Auckland – a city with over a million people, a million people living in different worlds in one.
The thing is, you either hate it or you love it, and I’m here in favor of the latter.
Moving to Auckland was like the ol’ cliché “a fish out of water.” I’d grown up in Tauranga, spending 18 years there until I realised it was the cause of my claustrophobia. I needed to leap right out of my fish bowl with the knowledge I wouldn’t land straight into the big beautiful ocean, but rather, end up there after a long journey through the waterways of life. I’ve been here three years now, and I’m still swimming towards my beautiful big blue.
I guess that’s the beauty of Auckland: it challenges you to swim through its murky midst in order to end up in paradise. It is your own little world in one.
The North Shore (home)
It’s a beautiful morning, and the sun washes through the windows silent and uninterrupted. We walk down to Ladder Bay – no man’s land – throwing rocks at the cliffs and waiting for a landslide. The water shocks our skin as it kisses our toes, but we don’t clamber for the dry sand. We stand side by side, looking across the water at armies of buildings: sharp against the sky, meeting the waterline as both solid and fluid, as both man-made and natural. We stand here for a while, knowing there’s a whole other world to swim to, but we remain.
Stop 2: The City (home)
We arrive at Britomart – the intersection where worlds collide. We wait alongside hundreds at the lights, all visibly struggling with this urgency to get to somewhere, anywhere. I look beside me at a woman in a black dress with heels to match. She speaks into her phone, fumbles in her handbag, and crosses the street. You notice a boy to your right, no older than 20. He drops a skateboard to the ground, making his own path through the masses, and no-one seems to mind. You learn to love this intersection as more than just a dance between metal and skin.
It’s a time for observation.
“Home is the heart is where the heart is” reads one saying. Well, my heart is everywhere all at once. It’s lying in the warm sands of my back garden. It’s standing on someone’s heel on Queen Street. It’s the smell of petrol and perfume, and the noisiness which reminds you you’re never alone.
There are many places I could rave about: many restaurants, parks, beaches and bars. However, I’ll choose a few I know will lead you into love for this city.
Travel out west and you’ll find the world of the adventure-seekers: Piha, Muriwai, The Waitakere Ranges – and my personal favourite: Bethells Beach. Bethells Beach is one of those places you go when you crave a beauty other than the shine of a high rise building or a woman’s lipstick (because you won’t find that here). It opens its giant cave mouth at one end of the beach and unfolds a sandy tongue which laps at the Pacific Ocean. If you’ve never taken the time to watch the sun go down, to really watch it, this is the place to start. Trust me when I say you will never forget the beauty of Bethells.
Travel further north, and you’ll meet Mr Warkworth and Miss Matakana. A humble kind of bloke, Mr Warkworth hosts a lovely little river with worn-out chairs from years of ice-cream licking and fish and chip picking. Drive a little ways out from Warkworth, and you arrive at The Cement Works – a piece of history now used for play. On a summer’s day, you can throw yourself off a rock and belly flop into the cool water – watching out for the eels, of course! Or if you’re feeling adventurous – and you didn’t hear this from me – you can get your mate to boost you over the fence you’re not meant to be boosted over, and use the concrete remains as your own personal jungle gym.
When Mr Warkworth has finished his show, it’s time to visit Miss Matakana. On Saturday, she runs the show with a wonderful Farmers’ Market – one people travel to from far and wide. She watches over the stall owners as they knead dough, pour drinks and wrap gifts. It’s a real treat being here, eating so many delicious goodies. A personal favourite of mine is feijoa wine – for breakfast, may I add, and a whole bottle for dinner!
Back into the urban world, and you’ve got the well-known ‘Ponsonby,’ or ‘PonSNOBBY,’ as some people like to call it. Yes, the people of Ponsonby may take extra pride in their appearance, and wear clothes you wouldn’t be seen dead in in the middle of Queen Street. However, isn’t that what makes Auckland so beautiful? It’s the diversity; the different flavours that are like the multitude of taste bud receptors across your tongue.
Along to K Road, and you’re in thrift-shop central. Pick up 5 items of clothing for the price of one, get a spontaneous tattoo with your friend, get a piercing, eat a new kind of food, drink wine at 11 a.m. – no-one will judge you!
Moving through the invisible borders of the different worlds within Auckland, one cannot deny they are there, and they are there for different reasons. However, I encourage you to transgress these borders step by step, to move through them, and if that means leaving one foot on the safe side, and having one in the unknown, you’re doing well.
To quote Hunter S. Thompson: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!”.