Central Business District from Mount Eden
Today's primary objective was to get some wheels sorted out. I headed up to the place I visited yesterday. Their story of vehicles churning over first thing in the morning didn't hold water. The same old vehicles were still there decomposing.
I wandered along to the other place I tried to visit yesterday that was shut. This was the outfit I tended to favour on paper from my researches carried out in the U.K. The only guy around soon appeared, and I asked to see the economy vehicles that I had investigated on the internet. They were basically hatchbacks in which the back seats were folded down, and a sheet of ply laid across to form a flat base, across which a couple of mattresses were laid. An awning could be attached to the back to provide a kind of stand-up annexe. Also included were: a cooking stove, water container, pot and frying pan, a wash bowl and two sets of plastic crockery and cutlery, and a hanging light plus a mains connector to allow connection to power in the less primitive camp sites. Optional extras included linen, cool box, fridge, folding table and chairs, solar shower, DVD player and large road atlas. All the vehicles under the roof were sparklingly clean and appeared to be well looked after.
I reiterated all the questions that had been in my mind for the last few months, and the guy answered them all fair and square. "Is Grant Tomlinson around?" I asked. "Sure thing, you're speaking to him," he replied. I had already exchanged several emails with him over the last year.
Grant seemed an honest guy; straight as a die, down to earth and no nonsense sort of fellow. I had a degree of confidence in him and an instant level of trust; he talked sense. Perhaps I'm a fool. I teased him a little about the Rugby World Cup; he took it well. We revisited all the Ts and Cs, and the costs. We worked out I would get the optional extras for free.
Now this was for a rental vehicle, i.e. I would be paying money I wouldn't be getting back, but it was an attractively cheap deal. As a yardstick, it would cost me approximately the price of three pints of beer per day.
As for the alternative, if I bought and sold a vehicle, there was no guessing how much I might lose on the overall deal. I would also have the worry of it dying on me and the hassle of selling it. It would also impact my timetable, I would need to allow ten days or so to sell the vehicle. On top of that there would be insurance, WOF issues, registration etc. to sort out. The total cost of ownership soon mounts up. Going for the rented route, all the headaches and hassle are removed. What price do I put on that? Hey, life is too short and I'm not getting any younger.
One Tree Hill
To get it all out of my system, I hiked to the top of Mount Eden. The closest volcano to the city centre, Mount Eden is also the city's tallest. As such, it affords spectacular panoramic views across Auckland. The 50m deep symmetrical crater is known as Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho (the Food Bowl of Mataaho, the god of things hidden in the ground), thus rendering it sacred and out of bounds. The remains of pa terraces and storage pits provide evidence of Maori occupation centuries ago. Today, gardens full of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas occupy the eastern slopes. As I neared the summit, the steep track circled the crater before reaching a concrete pedestal. The views from here were equally as stunning as those from the Sky Tower. At this side of the city, I was afforded a better view of One Tree Hill.
A few kilometres southeast of Mount Eden sits Cornwall Park. This 334-acre estate encompasses One Tree Hill, the volcanic cone that was once the key pa and greatest fortress in the country. When the site was abandoned by the Maori, the land was bought by the Scottish medic, Sir John Logan Campbell, also known as the father of Auckland. When the city was granted capital status in 1840, there were only two European residents, Campbell being one of them. In 1841 he built Acacia Cottage, Auckland's oldest building; restored and preserved in the park. When he became city mayor, he gifted One Tree Hill to the people of Auckland. To commemorate the 1901 visit of Britain's Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, he named the estate Cornwall Park. Campbell is buried at the summit, and nearby is the imposing obelisk that he requested be built to the Maori people.
The enquiring reader may ask the obvious question, why One Tree Hill. Actually standing on the hill, people can well be forgiven for asking where is the tree. The name is in deference to the sacred totara tree that stood on the hill until 1852, when it was chopped down by British settlers. Campbell planted several Monterey pines as a replacement, one of which survived until 1994, when a Maori activist attacked it with a chainsaw. The weakened tree was finally destroyed in a similar incident in 2000.
Once I'd had my fill of the sacred place, I undertook the hike back to downtown. The sun had by now made a full appearance, and my, was it hot. By the time I reached Queen Street, I needed a long, cool drink. There was a string of tables outside a bar in Aotea Square, and feeling the need to celebrate resolving the transport issue, I partook of a beer. The array of tables outside were all taken, but a corner of one had a space. I approached the three guys sitting at the table; no, they didn't mind me sitting at the table. I was grateful to be sitting in the shade.
The big Maori looking chap at the table explained to me that his shorts, colourful T-shirt and flip-flops were part of his celebrations for "jandles" day. He plonked his flip-flops on the table and showed me his "jandles", Maori for flip-flops. Today he was allowed to wear whatever he wanted to work, so long as he made contributions to charity.
The three guys were I.T. engineers, and soon they were in deep discussion about some of their work issues. I took it all in, and then politely joined in with the conversation. I may have been out of the field for five years now, but I could hold my own corner.
Once we'd put their work to rights, they asked me if I was over here on business. I showed them my itinerary, and they instantly pointed out that not many New Zealanders had seen half of what I want to visit. I could understand that; how many people in Britain have toured all around Britain?
We talked about the Rugby World Cup; the big Maori chap admitting bashfully that he preferred rugby league. One of the other chaps hailed from Wellington, and that seemed to raise an element of mirth in the other two. I learned that the schools and university would be breaking up for the summer soon, and the schools would not return until the end of February. They have an Easter break, and that's about it really.
My place in the shade had by now become a place in the sun. I had forgotten that the sun swings through the north in these southern latitudes. Before I knew it, three hours had gone by. These were decent guys and good fun; I had enjoyed their warm reception. We all shook hands, and parted company, each his own separate way.
I returned to the hotel, had a short cat-nap, and went out for a quick Chinese meal at one of the thousands of restaurants. Returning back to my bed, I observed that the young folk here are no different to young folk in the U.K. on a Friday night; all out for a good time with the bars teeming. What struck me was the number of young Chinese/Japanese women venturing out in groups too. There is no reason why they shouldn't, I just don't see the sheer volume of Asian folk back home as I do here.