New Zealand

Spontaneous Conversations with Friendly Jafa’s in Auckland

from the followsummer archive: January 2004. New Zealand was our first stop on our around the world trip.

We start our morning in a sun-drenched café

with coffee and muffins in the Mt. Eden neighbourhood of Auckland. John’s sister Ruth is heading to Waiuku for a funeral and leaves us on our own. We catch the bus and head downtown to Queen Street and seek out an internet café to do our website updating. Aucklanders and Kiwis, in general, are very friendly people. Everywhere we go, spontaneous conversation kicks in. Queen Street is the original downtown of Auckland and the area hums with tourists and backpackers, seeking shopping, currency exchange or the last bit of raucous nightlife before they head off into the wilderness of New Zealand. Many trekkers, like us, spend their morning picking up email and connecting to family and friends.

Auckland has changed dramatically since we were here 12 years ago. America’s Cup has dramatically revitalized the harbour with shops and expensive condos. As in any city’s history of revitalization and renovation, especially on their waterfront, the results are both positive and negative. The waterfront is certainly accessible and inviting, with the café and shopping experience predominating. Not necessarily accessible perhaps for all Jafa’s (a local colloquialism for the residents of Auckland) but none the less a very inviting area in the City of Sails.

Auckland: Situated on Many Ancient Volcanoes

We have a designated rendezvous later in the day with Ruth in Devonport, which is a pleasant 10-minute ferry ride across the harbour from Auckland, for our 4-hour drive to the “Far North”. Despite sudden overcast skies and threatening rain, we arrive to have a pleasant 45-minute stroll through the Victorian town, having a quick browse through the shops and grabbing a latte as the threatening skies deliver a 5-minute summer shower, scattering the tourists and locals under awnings and into cafes.

Just as the shower is nicely ended, we meet up with Ruth and begin the drive north. For the first hour or so out of Auckland, we are on the motorway with heavy weekend traffic. Then the road narrows to 2 lanes, and we still have heavy weekend traffic. John takes over the driving – first time for “keep left” driving – which is good practice for the coming campervan experience in Australia.

The scenery is unspoilt and magnificent – lush green everywhere, and spectacular stands of trees unknown outside New Zealand.

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