New Zealand: Christmas in Auckland

Arriving in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city I noticed one stark contrast with my time in the Americas: the lack of people. New Zealand despite being similar in size to Great Britain has a shockingly smaller population 65m vs 4.4m! And over a million of them live in Auckland but you wouldn’t really know it. The streets in the very centre seemed really quiet and I was arriving on a Friday night when you would expect to see people.

I had been told that Auckland was not the best place to stay in NZ but I had arrived at a tricky time on the 23rd December and my parents were arriving on the 27th so with the Xmas holidays grinding a lot of things to a halt I checked into a hostel, Frienz, and did very little for the next four days except cook a huge chilli which I spaced out over Xmas Eve, Xmas Day and Boxing day and shared a bottle of Jim Bean I had bought in duty free with some hostel friends I made (which, because of the festive period, seemed to consist entirely of long-term working travel types, mainly from England). Due to the warmish temperature and bright sunshine, I felt Christmassy for about an hour on Christmas day when one of the Brits, who had, for some reason, hundreds of old, mainly British, TV themes on his laptop started playing them and a few of us had to guess which was which.

Over the Xmas period I really didn’t do much apart from chill-out and stroll around the empty city.  Here’s a view of Auckland from the harbour:

When my parents arrived they had booked into a plushish hotel, and as a bed was going spare in Joe’s room, I checked-in with them. My dad was so overjoyed to see me he left his bag with wallet and important stuff in the taxi; and a few hours later he realised he’d left his phone on the plane. This was to start a spate of forgetfulness by all of us over the next few weeks! We spent the day walking up Mount Eden which offered some great views of the city and an introduction to the flora and fauna in NZ. In the afternoon we caught the bus to Mission Bay where me and Joe braved the wind and not-so-summery conditions to have a first of many dips in the ocean.

The next day we were up early to catch the ferry over to Waiheke island 40 minutes away. The topography of the island is cool; undulating grassy hills descend steeply down to white sandy beaches. After taking in a couple of the beaches and swimming in the cold sea we hit up one of the many vineyards on the island in order to taste a few very scrumptious wines.

I was a bit lazy with the camera on Waiheke so I’ve cheated and used google, to give you an idea of the place:

We had to hurry back to Auckland to catch an early dinner reservation, up the Auckland Sky Tower; the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. I had sneakily booked us a table before my family had arrived and told them we were going to a Chinese restaurant that had been recommended. As we were approaching the monstrous building I was sure they would twig-on but they seemed not to realise what was going on until we were shooting up the 328m of concrete, glass and steel in the superfast elevator. It was different to any other high building I’d been up because of the contrast in height with the rest of the city’s skyscrapers. You really feel like you are on top of the city. After the best meal I’d had since my steak in Argentina we returned to the hotel for an early night before our flight to the South Island.

View of the city from the Sky Tower:

Joe, Me and Dad fooling around:

My foot on top of Auckland City skyscrapers:

This was kind of like our Xmas dinner but a few days late, and instead of Turkey, the boys had Steak:

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