Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Auckland - you beauty!

18 March 2011

Arrived in Auckland jet-lagged and no bike box. The nice people from Qantos must be used to this kind of thing because they gave me a little bag of toiletries and a T shirt and pants with the Qantos logo on them for sleeping in. Just as well seeing as all my gear was in the bike box.

Headed off to the backpackers wondering what they would think of a grey haired, retired cyclist turning up amongst all the gap year trendy students. I didn’t need to worry because the first person I met was the receptionist Vee, a lovely young lady from Glasgow who made me feel most welcome. If you are thinking of staying in a backpackers and don’t want to kept awake all night by partying 18 year olds, here’s a tip… pick a smallish place on the outskirts of town. Doing this stood me in good stead throughout the trip. I stayed in Oaklands House, at Mount Eden which boasts the highest volcanic cone in the Auckland volcanic isthmus.

 There are 27 volcanic cones in this area which I found to be a bit disconcerting. Traveling to the other side of the world does strange things to your head. I wondered around Mount Eden thinking that I would pay a visit to the local artist’s auction which was being held on the next day…Saturday. As I was about to get on the bus, someone said I should visit the local artist’s auction which was just around the corner – I’d lost a day!

The idea was that about 20 local artists set themselves up in the park and paint Mount Eden. At the end of the day the paintings were auctioned to support the local art scene. The local artists were very chatty and quite happy to tell me about their painting process. A guy called Ewan Woodruffe told me about his way of painting resin-oilcolour on linen. He gave me his leaflet with examples and he called it ‘The Dangerous Looseness of Doom.’ There was a trio playing some laid back music so I sat in the hot sun (my first touch of sun since last October) and soaked it all in.

Mount Eden Volcanic Cone

Here’s another tip… if you want a great view of Auckland go up Mount Eden and keep away from the tourist buses which deposit their contents for a five minute look. They get off the bus and start shouting at each other… oh for peace and tranquility.

My bike arrived, I put it back together and set off down the hill to have a look at Auckland. They have a GPO tower that they call Sky City and it being NZ people jump off it on an elastic band. Visited my first ‘i-site’ and discovered just how well organized the tourist trade is over there.

The closer you get to the sea front, the more glitzy and high rise the place becomes. The place is awash with mega bucks yachts. Did a water colour of the Auckland bridge. There seemed to be a fair bit of $ around juding by the bids for the paintings of Mount Eden.

Cycled back up the hill with an armful of maps and ideas but dear oh dear the bike was in poor shape. A spoke was broken, I couldn’t get into bottom gear and the brakes were a bit iffy. Dropped it off at a bike shop for some necessary repairs.

My Watercolour painted at this scene

On the advice of Adam and Claire I decided to head north to the Bay of Islands and Cape Renga on the northernmost tip of the North Island. My cycling book had a five day trip which fitted the bill. The trip started 100km north of Auckland which meant a bus trip. In my experience bus companies can be mediocre, bad or very bad when it comes to catering for the needs of cyclists. Inter-city are mediocre. They allow bikes on at the discretion of the bus driver but want you to take off the front wheel, remove the pedals and cover the chain and oh yes loosen the handlebars!

I picked up the bike which seemed to be going a bit better, so I was all set and after a good nights sleep raring to go. Just before bed logged on for a quick update on the weather and saw the heading  Flooding had hit Northland.

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