Our first weekend in Auckland was spent on a tour given to us by the full blooded native Kiwi of the family (my first cousin once removed’s husband). Saturday morning he randomly offered to drive us to scenic and historic places in Auckland. It was an unexpected offer that was generous and we graciously accepted. Off we sped in his hybrid Japanese hand-me down of a car (really a great and economic car) to the first must-see of Auckland- Mt. Eden. Known in Maori as Maungawhau (mountain of the Whau tree).
It was blustry and rain was on the horizon, that didn’t stop us standing at the summit of Mt. Eden and having a history lesson. Mt. Eden had been a Maori Pa (fortified village). The crater of the volcano ( as any hill in Auckland seems to be), had a sign telling us not to enter because it was sacred and delicate. For reasons unknown to me, the crater was considered sacred and it was a very bad idea to go wandering down into it-despite it being covered in grass and looking very fun to roll down).
Very near the crater was a indent in the grass that our tour guide pointed out as a Maori storage ditch. All along the side of the hill at even intervals were leveled areas that when the area was a Pa (fortified village) had a stockade all around. It turns out that the wooden defenses along with large swathes of tautly strung flax fabric (used to bounce back cannon balls) were really quite effective at keeping the British at bay.
The view from Mt. Eden was incredible, but could have been better. It was grey and we could clearly see the rain that was sweeping our way. Despite the incliment weather, we were still able to see many of the other hills and mountains of the area. We could see our next destination- One Tree Hill with its obelisked summit in the distance.
One Tree Hill, Maungakiekie in Maori, was the most important Pa (fortified village) in pre-European times. And despite it’s name, no longer has one tree on it. In some bit of history, One Tree Hill did have one, or two, native tree on it. This native tree was chopped down by a settler either for firewood or as vandalism. Later a pine tree was introduced to the hill and the Maori hacked it down to show the injustice toward them. There are lots of strong feelings about if a tree should be planted on One Tree Hill. If so, what kind, a native kind (that wouldn’t do well with the wind) or a pine ( that might stand the gales)? There are debates and it might never again have a tree on it.
Instead of a tree is an obelisk. This obelisk has a statue of the supposedly first Maori to come to New Zealand. There is also a plaque dedicated to the beer baron who had his cottage at the base of One Tree Hill. There are still sheep kept on the grounds and supposedly also cattle. It was strange to see little lambins running around (I’m still getting used to the idea that it’s Spring here).
The view was again great, but the clouds and grey sky were even more overwhelming. We could see our next destination from here as well- Mt. Hobson.
Mt. Hobson, Remuwera, is named after the first governor of Auckland. It, as per the other two, was once a Maori Pa, but is now a reservoir and park with a war memorial. We were shown this mount as a bit of family history and because our guide always liked the war memorial on the side. When his children were young, it was our guides tradition to come to Mt. Hobson at the first sign of Spring and have a picnic. Of course it the wind was usually still bitter and the picnic was a chilly one, but it was their sign that better weather was on the way. The war memorial he enjoys because it is a field of daffodils. The field is dedicated to “those boys who played on this hill and fought in the war”. The field was either not well maintained or the daffodils had all already bloomed. The other hills had roads to their summits, this one you had to take a footpath, so there were really no tourists here.
After the tour of the hills, we drove along the waterfront and through downtown. Auckland has a low skyline, but I like it that way. I can see all the little dormant volcanoes. They not only are a part of the skyline because they stick out of the surrounding neighborhoods, but also because they are pockets of green- in that most all of the hills are some kind of park. But the most dominate feature of the skyline would have to be the Sky Tower. It is an observation and telecommunications tower. People also bungee jump off of it……yikes!
We returned from our adventure to lunch and a cup of tea. I am very thankful for the opportunity not only to see this historic places, but to have someone so very knowledgeable with us. I would have never learned so much if I had tried to visit the sites alone.