The first stop on our journey of the north island was Auckland. This is the busiest city in New Zealand (both islands included). In fact, thirty two percent of New Zealand’s population live in Auckland. Auckland is also home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. This is my second time visiting Auckland. The first time was just for the day during a long layover at the airport. I remember loving the city and wishing we could stay longer than a few hours. This visit we planned to stay five nights.
Auckland is clean with many different areas in the city. The apartment we rented was in the central business district (CBD) and close to the university making it a safe and upscale area. One thing I’ve noticed that’s changed is the growing population of Asians and India natives living in Auckland. Most of the restaurants are ethnic so finding a great place to eat was easy here. The city streets, highways and buildings have adapted nicely to the growth over the years. We tried a dish from Beijing called jianbing. The line was long so we knew it had to be good. Jianbing is a crepe with filled with vegetables, meat (optional) and a crispy wonton skin.
During the afternoon, downtown Auckland is full of people and at lunch time most of the restaurants are full. Speaking of restaurants, there are so many food outlets, restaurants, food courts and food trucks throughout the city. Some of the outlets are small and specialize in one thing, but there are many restaurants, coffeeshops and cafes that have a dining room to sit inside. Most of the restaurants were Asian with a few kebab places in-between. Then there are the four and five star dining establishments that mimic the stylish interior Melbourne restaurants have. Either way, if you can’t find something to eat in this city, your not in Auckland.
We walked to Albert Park and sat on a bench people watching for about ten minutes and left because it was about tho rain. The park was nice and well manicured. It’s so nice to see wide open spaces of green in the middle of a metropolis city. In America, land is worth too much in major cities, a park would be the last idea on the table.
During our stay in Auckland there was a severe thunderstorm across the entire island. Luckily we had a nice apartment to relax and cook inside. Some parts of the island suffered major damages to homes and roads from the rain. The news interviewed a few farmers in the region and they were all smiles about the sudden down pour.
Visiting Sheepworld was my highlight of Auckland. This is home to a sheep shearing and herding show. Sheepworld has a shearing arena with a few stadium style wooden benches. This is where the show takes place. Outside is a huge farm area with animals just waiting to be fed treats ($1.50/bag) and be loved. The show was spectacular and I was even called up to participate in shearing and dividing sheep along with another tourist named Mona from Hong Kong.
New Zealand has bred it’s own sheepdog called a Huntaway. The breed is a mix of crossing of various British Sheepdogs with the Collie. The Huntaway dog barks loudly and has the intelligence of the border collie. The border collie doesn’t make a sound while herding the sheep and takes the predatory approach by stalking and surrounding. Long ago when the grass was too tall to find the dog or sheep, this caused huge problems. Unfortunately they are not meant to be house dogs. Because of their constant loud barking, it would be impossible to keep them as indoor pets. At this farm the Huntaway and Collie work together with two different styles and approaches to herding.
After the show we walked around the farm feeding animals. This is the place where I got bit trying to pet an alpaca. He was so cute and he had a skinny mouth like a fur puppet. As I was feeding him, his ears were perky and he was very attentive. As soon as I put the food away and tried to pet his head, his ears went all the way back and he nipped my inner forearm.
Thankfully, he bit me through my jacket or it could have been worse. Sure enough my arm had two teethmarks in the middle of a huge welt. Even though it was throbbing in pain, I still liked him. Seeing animals happy and interacting with them in their environment is something that makes me really happy inside. After visiting Asia where animals aren’t treated well in all aspects, it’s great to see animals being respected and well taken care of.
One of the cool things we did in Auckland was go to a rugby game. There is a train that runs directly to the stadium from downtown. The fun started on the train. Most of the people on the train were going to the game and dressed in their teams favorite colors. It was the Blues against the University of Otago. Most of the fans were rooting for the University of Otago, we bet $20.00 to win on the Blues (and lost). Whenever a Blues fan boarded they were met with boos. Luckily we didn’t have any of the teams logo on. As soon as we got off the train it was a mad dash to the stadium. Before seating everyone was handed a Blues flag to wave throughout the game. It was fun watching all these physically buff guys play. They were getting tackled and pushed but still managed to get right up and continue playing. All this without any padding on. My favorite part was called the scrum. This is when both teams form a tight circle and drag each other both ways.
So far Auckland is a great starting point for our north island journey. Next stop is Whangarei.