Mention ‘tramping’ and ‘Auckland’ in the same sentence and most people will snort and shake their heads as if you’d just told them a Michelin star restaurant had opened in Jackson Bay.
Those two words are not like love and marriage: you don’t see them as belonging to one another. Of course, Auckland is blessed with plenty of tramping opportunities – the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is an outstanding walking asset.
But tramping in Auckland proper? Admit it, that’s something you probably wouldn’t believe possible. Recently though, I set out to prove you could go tramping in Auckland. For those short on time, like new dads often are, getting away for a day or two is difficult. Who’s to say you can’t get your tramping kicks in New Zealand’s most urban areas?
So what did I find as I traipsed across Auckland, through suburb after suburb on the city’s Coast to Coast Walkway? Plenty of pavement, for sure. Traffic lights? You don’t know the half of it. But also wild(ish)life (sheep count, right?), an entertaining and violent history to rival that found in any historic Otago goldfield and, I swear it’s true, wilderness. There’s a reason the big smokes of this world are called urban jungles, though Auckland’s numerous parks and volcanoes make it more jungle than urban.
I thoroughly enjoyed my tramp over 16km of Auckland’s roads and parks, not because of any grand vista or the mountain scenery that compels us to read magazines like this or to actually get off the sofa and go exploring amidst the real thing. But because I did what everyone does when they go tramping: discover. I found little pockets of Auckland I had never seen before and didn’t even know existed. I encountered a microcosm of New Zealand history: ancient buildings, Maori occupation and European colonisation, and even a bit of that entrepreneurial Kiwi can-do spirit.
We get so wrapped in our daily commutes and know the way to our friend’s houses or favourite restaurants by heart, but rarely do we take alternative routes and see what else is down there.
And that’s what the Coast to Coast was for me: an alternative route across my home town and it truly became a journey of discovery. In that sense, it wasn’t any different to tramping the Catlins River Walk or climbing Mt Ruapehu. They are all journeys, granted some are more attractive and exhilerating than others, but journeys nonetheless.
If you live in a city, don’t dwell on how lucky all those people who call Wanaka or Golden Bay home are. Put your boots on. Step out your door and see what’s around you.
I bet it’s more interesting and fun than you think.
– Alistair Hall