This is a continuation from the previous article, which you can find here: sea, trees and volcanoes. Today, we are in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. We’ll be watching planes and birds at the airport, and we’ll lie in the mud to shoot grebes and rails. In the end, we’ll spend one fantastic sunset around the gannet colony in Muriwai, a delightful ending for a great one-year adventure in kiwiland.
Last year, in June, after the North Island tour that ended in Northland, Vivien flew back to Europe and I settled down in Auckland. My plan was to work for RELEX while preparing the future… indeed, in about two months it would be time to leave New Zealand! How quick that year went!
On the west coast, close to Auckland, lie 5 famous beaches of black sand and rolling waves: Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Bethells and Muriwai. While it’s possible to see them all in one day, you’ll need a car for this, because there’s no public transportation. I didn’t have a car, but there was something I really wanted to try: hitch-hiking.
I had never done that, but I knew New Zealand was a good place for hitch-hikers, and since I wanted to travel on the cheap, it sounded like a good idea. I told how I got to Muriwai in my diary, but again, I’d like to thank Charlie, my first hitch-driver ever, for making the detour to Muriwai even though that’s not where he was headed!
After coming back from Tiritiri, I’m staying at the hostel all day, sending email and trying to sort out my close future.
I couldn’t help but notice how omnipresent rugby is, for there’s TV running in the living room, and it seems there’s always a documentary about the All Blacks on.
Today, a guest at the hostel told me I looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not sure how to feel about this…
Great day today, I hitch-hiked for the first time! I went to the Australasian gannet (Morus serrator) colony in Muriwai; it was gorgeous, and I captured the picture I was looking for.
It took some time for her to take me seriously, but once I achieved that, our conversation was set on better rails. The agent at the Department of Conservation’s desk in downtown Auckland gave me some good advice on birdwatching around the city, and one info proved critical: one could stay overnight on Tiritiri Matangi. “Tiri” is an open sanctuary, an island free of introduced predators where trees have been replanted and rare birds introduced. Closely monitored, the place is open to visitors, and a ferry goes there every day, except on Mondays and Tuesday. That’s what pushed me to book a stay between Sunday and Wednesday: the promise of tranquility, with noone but a handful of guests in the vicinity.
That’s how, only a few days into my stay in New Zealand, I was leaving the city to spend a few days on a remote island.
The crossing yielded some news species already: White-fronted tern (Sterna striata) and Australasian gannet (Morus serrator) were maybe the most notable.
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.