Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Touring the North Island

Pohutukawa tree, or 'New Zealand Christmas tree'

The majority of my week in Aotearoa New Zealand was taken up by the conference I was attending. 400 papers, plus a full program of ethnographic films takes a lot of time, but it also tires you out. Especially following very little sleep, thanks to a conference dinner and dancing to Baltic music.

For that reason, I was happy to wag off on Friday with my friend Chris and skip most of that day's proceedings. Instead, we had breakfast and then set off to walk up Mt Eden, or Maungawhau. The highest point in Auckland (aside from buildings), Mt Eden was not too far from our dingy apartment so we did the whole thing on foot. We started out walking through the Domain, Auckland's big garden with both landscaped grounds and bush.

Then it was back onto the street, into the suburb of Mt Eden and then up the hill. Near the top we found a small herd of small cows, grazing and napping and doing their cow-thing, free of fences.

This one let me give her a pat. I don't think she was particularly friendly, just too tired to move away.

From the lookout on top of Mt Eden you can see all around Auckland.

And, even though Mt Eden erupted 60,000 years ago, the crater is still very visible.

After marvelling at the view (and the cows) for a little while, it was time to walk back down the hill. Chris and I parted ways at the Auckland Museum, where she went in for a look around and I continued into the city. You see, I had a lunch date.

I was meeting up with Vaala, of the beautifully written blog Twilight and Shadow. We headed to Raw Power for lunch, a vegetarian cafe right in the city centre. The menu was packed with vegan options, so I asked Vaala what was good. I settled for the Tofu Burger, and I was informed that the guy from Coldplay had the same meal when he came to Auckland. It was the most aesthetically appealing sandwich I've probably ever had, but I had to eat it with fork and knife because it was so big.

I washed it down with the juice of the day, which was called the 'Elvis'. I don't remember what was in it, but it was yummy.

Then we grabbed dessert (I grabbed two desserts!) and went to Albert Park, near the uni, to eat in the sun. I had a Vegan Vanilla Creme, which is two chocolate biscuits with vanilla icing in the middle, and chocolate sprinkles around the edge.

Vaala was, as I expected, a lovely person and I'm very glad I was able to meet her.
A big tree in Albert Park.

(I also got a vegan rum ball to go, which I ate during afternoon tea at the conference.) After lunch I went back to the conference and settled in to some ethnographic films. As I watched, I wrote a few postcards to send to my family and started winding down for the weekend.

On Saturday a group of us rented a car so we could explore a bit more of the north island. The driver, Marcus, had heard about some hot springs about 40 minutes north of Auckland, so that was the only thing on the agenda for the day. We went, paid exhorbitant amounts of money to get in, and then agreed it was well worth it to soak in 40 degree mineral water.

After our fingers got wrinkly we dried off and kept going north. We found a little town called Warkworth, which I'm pretty sure is the best name for a town I've ever heard--especially if you have an American accent, like I do. We tried out our kiwi accents for lunch and I had "fush-liss sushi" and "chups". Sorry to any kiwis reading this--we weren't making too much fun of you, but it's just a nice accent to speak with!

From Warkworth we headed northeast, to Tawharanui National Park on the east coast. We marvelled at the blue water, waves, sheep and green hills.

Then we went a bit further north to Leigh, where we had a look at the Goat Island Marine Reserve (our driver, though now an anthropologist, started his life as a marine biologist, so this was for him really).

It was getting to be late afternoon at this stage, so we headed west. My supervisor *really* wanted to see the west coast, and especially the gannet colony, after hearing so much about it during the week. Though less than an hour's drive apart, the east and west coasts are vastly different to one another.

At Muriwai, we accidentally missed the turn off for the gannet colony and were rewarded with some amazing views of the whole coast.

And then we were quickly back on track for an up-close look at the gannets (again, for me).
Since Auckland doesn't get dark until late, we lost track of time and ended up going out to dinner at 9 pm, and finishing at nearly midnight! Very European of us, no? Then it was to bed, so I could wake up, do some last minute gift-shopping, pack and then get to the airport to head home. My arrival at home was slightly delayed thanks to a thunder storm over Townsville, but I got there, and in one piece. And shortly after I landed, Andy's plane came in from Lizard Island, where he'd been for the last five weeks. So while I had a great time in both Melbourne and Auckland, I was definitely happy to come home!


Lovlie said...

Wow! Marvelous pictures! It seems you had a really good time. And it's all sunny over there! Here's it's getting dark at 4pm!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Such beautiful photography!! And I love cows, so those photos are my favorite :-D

Vaala ◪ said...

I'm still impressed at how much you managed to do in that one day! So glad you got to Tawharanui. You'd be able to see the bay where our beach house is if you were facing the other way in that photo looking down towards the lagoon.

Hungry Hungry Dancer said...

your pictures are breath taking!! i agree with veggie girl. the cows are adorable... also the birds on the clifs.. wow

Anonymous said...

those are stunning pictures. i love the cow!!!!

that juice, burger, and dessert look so darn good. i wouldn't expect new zealand to have all those good eats!

Bianca said...

The cows are adorable! I just don't understand how anyone can slaughter such a beautiful animal!

And the birds are really cool too. I like how they've assembled themselves in a pattern.

Amy said...

Such beautiful views and places!

And such yummy food, I want me one of those vanilla ice cream sammiches!!

Your cow photos make me miss the cows we had down the road in Canberra :( They're beautiful!

Vegan_Noodle said...

Beautiful scenery! All those gannets... wow! Wouldn't want to be under them if they flew away all at once!

How cool that you got to meet Vaala! Your lunch looks delicious.

Hope you have a wonderful holidays!

Anonymous said...

the cow is so cute!
and the food looks so fresh and good
merry xmas!:)

Anonymous said...

Your photos are amazing! The gannets are so cool!

DJ said...

Wow - it sounds like you had an amazing time! And your photos of NZ are stunning!

Minnie said...

Beautiful pictures:o) What a lovely place. You certainly packed a lot in. Now safely home:o)

Food looks yummy and the cow adorable. Hate to see them tagged, though. It's just a 'me' thing..gets my back up.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Wow! How can one place offer so much beauty? And not a store/shopping mall to be seen, littering the scenery!

Food looks good too ;o)

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

Gannets are awesome! Great photos!