Auckland is pretty big, especially by New Zealand standards. While Wellington is the political capital of New Zealand, Auckland has it beat in size, population and population density. I mean, Auckland’s got three times as many people as the next largest city, and almost four times the population of the third largest city.
But the Auckland isthmus has still got a sense of small-city charm when I compare it to some of the bigger places I’ve lived in and visited over the last ten years. Tokyo’s over nine times more populated than Auckland. Beijing has Auckland’s population a whopping fifteen times over. Even adorable Toronto, the city I tell everyone who’s not actually from Toronto that I’m from, clocks in at about three times Auckland’s size.
But when you’ve been cruising the quiet roads of New Zealand’s Northland Region and sleeping in a cozy camper van for a week or more, Auckland feels big. With all the open road we’d grown accustomed to over the journey to Cape Reinga and back, it was a bit of a culture shock to have to seek out a parking space that we actually had to pay for.
Bronwyn and I were lucky enough to drive into the modest campus of the University of Auckland and park right next to the rather beautiful Albert Park where we could formulate a game plan for the next few days.
We decided that it made sense for us to take advantage of the camper van mobility while we had it and use it to get our lonely bikes out to Mount Maunganui where they could stay with Al and Natalia until we dropped off the camper van to its home.
With some hours to kill before we made our way east towards the Coromandel peninsula, we decided to check out a little bit of the city. We knew we’d be back in a few days when it came time to drop off the camper van, but it would be good to get our bearings in the city.
You won’t see any photos of us from this day until after we had tracked down a public pool that happily took some of our money to let us have long-overdue showers in their facilities. We had been in that camper van for a few days and were really starting to miss the frequent onsen stops that Japan had offered us. Visiting a public pool was an adventure in itself: there was a swimming class going on and when the twenty or so eight-year-old boys finished their time in the pool, they were collectively dismayed to see that I had chosen the shower with the best water pressure and made a real show of their disappointment. Take that, kids.
Cleaned up and with some daylight hours still in front of us, we decided to hike up nearby Mount Eden, a dormant volcano and the highest elevation within the city for some late-afternoon views.
It was a steady spiral walk up; I could easily see myself making the mountain a regular part of my running route if I lived here. And up top, views, a crater and tourists. Tourists everywhere. We managed to find a placard at the summit that reminded us of just how far away we were from home:
After admiring the 50-meter deep crater and descending the thankfully-still-dormant volcano, we made our way back into the camper van and proceeded to drive east to the edge of the Coromandel peninsula, our destination for the next day. A freedom camping spot at Kaiaua Boat Club near Miranda would house us for the night. And you thought Canada was the only six-letter place that could pack three “a” letters into its name.
Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com