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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

New Zealand: Auckland

The Auckland skyline
The Auckland skyline

Auckland is the first place I've seen that genuinely nestles. Looking at the city from a vantage point like Mt Eden, the way that the buildings crowd round the edges of the city's many green volcanoes reminds me of the way a cat rubs the back of his neck against your leg; Auckland positively embraces its peaks. Some of the cones even have cows grazing on them; there can't be too many western cities that have cows in their very midst.

Initial Explorations

Rangitoto from Mt Eden
Rangitoto from Mt Eden

My arrival in Auckland was made considerably easier by the wonderful hospitality of Doug, the director of the computer company Acorn New Zealand, his wife Raewyn and their two daughters, who put me up in their house and gave me a job at Acorn on the technical support team, starting straight away. This job would end up funding most of my Asian travels, but first I needed to sort myself out with a roof over my head.

One Tree Hill from Mt Eden
One Tree Hill from Mt Eden

Working in Auckland

The offices of Acorn New Zealand
The offices of Acorn New Zealand

It wasn't long before work threw out some exciting opportunities. Because the Acorn market is still relatively thriving in New Zealand, especially when compared to Australia, there are stories everywhere begging to be written down, and somehow I managed to get Acorn to employ me on my way round New Zealand. They commissioned me to write a portfolio of case studies of their prime school sites, as well as a collection of articles on their dealers, and they even promised to give me a job when I returned to Auckland to round off my stay.

The Domain

The War Memorial Museum, Auckland Domain
The grand War Memorial Museum dominates Auckland Domain

On the Labour Day long weekend I visited Centennial Park to the west of Auckland, at the southern tip of the Waitakere Ranges. The views were stunning, but this was where I learned why Aucklanders always carry umbrellas or raincoats around with them, even when there isn't a cloud in the sky. Auckland's weather is completely unreliable, and while Melbourne might be home to 'four seasons in one day', Auckland feels like it's managed to invent a few more of its own. As the locals say, 'If you can see the Waitakeres, it's going to rain; if you can't see the Waitakeres, it's already raining.' Too bloody right.

Mark on Auckland Domain
On Auckland Domain

Fireworks Over Auckland

The lighthouse at Whatipu
The lighthouse at Whatipu is typical of the beauty in the Auckland area

The Kiwis celebrate Fireworks Night3 in style. It's a bit strange that a country on the opposite side of the world should celebrate an event that happened 12,000 miles away and hundreds of years ago; the Australians don't even know who Guy Fawkes is, let alone what he did, but New Zealand is much more like England than Australia, and as in the UK, the locals will use any excuse for a party.

Surf Casting in Whatipu

Mark and Greg surfcasting on Whatipu Beach
Greg and I surfcasting on windy Whatipu Beach

Me and fishing aren't exactly good bedfellows; while I love the sport, my catch rate is terrible, a fact that hasn't escaped my friend and fishing partner Bill, who said in his last letter that he'd discovered the secret to successful fishing – to go without me. Suffice to say that visiting Whatipu did little to change this, but at least I found a new method in which to expend heaps of energy while achieving nothing: surf casting.

1 I'll never forget what happened when Paul asked me why Vegemite was not so much a spread as an Antipodean religion; my response was that if he wanted to find out why, he could help himself to my jar, but I forgot to tell him to only use a little bit, so he layered it on like thick jam. When I came back from work he declared that Aussies and Kiwis were obviously quite insane worshipping a spread that burned the roof of your mouth off; I didn't have the heart to tell him that not even the biggest fan of Vegemite would put it on toast that thickly.

2 I thoroughly liked Greg, and bizarrely all the photos I have of him show him either in jeans and camouflaged shirt, or camouflaged trousers and blue T-shirt. This isn't particularly noteworthy, but I mention it so I can gratuitously shoehorn in one of my favourite Kiwi advertising slogans, the one for Camouflaged Condoms. The sales pitch? 'Don't let them see you coming...' Pure genius!

3 I think – though I could be wrong – that Fireworks Night is only celebrated in the UK and New Zealand (Australians don't bother, that's for sure). The night of is given over to fireworks, bonfires and jacket potatoes, to celebrate the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes and his gang to blow up the Houses of Parliament with a cellar packed with gunpowder (hence the name of the attempted coup, the Gunpowder Plot). It's fun, unless you happen to work in an Accident and Emergency Department... alcohol and gunpowder can be a dangerously explosive mix.