There are travelers who rush from one tourist attraction to the next. They follow their guidebook and try to see as much as possible usually within a limited amount of time. There are also travelers who go somewhere just to relax. A place in the shade, a good book and no work does the job. It actually doesn’t matter much where they are as long as the weather is nice and the food good. And then there are all types of travelers in between.
When I left for New Zealand I had an entire year ahead of me. Knowing that, I was in no hurry to see and do everything. I ended up working in a hostel. This job was not one I took to get lots of money, but it was one I really liked doing. It’s always great to see happy travelers or help them to become happy again.
Of course when I was working I was the face behind the reception desk or the travel desk, but in my spare time I also spent a lot of time with travelers. I had a few drinks with them in a pub, I looked out for jobs and sometimes I went for a walk through Auckland to show them around.
As the year went by I traveled around a fair bit. One of the perks of my job was that I got free accommodation virtually everywhere as well as free access to tourist attractions. In Auckland I had seen and done almost everything I wanted to. Compared to other travelers I had far more opportunities. Still, I had not ‘done’ everything there was to do.
Ten days left.
One day I woke up and realized “I only have ten days left before I will get on a plane and leave this country for who knows how long”. This was the moment I said to myself: “Think of what you really want to do before you go and do it now.” The strange thing is that before that day I had always thought I had done it all. I was wrong. As soon as I started making a list of things to do I realized I should have made this list sooner.
As the list went longer and longer, I decided to start straight away. That day I did not have to work and the weather was… Well, it wasn’t the best weather but it could have been a lot worse. So I grabbed my hiking boots and the leaflet I had taken from a travel agency a long time ago. This was an excellent day to do the Auckland Coast to coast walk!
The 16 km (10 miles) hike starts at a place I was very familiar with: Waitemata Harbour. The hostel I worked at was very close to the Princess Warf. At the start of the walk I found a sign marking the beginning of this walk. This Harbour was always a great place for me to come to for a drink or just look at the boats. Sometimes I was lucky and got to see one of the America’s Cup yachts. That day there was no time for drinks or boat watching. I had some serious hiking ahead of me.
The first part I had to walk back to the city center. I did not go through beautiful Parnell (where I have lived for several months) but instead I walked towards Albert Park. This central park lies besides one of the 53 volcanoes of Auckland’s volcanic field. It is also the site of early European military fortifications, called the Albert Barracks. Underneath the park is a series of tunnels, which were built as air raid shelters, but these were sealed before the end of WWII. They are still closed. The park itself is a pleasant place with lots of trees, flowers and statues.
It would be tempting to stay in the park for a while, but since this was only the beginning of the walk I continued towards Auckland Domain. The first time I set foot in this huge park was on the evening of the millennium celebrations. You can read more about it in my story about the Xena-fan from Sydney.
Even though that first encounter with this park was short, I was still able to see some of New Zealand’s culture in the Auckland War Memorial Museum (or: Tamaki Paenga Hiri in Maori). Aucklanders can enter this, museum for free and a New Zealanders can give a voluntary donation. International tourists, however, have to pay $25 entrance fee (children $10), except for Anzac Day when it’s free for everyone. If you like it combined with a cultural performance or another package it is even more. That said: it is still one of the best museums in New Zealand.
During my second visit to New Zealand I had been coming to Auckland’s oldest park every now and then simply to get away from all the people. These days there are 8 sculptures, made by famous New Zealand artists. This was also a millennium initiative and the sculptures have been here since 2004/2005. There even is a short Domain Sculpture Walk. It’s always quite a climb to reach Auckland Domain but compared to the rest of the hike it was a piece of cake.
From Auckland Domain the walk goes through Newmarket towards Mount Eden. I knew Mount Eden from the rugby games I had seen in the Eden Park Stadium. There is no better way to experience New Zealand than attending an All Blacks game!
Mount Eden was named after George Eden, the first Earl of Auckland. It’s quite a walk up this dormant volcano, but a nice one. Mount Eden last erupted 15,000 years ago. It is the highest point and from there you have great views in all directions. In the past this hill used to be a pā (a Maori fortified settlement), but it was abandoned after a conflict between tribes.
These days Mount Eden is a nice place to go hiking, jogging, see a rugby or cricket match. Mount Eden Road, which leads onto the hill, is the place to be to enjoy good food at a restaurant, get some drinks in a trendy bar or buy a book in one of the bookshops.
One tree hill.
Once I had passed Mount Eden I knew it was not far anymore. With only one more hill to climb the finish line was almost there. Keeping this in mind I walked through Epsom and Cornwell Park. There are many large wooden houses in Epsom that were built around 1900-1930. Like the English Epsom, it has a race course. Cornwell Park once belonged to John Logan Campbell, a landowner and mayor until he gave it to a private trust in 1901. Campbell himself moved from Epsom to Parnell.
Behind Cornwell Park is One Tree Hill. My final challenge. The first time I heard of this hill was in 1999 during my first visit to Auckland. It immediately fascinated me. On top of the hill stood one tree. But not for long, as I found out years later.
There are several stories about the Maori name giving of this place. One of these names is Maungakiekie. In 2014 13 tribes signed a Waitangi Treaty Settlement in which this became the official name of this volcano. Another name is Te Totara i Ahua, meaning ‘totara tree that stands alone’. The totara tree is a holy tree. However, the original tree was cut down in 1852. It was replaced several times, amongst others by my favorite tree, the pōhutukawa tree (or New Zealand Christmas tree).
These replacements never stood long and the one that stood here in 1999 during my first visit was attacked and later on removed in October 2000. In 2016 they have planted several young trees, totara and pōhutukawa.
What also stands on top of this hill is an obelisk. It is supposed to be a memorial for the Maori, although one could argue that the term memorial is inappropriate. Buried underneath lies Campbell, whom I mentioned before.
After having reached the summit at 182 meters (597 ft.), the rest of the walk went downhill. It did not take me long before I could see the other side of Auckland. I sat down and watched the numerous boats as they went back and forth into Manuka Harbour. The day had been great and this was the perfect ending. I was very glad I had managed to do this walk. It was something I really wanted to do in Auckland and fortunately one of the last things that I actually did achieve.
Also on Travelharts.com.
On our photo site we have an entire album dedicated to Auckland.
One of the other stories on our blog is about a Xena-fan from Sydney.