The city of sails

New Zealand. The country we had been travelling and working towards for at least half a year. The country we always wanted to see. We are now finally there. We arrived in Auckland at 5.30am. During immigration, we got checked out by a cute Labrador who thought for a second we had some food in our bags, but we didn’t so it was all good.
The tourist brochure Zoë picked up at the airport proved to be worthwhile by telling us to take a bus and train into the city instead of the airport shuttle bus saving us $14.

We could not check in to our accommodation until the afternoon so we decided to go and see Auckland Museum. We wanted to see it anyway and we did not have to carry our bags. Double win! The main attraction (for us) of the museum is one of the biggest collections of Maori and Pacific art and artefacts. It ranges from small fish hooks and shell necklaces to a re-built Maori gathering house to a big war canoe (waka taua). We were very impressed by the extent of the collection and learned quite a bit. The second floor of the museum was taken up by smaller exhibitions about natural history and volcanoes. They featured bones of dinosaurs and extinct animals from New Zealand as well as still living ones.

On the third floor New Zealand remembered its more violent side of history with a big war memorial.
Soon it was time to walk to our AirBnb next to Mount Eden. We had a nice chat with one of the owners before dinner and then went to bed early to catch up on sleep.
The next morning started with heavy rain and winds but luckily they dissipated during breakfast. When we climbed Mt. Eden we got a great and clear view over all of Auckland. This volcanic hill is the tallest in the city and should be on every visitors list.

To make most of the nice weather we then walked into town. We had a nice stroll around the harbour and got some good information from the tourist and DOC (Department of Conservation) offices before our first highlight activity. Matthias is a keen sailor and we found that in Auckland you can go sailing on a real America’s Cup yacht; something quite rare. Zoë had never been on a sailing boat but was keen to try it. We found a deal on and so we boarded the racing yacht together with 23 other guests and 5 crew on this sunny and windy afternoon. We got our introduction while motoring out the harbour before some of us had to dig into the grinders to hoist the sails. Even with the smaller foresail (jib) and a reduced main sail we still had 300m2 pulling us along with a speed of just under 12 knots (22km/h) through the harbour bay and under the harbour bridge. We got covered in spray as the boat leaned to the side and cut through the waves. Matthias loved steering the boat which was actually really easy. Thanks to its design and a 20 tonne weight in the keel we hardly felt the waves. The two hours were over way too soon and we had to return.

We then spent the rest of the day catching up with our German travel friend and his (now officially) girlfriend over coffee and dinner.
The next day we met them again and explored the winter gardens and green lands of the Auckland Domain before heading towards town and Albert Park. After a visit to Saint Patrick’s cathedral and lunch we had to say goodbye to our friends. We then marched all the way to the end of the Westhaven Marina to pay a visit to the Royal New Zealand Yachting Squadron; currently the proud owner of the America’s Cup trophy. Apart from being fiercely fought over and changing hands frequently, it is also the oldest sporting trophy in the world.

In the evening we had our second highlight event while in Auckland. We had managed to get tickets to see the All Blacks play the Wallabies in Eden Park (that is New Zealand v Australia in Rugby). The All Blacks are one of the best rugby teams in the world and famous for their haka (Maori for war dance or action chant) before every match. These tickets also included the womens rugby game before (their team is called the Black Ferns). Having never watched a womens rugby game before, we made use of this and made the tickets even better value. Though sold out, the ranks were far from full for the womens game but the atmosphere was still good. We missed the first 20min so did not find out whether they did a haka as well. After some action packed 80 minutes New Zealand won the first game and we had a bit of a break while watching the men warm up.

One of the best things about rugby is the fairness both on and off the field. Fans from both countries were mixed in the stadium and when the national anthems were sung there was no sign of any disrespectful behaviour. It sent chills down our spine to hear the crowd sing the anthems like one person. We were surprised to hear that the New Zealand anthem has both Maori and English lyrics which is fantastic. Then it was time for the haka. Luckily for us they faced our way so we got a good view of them trying to scare their opponents. Just as the referee blew the whistle it started to rain. Fortunately, it was only a short and light shower.

The game was great fun to watch even though our view was partially obstructed by a camera crane. There were some injuries during the first half but nothing major. The All Blacks scored two tries and the Wallabies one. We really enjoyed watching these two great teams play and the game was very energetic on both sides.

After swapping sides New Zealand stepped their game up and scored five more tries. Very unfortunate for us most of the action then happened at the far end of the field so we got more from the screen than directly. There was quite a strong emotional roller coaster when the home team was denied two tries by the video referee, but the decisions were correct. In the end the All Blacks won the match with a big margin. 48,000 people in the stadium supported the teams with a fantastic atmosphere and we loved it.

On our last morning we were kind of sad to say good bye to our AirBnB hosts and Auckland, but the next adventure was waiting. We picked up a hire car to explore the picturesque region of Northland. We would also be camping again which was another reason to get excited.

Auckland is a great city and place to get started in New Zealand. It is very multi-cultural and has a high number of Chinese, Japanese and other Asian restaurants and shops. In terms of tourist attractions like museums and parks. Three days in the city are probably sufficient for most. On top of that the area around Auckland lures visitors with beautiful islands, wineries and beaches so it is easy to spend a week exploring everything. The public transport system is really good (get the AT-app and AT hop card), but some places require individual transport or going on a tour.

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