Happy New Year to you! I know it’s a little late but I have had a few days out of the city at my favourite place in the whole world … I am blessed to have access to a beach house out on the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsular about 40 mins drive north of Auckland – past the pretension of Gulf Harbour and just before the Shakespear Regional Park. The beach house overlooks this lovely park and during many summers there we’ve watched the Park grow from its original acquisition as a working farm to become established with walks and picnicing areas, information boards and excellent facilities. The Auckland Regional Council do us proud at this spot … the beaches are safe and I’m convinced it has it’s own micro-climate … the weather might be grim elsewehre in Auckland but the sun is shining in the park – magic! I suggest you go visit if you have the opportunity.
near-hurricane winds, thick grey mists – there are days when you’d
swear you’d expereinced them all. As the old saying goes; if you don’t
like the weather round here, grab a beer or get a coffee – by the time
you’re finished, it’ll have changed.
This 10 kilometre stretch of road follows the coastline from the ferry terminal at the foot of the business district out past Mechanic’s Bay, Takaparawha, Orakei, Mission Bay, Kohimarama and onto St Heliers. Over the next few weeks, this snaking trip from bustling city centre to swanky suburbs will be made even more enjoyable by the deep red flowers of the pohutukawa, New Zealand’s ‘Christmas’ tree.
The seaward view is of Waitemata Harbour, its islands and the seemingly numberless boats and yachts lying at anchors or moored at crowded marinas. Steep cliffs inland, the sites of Maori pa in days gone by, slide down to meet the road at Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers Bay, offering a perch for exclusive homes, well appointed public beaches and popular cafés and restaurants catering for most tastes and budgets.
Depending on the season, the drive is peppered with all manner of diversions from stalls selling strawberries and seafood and triathletes competing in the bays to seafarers preparing their craft and tourists lining up to take in Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World.
Whether you’re cruising with your mates, rollerblading with your dog, training for the Auckland Marathon (which incorporates the drive in its route) or simply strolling with the family, Tamaki Drive is a perennial favourite.
New Zealand produces some of the most distinctive music and, while the artists may hail from across the land, Auckland’s music scene is invariably the springboard that flips them into the international arena.
Fat Freddy’s Drop and Brooke Fraser (Wellington), Tim and Neil Finn (the Waikato), The Datsuns (Cambridge) and Bic Runga (Christchurch) represent some of the best talent currently touring the world and performing locally. Together with some longer standing New Zealand greats like Shihad (touring NZ with The Datsuns this summer), Crowded House (with Neil Finn making up the 33% Kiwi content), the dub-reggae-funk outfit The Black Seeds, Breaks Co-Op and power popsters Elemeno P, these acts are taking on the world. Check them out at your local music store, iTunes NZ or Vodafone Music.
Away from the mainstream but equally Kiwi, Auckland also has a massive hip hop scene which draws heavily on the influence of the US East Coast and LA scenes and a growing bhangra audience in the local Indian population. The cultural and artistic heritage of Auckland’s Pacific Island communities is celebrated and promoted in the thriving annual Pasifika Festival.
It is the unique mix of cultural backgrounds – the Pakeha, the Maori, the Pacific Islander, the Asian – that gives Kiwi music it’s distinctive edge and sound, setting it apart from any other.
Kiwis are rightly proud of their make-do ingenuity and flair for self-sufficiency. It is said that a Kiwi can mend or create anything so long as they can lay their hands on a bit of Number 8 wire.
No 8 wire is the wire that was primarily used for fencing wire on New Zealand’s farms, back blocks and homesteads. As one of the most widely available materials in farm stores, agricultural co-ops and old barns the country over, it has assumed the status of a symbol of the nation’s ingenuity. These days, the term is referenced seemingly everywhere from art competitions to albatross-friendly fishing gear, speeches by ministers to post-modern ironic cartoons on the slacker nature of Aotearoa’s youth.
The human embodiment of this ingenuity, and philosophy if you will, is Burt Munro, the Southlander who took an Indian Scout motorcycle and, over 50 years, tinkered with it in his shed enough to reach 190.07 mph on Bonneville salt flats, the fastest ever officially recorded speed on an Indian motorcycle. The barrels, flywheels, pistons, cams and followers and lubrication system of that motorcycle had been handcrafted by Munro, as were the hand-carved con-rods, made from a Caterpillar tractor axle.
This remarkable man was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in ‘The World’s Fastest Indian‘, a movie that got a 5 minute standing ovation in the one-horse town cinema I saw it in and that will tell you more about New Zealand than a crate full of Rough Guides.
Auckland’s second gift to the world is the 328 metre Sky Tower, the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere. From the top on a clear day, visitors can see more than 80 kilometres in every direction.
However, if they don’t like it, they can literally take a running jump. If adventure is your thing, then the Sky Jump is for you. Attached to a harness and cable, you fall towards the street at 80kph for around 15 seconds and 192m before slowing up just before touching down on the pavement – like a more controlled, less bouncy bungee jump. When that’s all over, there are casinos, restaurants, bars and hotels to enjoy in the same complex.
Auckland: The City Of Sails
It is the Waitemata Harbour that has earned Auckland the much-prized appellation ‘The City Of Sails’. The harbour opens out into the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean to east side of isthmus that Auckland straddles. Surrounded by water (Manukau Harbour is just 2km to the west at the narrowest point), Auckland has one of the highest rates of boat ownership in the world and a sunny weekend will ensure the water is crowded with craft of all shapes and sizes, from the humblest dinghy or kayak to the America’s Cup Class yachts of Team New Zealand. Those without access to a boat or who turn green at the thought of being out on the water can always watch the activity from the bars and restaurants of the The Viaduct.
Twenty one years ago, the harbour made news headlines around the world for altogether more controversial reasons. The Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior was sabotaged and sunk by two mines placed by Captain Dominique Prieur and Major Alain Mafart, high-ranking agents of the DGSE, the French Secret Service.