Upon landing in New Zealand, the first thing I cannot help but notice is how friendly and relaxed the Kiwis are. It’s a breath of fresh air in contrast to the manic, often blunt nature of staff at other airports around the world. Also, you hear stories about how strict the customs control is in New Zealand, but we honestly didn’t experience any queuing or delays. Probably because every step was made so easy – they use the most advanced technology I’ve seen in any airport to make passport control, baggage claim and customs as easy as it should be.
As well as the beautiful and stunning landscape of the country, another big reason for our trip was to see some friends of ours. They moved to New Zealand a few years ago on a working visa and never looked back – and I don’t blame them!
Auckland is an amazing city, we got the chance to explore during the week while our friends were hard at work. Firstly, we took a trip just down their road in Remuera to the Orakei Basin, a tidal lagoon of nature and scenic walkways. From our side, a bridge took us over the lake to the human-built walkway, which blended beautifully with the landscape.
Everywhere we went in Auckland (and New Zealand on a whole) was a designers dream, the aesthetic always came first. One evening we drove to Brother’s Brewery for some beer and some grub. This fully working brewery featured large-scale vats behind the bar, vintage cars amongst the tables and retro armchairs and sofas to chill out on.
Next up, a bus trip downtown to discover the city. However, we unexpectedly found ourselves catching a ferry to Rangitoto Island. This 25 minute ferry was reasonably priced and included a tractor ride up the volcano – yes I am 28 but I couldn’t resist getting excited over a tractor ride! It was the height of Summer, the heat was intense but it was worth it. The turquoise waters contrasted beautifully against the scorched bushes and trees. Our guide and tractor driver was well-versed in the island’s history and although he drove most of the way, he couldn’t take us right to the top, this required a small hike along a wooden walkway around half of the circumference and up some steps to the top.
The Rangitoto walkway and view of Auckland from the top
© Tommy Taylor 2016
In the island’s long history, it was formed thousands of years ago by a series of eruptions, with the final eruption around 550 years ago. In the short history, since the European colonisation, it has been used as a recreational island where baches (small holiday houses) were built around the edge of the island. Notably, some still remain to show how the island used to look, but people are no longer allowed to live on the island which is now a strictly controlled nature reserve. In addition, military installations were built during World War II to defend the harbour and ports, one of which can still be visited at the summit and is well worth a look. To sum up, it was an exhausting but educational day and as you can see from my photo above, the view was just stunning.