I like to learn the history of a place, but I’m not a fan of guided tours. Not so much the tour, but having to share street space with a group of tourists. I find it incredibly annoying and rude watching a group of people all taking the same photo, that you could have found on google, while a guide is trying to tell you the history of a place. People who basically walk around with their cameras in front of their faces documenting EVERYTHING aren’t actually experiencing anything more than life through a camera screen, so they may as well have stayed at home!
So to avoid me accidentally punching an old person, I prefer to wander the city alone. This won’t give me as much historical information, but then that is what Wikipedia is for. It also means I get to enjoy finding all the little quirks and hidden spots in a city. I decided to walk back from the motorbike shop towards town, along the Great North Road. It’s a really wide road, by european standards, with shops lining each side the whole way into town. The shop fronts all have large overhanging awnings to protect their patrons from sun on a day like today, or the tremendous deluges of rain that I’ve been told sneak up on you. There was every kind of shop under the sun, plus a “sex extreme” shop, for all your bondage needs, that should only be visited under the moon.
I found an interesting shopping courtyard leading off the main road with lots of interesting doodads hanging from the roof and shop windows. The building was gorgeously Art Deco with sunburst iron gates and narrow cut windows. There was a wide set of stairs leading down in the centre of the courtyard opposite a full wall of glass streaming with sunlight. People were sitting around drinking coffee and listening to the melonge of music from each of the shops, looking out over an amazing view of the city and the sky tower. The gardens led down quite a steep hill towards the city and had been donated by some dude ages ago (that’s how much history I learnt today) and are now a secluded park overlooked by a gorgeous mix of buildings.
I kept walking downhill and followed my nose over to another park with a huge mast and cannons, a clock tower that reminded me of Gaudi’s work and a romantic fountain. I was lucky this was all downhill because it was baking hot. I was thankful of the public water fountain for a drink at this point, what can’t we have these in Hyde Park? I carried on down and found a really nice ice cream shop where bankers and office workers were queuing up. The ice cream mountains that this shop produced were incredible so I had to get one, it was bigger than my head, but far more tasty!
I wandered down the main street of shops, past Gucci and Prada and other exclusive brands with price tags that make me sick, till I got to the harbour front. Here you can really tell the money in the air as all the hotels and restaurants were full of perfectly preserved specimens of humans. They had the kind of look that only vast amounts of money and time in front of a mirror can buy; trendy without trying look.
An information board showed me what the coastline used to look like in the 1850’s. This clicked with something I had noticed subconsciously about the city. It is very hilly and quite steep in places so I was glad I had started at the top of the hill and only walked down. However once at the bottom of the hill, the land was completely flat and only a few meters above sea level. It turns out that much of the lower city that you can see today has been reclaimed from the ocean to make the port.
When I got back to Sally’s, I found out that one of her sons, Mark, was stopping by to say hi. It was incredible to think that we hadn’t seen each other for about 10 years. One evenings dinner couldn’t hope to catch us up with everything in life but it was great to hear how the move to New Zealand worked out for them and how they had all achieved careers they loved. We spoke of my plans to travel their adopted country and gave me loads of tips on where to see and what roads to take. The trip is sort of forming itself which is exactly what I wanted it to do. Tomorrow I pick up the motorbike I bought and then the adventure really begins!