Travel Auckland New Zealand
For some, New Zealand, and Auckland in particular, is what Australia used to be before commercialization saw it lose a certain amount of its raw purity. Don’t, however, think for one second that New Zealand is some primitive, backward place that explorers go to get off the beaten track. Auckland is as cosmopolitan and diverse as its Southern Hemisphere counterparts.
But in the last few decades it has attracted a whole new kind of traveler to its shores – the adrenalin junkie. New Zealand is absolutely the extreme sports capital of the world and Auckland is one of the best places you can go to indulge in some bowel-loosening, vomit inducing action without having to consume jellied eels.
You have to hand it to them, the Kiwis have invented a startling number of ways for you to hurtle yourself off buildings, bridges, towers and just about anything else that stands dizzyingly high. And if you think that throwing yourself off a solid structure is boring then you can always plump for throwing yourself out a moving aircraft.
Auckland is by far New Zealand’s biggest city with a population of 1.3 million people – a third of New Zealand’s entire human population (New Zealand has around 40 million sheep). With this respectable population comes a city with strong ethnic diversity creating some of the best cuisine in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere.
Modern day Auckland stretches from the town of Wellsford in the north, to the rolling Bombay Hills in the south. It is surrounded by three harbours – the Waitemata, the Manukau and the Kaipara, New Zealand’s largest. From the first Maori waka (Maori canoe) and colonial ships, Auckland has attracted immigrants. By the 1890s, it had a truly cosmopolitan flavour, with dozens of languages heard in the bustling streets from new inhabitants from Europe, China and India. This large immigration culture continued throughout the 20the century, particularly in the 1950s when the population was boosted by the post war ‘baby boom’. Many European immigrants were attracted from countries such as Holland, Hungary and Yugoslavia, bringing Auckland more cosmopolitan tastes and its first foreign restaurants.
Many rural people relocated to seek work in the bright lights of the city, and large numbers of Maori migrated to Auckland where employment opportunities were better. Today, Auckland is the world’s largest Polynesian city. Around 63 per cent of its residents are of European descent, 13 per cent are of Pacific Island descent and there is a growing Asian population of around 12 per cent. Only 11 per cent of the city’s population are of Maori descent.
When you come to Auckland, you would be mad not try out at least one of the extreme sports on offer, in fact, it would be criminal. Like going to Sydney without seeing the harbour or to Dublin without wandering through Temple Bar. Extreme sport is quite simply Auckland’s bag, baby. If you’ve ever been on a flight and thought to yourself, I’d love to jump out of this thing, then skydiving is for you.
There are a host of companies offering a wide range of skydiving options, tandem jumps, solo jumps (for the insane), 30 second freefalls, 50 second freefalls, different heights from 8,000 to 16,000 feet, giving an unimaginably long freefall. The moment when the guy you’re strapped to (who acts like what you’re doing is the most normal, mundane thing possible) says OK, and thrusts you both out of the comfort and safety of the plane and into 16,000 feet of nothingness is absolutely terrifying but unbelievably exciting. Then, as you catapult towards the earth at 100mph you begin to realise you are having the most amazing experience of your life, but then oh no, we’ve been freefalling for a while, maybe there’s a problem, why isn’t the parachute opening? If he doesn’t seem to be panicking but then if there was a problem then he wouldn’t would he? He’s a professional. Oh shit, I’m going to die! Suddenly, with a fairly violent jolt, the chute opens and you are suddenly floating through the air taking in the most stunning views. Everything becomes calm and you think to yourself, this is awesome. I want to do it again!
Skydiving costs between $200 and $450 depending on which company you go with and what height you jump from. Other Spiderman-esque activities include a 40 metre leap off the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which includes a quick dip or two into the water, for around $125.
Why not try the Sky Jump – jumping 192 metres from the observation deck of the Auckland Sky Tower with nothing to save you from becoming a giant pizza at the bottom but a wire. It’s kind of like a parachute jump without the parachute.
Another extreme sport which is becoming big in New Zealand is rappelling – or abseiling – head first from buildings. You can do this at the Mercure Hotel on Customs Street with Groundrush.
After all this adrenalin-fueled excitement, rock climbing, canyoning and walking tours may seem rather tame but there a number of companies offering this and all in the breathtaking beauty on Auckland’s doorstep. There are plenty of cheap places to stay in and around Auckland. The city centre, around Queen Street, is where the biggest hostels.
As previously mentioned, Auckland is a great place to eat whether you need a big greasy kebab to mop up the 18 pints of Guinness you bet your mates you could drink or if you want to impress that Swedish bird with a cosy night in one of Auckland’s many ethnic restaurants from Thai and Middle Eastern to European and traditional Kiwi fayre.
So there you have it, Auckland is a place of interesting history, stunning scenery, vomit-inducing sports, fine food and good nightlife – why wouldn’t you want to go?