TA Day 26, ‘slackpack’ Auckland – 9 km

A portrait of a Maori woman by Gottfried Lindauer in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
A portrait of a Maori woman by Gottfried Lindauer in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Slackpacking is section backpacking while sleeping in the same place each night

I’m a tourist right now, loosely “walking” the trail through Auckland on a bright sunny day. Back to the ferry building with the spectacular red lamps, popped into the DOC office to pick up my hut pass for the coming months, primarily in the south island.

I join a free walking tour and learn of a statue made in the 1960s to honor the Maori, and made by a woman – all sorts of impossible awarenesses converging. The sun burns, so I wear my hat and seek shade. At Queen and Customs, the signal stops all traffic and people casually pour into the street like a slow motion dance choreographed for some in choppy straight lines, others striding diagonally.

Purchasing my hut pass at the Department of Conservation for the thirty or so remote huts I'll stay in on the south island.
Purchasing my hut pass at the Department of Conservation for the thirty or so remote huts I’ll stay in on the south island.
The 1912 ferry building is the hub of activity in a place surrounded by water.
The 1912 ferry building is the hub of activity in a place surrounded by water.

My destination is the art gallery but the air is heavenly and I stop at a tiny Turkish take-away for a giant gyro. Later, my hosts will serve a Kiwi Thanksgiving but I’m hungry now.

Krispy Kreme just opened here, disco blaring, free donuts for our line snaking out onto the square. Perfect sugar puff of fatty goodness as I catch up with the free walking tour. Lime scooters are really taking off here.

School girls take selfies next to a sea captain statue.
School girls take selfies next to a sea captain statue.
I lucked out walking through Auckland the day American donut company Krispy Kreme opened a cafe.
I lucked out walking through Auckland the day American donut company Krispy Kreme opened a cafe.
Lime scooters are ubiquitous even in Auckland standing at the ready near the suffragists memorial.
Lime scooters are ubiquitous even in Auckland standing at the ready near the suffragists memorial.

I wander into the library. I love libraries the world over; quiet, everyone earnestly bent over work or a book, a kind of hum of information that even walking down the stacks piques my curiosity. I give my phone another charge.

There are tourists, yes, but this city is built for its residents, I love its walkability. With a visa, I am considered a temporary resident and enter the museum for free. It’s art I have never seen, made in Aoteoroa New Zealand, Moana Oceania and by Maori artists.

A suggestive painting by Kiwi artist Jan Nigro in the art museum.
A suggestive painting by Kiwi artist Jan Nigro in the art museum.
A child plays under public art in downtown Auckland.
A child plays under public art in downtown Auckland.
Masks from the people of Aotearoa and Oceania.
Masks from the people of Aotearoa and Oceania.

Feminist artist Jan Nigro stops me in my tracks, as does Ralph Hotere’s mural originally for the airport called Godwit – named for the ‘can do and go anywhere’ bird I saw often on my long beach walking.

One hundred women build sand mounds and celebrate creation, regional artists see land as metaphor. Finally a long hallway of extraordinary Lindauer Maori portraits from the 1870s made not from life, but photographs.

The men have rangi pahuri, full face tattoos, that signify their mana or influence and some are in European dress with handlebar mustaches. I find the women powerful with marks around their mouths, on their lips and chin.

It's taken me a month to reach Auckland at the thinnest part of the country and surrounded by water.
It’s taken me a month to reach Auckland at the thinnest part of the country and surrounded by water.
Enormous carnivorous pitcher plants in the Wintergardens of Auckland's Domain.
Enormous carnivorous pitcher plants in the Wintergardens of Auckland’s Domain.

Next, up the hill to the wintergardens, humid, fragrant and hot under glass. Massive pitcher plants yawn obscenely yet invitingly to unsuspecting passersby. In the shade, the temperature is mild on the verge of chilly, I sip a green drink and rest my legs. I am actually on the Te Araroa now, but my pack is only carrying my phone charger.

I head into the museum and find an extraordinary exhibit of Maori artifacts including a 25 meter long war canoe made of one totara log. Large figures look on through abalone eyes, most with their tongues stuck out at me.

Notes from visitors to an exhibition about women's suffrage and search for equality.
Notes from visitors to an exhibition about women’s suffrage and search for equality.
Blissful next to a massive ammonite fossil at the War Memorial Museum in Auckland.
Blissful next to a massive ammonite fossil at the War Memorial Museum in Auckland.

And then it’s ‘Hot Words, Bold Retorts,’ a celebration of 125 years of women’s suffrage – New Zealand being the first country in the world to give women the vote, but definitely not including equality by a long shot. These were tough broads, one portrait prominently displayed of a woman from my host’s family.

Whoa, a whole wing devoted to the women’s march. Kiwi chicks were pissed – as was I – because a man bragging about sexual assault was elected president.

Upstairs is natural history, giant wingless moa, giant ‘ponderous heavy diving’ penguins, giant fossils that stagger the imagination.

I skip the curiosities of the odd, dusty collections from around the world and head back into the sunshine where the bay greets me turquoise and glistening. Up Mt. Eden the wind dries my sweat. It’s crowded, everyone tippy- tapping on their phones. A blown out volcano, there’s a huge grassy pit in front of the summit marker.

And then I’m back at Susie and Mark’s house and it’s time for the Thanksgiving feast. This Kiwi potluck meal is not much different than home, though it’s sliced turkey and ham rather than an entire bird, plus salads and potatoes, heaps of deserts and wine.

I was greeted at the door with this beautiful appetizer.
I was greeted at the door with this beautiful appetizer.
I feel so blessed to be included in the family's Kiwi-style Thanksgiving tradition.
I feel so blessed to be included in the family’s Kiwi-style Thanksgiving tradition.
A Kiwi Thanksgiving hosted by my American friend Susie and her Kiwi husband Mark. There is so much to be grateful for.
A Kiwi Thanksgiving hosted by my American friend Susie and her Kiwi husband Mark. There is so much to be grateful for.

We gather in the living room, standing in a circle, each taking a few kernels of corn to represent our blessings. As we speak the themes are similar – grateful for family, friends, and that we’ve felt buoyed by the spirit. I am welcomed into this circle, sharing the food, the conversation, the curiosity, the laughs.

It’s late now and my eyes are heavy. I plan to walk another portion of the trail tomorrow and save the Coast-to-Coast section for Sunday when new Kiwi friends will join me before I’m on my way again.

This has been a tremendously fulfilling day and one that has left me humbled by the incredible generosity and inclusiveness shown to me. I feel lucky, blessed, that the world is one full of abundance. And it’s made me see that I can choose to live with an attitude of abundance, that I have so much, I can give it all away, there will always be more for me.

On that note I say good night, until tomorrow’s walk.

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

    1. I know I’m taking a long time in Auckland but it is so lovely and what I need. I have the time, so enjoying it. 🐥👣🎒

  1. What an fascinating country, and you are so right about abundance. Blessings on you and your new friends. Happy Thanksgiving. Mom

  2. Inspiring post Alison. I thought about you on Thanksgiving wondering how you’re doing and how you’d acknowledge the holiday. I’m “walking” with you every day and hope you can feel the endless good thoughts I send to you. ❤️

  3. “And it’s made me see that I can choose to live with an attitude of abundance, that I have so much, I can give it all away, there will always be more for me.”

    Powerful words that brought tears of joy in knowing this truth. Thank you.

  4. When I saw the pic of you with that ginormous ancient nautilus(?) shell, for some reason I immediately thought, “Beethoven’s last ear trumpet?”

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