Waitakere Ranges and Helensville
Considering I didn’t arrive until Tuesday, I have had a pretty busy week and managed to stave off the worst of the jet lag to accomplish a fair amount in three days before folks closed for the weekend. This being the case and with little I could practicably do on the job front, I decided to indulge in some rest and recuperation.
After sorting out my laundry, which consisted of collecting it from the Chinese laundry across the road, I packed my bags, checked out of my room and drove out of the city, heading west. Actually, I drove out of the city heading north because I missed the turning for SH16 and had to follow SH1 over the harbour bridge before I could find an exit that would allow me to backtrack. However, this little navigational error afforded me the great view one gets heading south into Auckland over the bridge. Taking in the harbour with seemingly thousands of yacht masts pointing skyward, set against a background of towers and buildings beyond, there’s no doubt as to why Auckland calls itself the City Of Sails. Heading in the right direction, I headed towards the Waitakere Regional Park which stretches from the western fringe of Auckland all the way to the West Coast. Free of the strip developments and suburbs, I took snaking roads up into these low hills, snatching great views through the foliage here until I pulled into the Arataki Visitor Centre. Here was a very well thought out centre, whose entrance walkway on stilts curled through the bush plants to suddenly reveal a superb vista overlooking the bush falling away down to the blue waters of Manukau Harbour. Inside, informative displays explained not only the facts concerning the local flora and fauna but the settlement and land use by Maori and Europeans over the years. I moved on over the Waitakere Ranges to Piha, a small settlement of houses and baches (summer homes, often on or near beaches) that plays host to families and surfers escaping the city. The dark-coloured beaches sparkle here and, judging from the look of things, are made up of something like iron ore sand.
From Piha, which is the end of the road, I backtracked to the scenic drive route and drove down into the rolling farmlands to the north of the park. These reminded me somewhat of Virginia in the US, which small farms nestling under wooded bluffs and long straight stretches of road drawing one onto the next crest. I stopped in Kumeu for lunch at a cafe in a garden centre. In the UK, this would usually mean pretty meager fare but at The Carriages (part of the dining area is comprised of two railway carriages) served up what was the best meal I have had so far on this trip. Eating seared scallops with parma ham on grilled ciabatta with cucumber salad and chopped tomatoes with a small glass of wine on a warm sunny terrace, I tried imagine the whole family here with me and found that the image came easily – it may be wishful thinking but who knows? After lunch, I headed to Helensville for no other reason that it would make a good turning point to head back east and then south later in the afternoon. Upon arriving, I found that I had turned up on the day of the town’s Agricultural and Pastoral show, an affair similar to English county shows. I wandered around this, taking in the usual sights like lovingly restored farm machinery, country dancing displays, sheep dog trials and show jumping, as well as the less familiar like a pen full of alpaca, junior bungee jumping and a truly wonderful open air unisex hairdressing salon.
After the drive back to the motel, I spent time uploading pictures to Flikr before heading out to a heaving downtown where AO5, the Auckland City Festival and the Lantern Festival celebrating the new Chinese Lunar Year were both in full swing. Having finally found a parking space, I wandered around Albert Park eating satay and rice whilst watching acrobats and dancers and browsing the stalls. I walked back to the car via the square by the City Hall where open air performances where in full swing but by then I was running on empty. Watching opera singers dangling from cranes and balconies seemed a little too surreal for my knackered mind to cope with so I headed back for a cold beer, a chat with the family and sleep.
Categorised as: Ponderings