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Alex: Walkabout part II

July 17, 2011

The morning sun was beautiful today, and there was nothing on the schedule that needed attending, so I decided today would be the day where I choose a compass point and walk until my feet ached. It is inconsequential that the compass point I thought I had chosen was, in fact, the opposite of the direction I actually walked.

I walked west (what I thought was east, my mental map of Auckland was upside-down) listening to my book the whole way and had quite the marvelous day. When I look on the map at where I think I traveled to, it does not seem like it should have taken me as long as it did, but perhaps I made it further than I thought, and I certainly took the long way round for much of it. I made it to Cox’s Harbor and Henre Harbor only with much effort and only after many side-tracks. The morning sun I had counted on was nearly gone by the time I set out around eleven and it was replaced by scattered clouds and occasional sprinkles. None of this bothered me, since I had all the time in the world to wait out the rain at bus stops and under the canopies of trees.

I walked through a cluttered urban district or two which was replaced by a more suburban neighborhood filled with car dealerships and that faded to the true suburban backdrop of tall houses, topiary and many schools. I felt a bit uncomfortable when I got turned around and ended up walking in front of the same preschool three times in the space of ten minutes. I noticed later that that preschool had one of those spinning tic-tac-toe games with the numbers printed on one side of the spinning columns and the Maori words for those numbers printed underneath. After getting myself thoroughly lost and more than a little wet it was almost two o’clock and I was starving. I stopped for lunch at a little place called Dellow’s Kitchen in Herne Bay. I had the most delicious tomato soup I’ve ever tasted, full of big sweet tangy bits of tomato, covered in a huge scoop of crispy, crumbled salty bacon and garnished with delightfully garlicky pesto. It was just what I needed to shake off the cold and the hunger.

On my way back schools were just letting out, and I saw children running the gamut from kindergartners wearing backpacks as big as themselves to highschool girls in their blue-sweater-and-knee-length-skirt uniforms (as a point of interest not all the girls wore uniforms, and I don’t think I saw a single boy in one, although I saw fewer older boys in general).

Since on my way back I knew where I was headed, I paid more attention to the shops and areas around me. I found what may be my new favorite part of Auckland: a neighborhood to the north and west of here where I found within three blocks a comic shop, a guitar shop and two tattoo parlors practically across the street from each other. I stopped at a cafe here for a late “tea” of coffee and a muffin. Neither was exactly what I ordered, but both were delicious and warm, and I suspect the woman taking my order didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t feel like assaulting her with my awful Mandarin.

That brings me to another point: this city is so much more cosmopolitan than I expected. It really is quite the melting pot. Nearly every face I saw on the street was some sort of neutral grey. Certainly there are those who could obviously be identified as Chinese or Polynesian or Indian or European but most everyone else was just…kiwi. Even in my beloved Metro there are what seem to be broadly-defined race lines. Certainly everyone is comfortable with the Somalis and the Hmong and the Chinese, but that’s because they mostly keep to themselves. I didn’t notice any of that here, but maybe I’m just jaded.

Anyway, I’m home now and I have no intention of leaving. My feet, along with many other parts of me, ache as I spent nearly seven hours walking today. I suspect tonight will not be a late night, but this is still probably the most satisfying day I have had here in Auckland.

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