19-21.08.2018 In the air
I boarded the Emirates Boeing 777 in Lyon around 21.30. It looked nice, with soft lights and a scent akin to the one at the “Bombay”, my favourite Indian restaurant in Grenoble. The 6-hour flight went well, I slept a bit. The 15-hour flight from Dubai to Auckland was much longer, but the Airbus A380 was comfortable as well once I had overcome my stomach ache. I watched the latest Avenger movie, and also the last Harry Potter movie.
I arrived in New Zealand at 10 in the morning. I passed the biosecurity check with ease, and took first a bus out, through green pastures. Seeing people drive on the left of the road was profoundly unsettling. It still is now.
I didn’t want to take the direct bus to the city but go with the cheaper way, with “normal” urban transportation. After the bus, I took a train in Papatoetoe station. Trains are really slow, they open their doors very slowly, and take their time before leaving the station. Chill… Oh, and they still have people manually checking your ticket, like in Budapest. They also still have phone booths in the city.
My first spendings: a bus ticket, a bird book and a burger. Then I walked to the hostel.
My day started with a way-too-sweet carrot cake in an American “bakery”. I couldn’t finish it, I couldn’t handle so much sugar. Then I walked and went about some necessary business, spotting a few birds on the way.
I explored the city on a late afternoon walk, going down to the seaside and then along the shore. I noticed that New Zealanders are quite an open lot, and they would talk to me spontaneously (what a change from Finland!). “Where are you going?”, a woman asked me. “I don’t know”, I replied, but she told me how to get there anyway 😀
In the morning, I visited the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT), a fascinating place with old phones and computers, old trams and planes, and a lot to learn. Then I walked, again. I was by the shore at low tide, and a walk on the sand yielded many new species of birds, like the Sacred kingfisher or the New-Zealand dotterel.
I was astonished by how little consideration pedestrians receive in this city. First, crossings are all but hidden, there’s no zebra but only a pair of white lines showing the supposedly “safe” way… that’s OK, when there are traffic light, but when there isn’t, the car won’t stop for the pedestrian to cross. Better wait, or you’ll be hit. That’s if there a crossing! Often there isn’t, and given the number of cars in the streets, good luck getting on the other side. Appalling.
I went to the Auckland Museum, which is free if you have a working holiday visa. The first two levels, about New Zealand’s early history and nature, were not very impressive (and badly lit), but the last one, about wars and how New Zealanders were involved in them, was emotionally powerful, and moving.
In the city, I had a photoshoot with an Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen, not a Corvid, unlike the European magpie and crows and jays)
26.08.2018 Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiri is an open sanctuary. Free of the invasive species (rats, cats…) that devastated New Zealand’s wildlife, this former farmland was reforested, and rare endemic species were introduced. One can stay at the bunkhouse for more isolation, and I had opted for 3 nights, with no visitor boat coming in between for more tranquillity.
The guided tour was a most pleasant walk up from the wharf to the lighthouse, with unfamiliar birds to be seen and heard all around me. In the afternoon, I wandered about before going inside and meeting my housemates.
27.08.2018 Tiritiri Matangi Island
The cloudy skies cleared after midday, and we got a really calm evening with gorgeous light. In the night, a long walk with Carol brought us very close to some kiwis running in the undergrowth, but we couldn’t see any. What we saw, though, was a stunning tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), an antique reptile that hasn’t evolved in millions of years.
28.08.2018 Tiritiri Matangi Island
I did the whole tour around the island, five and a half hours including the breaks, and was rewarded with three lifers and beautiful views. In the night, no kiwis again but Brown teals (Anas chlorotis) roaming in the grass with chicks.
29.08.2018 Tiritiri Matangi Island
I awoke to heavy rains and wind, and the word came: no ferry today! That means one extra day on the island!
I have created an online map of my whereabouts: click to follow me!