NZ #3: Auckland

By: | Post date: January 1, 2010 | Comments: No Comments
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A prosperous and productive New Year to my readers, and a’ that.

Oh yeah, I was in Auckland, wasn’t I? Hm. Scenic alright, especially from the vantage of Devonport, with its “dormant” volcanoes dotted with fortifications and cannons, waiting for Imperial Russian fleets that never turned up, and with a clear shot across to the yachts of Viaduct Harbour. You’d better hope Devonport never secedes. Before they were anti-Russian fortifications, the volcanoes were meant to have been Maori fortifications, pa; I couldn’t see the evidence, but then again, I didn’t quite know where to look.

Apart from fortifications and cannonwork, Devonport is self-conscious about having a village feel. There was a sniff of Brighton about it, and that the word “village” is even allowed here is another confirmation of how British New Zealand got to be. Australia never calls anything a village, unless an upmarket redevelopment is happening 1 km from the CBD.

Come to think of it, Devonport may have been a ferry-ride across the harbour, but it was still 1 km away from the CBD.

Devonport loves wood as building material. Like Auckland does, and as far as I can tell the rest of the island does. The Pakeha arrived and found the islands a cornucopia of trees, just like the Maori had found it a cornucopia of flightless protein, and they went to work harvesting. Landing in Auckland was already noticeably different from Wellington: there was a lot less forest and more grassland. Auckland suburbia also had a more incoherent mix of wood, brick (from the mid 20th century), and concrete.

But the oldest houses were wood. I do not like wood. Weatherboard has connotations of impoverishment to me, and I steer clear of it—which is a feat in Oakleigh, where people are actually putting up weatherboard in place of brick, to blend in. Wood in New Zealand is not a sign of impoverishment. Devonport adorned its affluent verandas with wood latticework, rather than wrought iron; but to my biased eyes, that looked somewhat daft. On the grounds of Auckland University, the Old Government House stands, buildt in 1858. But it looks like an overgrown woodshed. The fact that the front of it was under scaffolding being restored didn’t dispel that impression. So I refused to photograph it.

Actually, I’m having trouble accessing my normal photo repository online anyway, and I’m rationing my Internet time, so you won’t be any the wiser about my photos anyway. Pity, you miss out on my mad composition skillz.

Auckland CBD itself is a huddle of ill-conceived skyscrapers, punctuated by parkland and funky alleyways. I had high hopes for Aotea Square, but it too is currently a building site. Vulcan Lane is less precious about its alternativeness than Cuba St in Wellington, but it’s also over a lot quicker. The Chancery precinct is agreeably snooty; but it’s over even quicker. In all, I can’t say Auckland grabbed me.

Other than its hilliness. That grabbed me alright. There’s no need to go hiking outside of Auckland (let alone tramping, which is what the locals call it). Walking through the CBD is tramping enough; I’m halfway convinced my ears popped on the way back to the hotel.

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