga, the Te Paki Sand Dunes and Ninety-Mile Beach. As usual, I’d planned an early departure from my campground so I wouldn’t spend the whole day driving. Google Maps told me it was 324kms to my hostel in Auckland. Google also claimed the drive should take 4 hours and 2 minutes. Google doesn’t have a clue about New Zealand roads.

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My intended early departure time of 615AM turned into 730AM, as I was simply unable to get motivated to get out of bed. I knew I wasn’t going to make any stops to sightsee along the way- I’d already cut my time in Auckland down to 2 1/2 days, and I felt it would be unfair to the country’s largest and most cosmopolitain city to give it less time than that.

Months after the trip, I would hear a blogger friend (Kate of Canuckiwikate– who lives in Ahipara, which I didn’t know until after the trip ūüôĀ ¬†) complain about this long drive and also say that she does the drive in 4 hours. Needless to say, it took me closer to 6 hours, and that was with only two very brief stops. Highway 1, the main road on this route, is two lanes, and southbound traffic seemed to constantly be slowed by logging trucks. I spent an¬†infuriating¬†amount of time going 50-60kms per hour in a long line of cars stuck behind these trucks.

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As with most of my days in New Zealand, I drove through rain and sun, and was greeted by a bright rainbow just a few miles north of Auckland.

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Devonport

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It was 330pm by the time I turned off of the highway and headed for Devonport, a suburb of Auckland just north of the city. I’d read about the cool fortifications that were there, as well as the commanding views over the city. I was also smart enough to know that, even though Devonport is an easy ferry ride from downtown Auckland, I wouldn’t have the energy tomorrow to take the ferry, so if I didn’t stop now, I would miss out. I was glad I stopped.

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The North Head disappearing gun

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My first stop was at North Head, the volcanic cone on the far eastern side of the prominaoty where the defensive fortifications for Auckland were built. It was another reminder of the fear of a Russian (or Japanese during WWII) invasion was a real thing during the 1900s in New Zealand. I’d first learned about this during my day on the Otago Peninsula right outside Dunedin.

Today the facility is a museum and recreational reserve.

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Motutapu Island

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Rangitoto Island

As fascinating as the military exhibits were, it was the conservation success story of Rangitoto and Motutapu that really captured my attention. The two islands, extinct volcanic cones visible in the harbor from Devonport, saw almost all of the their native bird life fall victim to introduced species. In a historic effort, one¬†recognized¬†world-wide for being a one of a kind movement, the islands were reclaimed, and in 2011, amidst much fan fare, were declared pest free. New Zealand’s fantastic Department of Conservation and some private charitable trusts now monitor the islands, and strict guidelines must be followed for visiting them. I knew, with only one full-day in the city, that a visit to the islands wasn’t going to happen, but the video and exhibits at North Head made it possible for me to familiarize myself with this amazing success story.

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Mount Victoria from North Head

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North Head from Mount Victoria

My second stop was at Mount Victoria, another one of the over 100 extinct volcanic cones that surround Auckland.

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Auckland Skyline from Devonport

Mount Victoria has some gorgeous views of the Auckland Skyline across the water, as well as more of the interesting military history I’d seen at North Head.

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I finally arrived at my hostel in Auckland after 5:30PM and did something I hadn’t done all trip- I took a nap.

When I got up, I wandered over the a Belgian Beer Bar called the Occidental to have some great Belgian beer and a dinner of Belgian sausages. It was a great way to reward myself for the long drive. Tomorrow would be my last full day in New Zealand- and even though the pace and length of the trip were beginning to finally exact their toll, I was determined to make the most out of it.

NEXT:Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Auckland/New Zealand Dichotomy

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4 Responses to “New Zealand- Chapter Twenty-Seven: All Roads Lead to Auckland”

  1. Maria says:

    Lovely shots – looks like there’s something for everyone.

  2. snowbird says:

    Wonderful. I do love the Islands.xxxxx

    • Erik says:

      I wish I’d had time to visit the islands, but they are on the top of my Auckland ‘to-do’ lst when I go back!

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