11/23 Birthday Magic

Townhouse to Manauka Cove

26 trail k, 4 bonus k

Farewell, townhouse! You have served well. As I double check the kitchen counter for anything we have left behind, I see an envelope with my name on it- Prana must have snuck it there. I save it to open later.

We head out, navigating Auckland’s downtown one final time. We decide to walk back to our divergence from Queen Street, and on the way we take a turn down a block we haven’t been on before. We work our way in the general direction of Queen, and when we reach it, Prana asks, “how about a cafe breakfast today?” I agree, “sure, that sounds good.” We hear mellow swingy jazz floating out from somewhere. “How about in there?” he suggests. Inside a covered open air building, there’s a sign that simply says ‘Bakery.’ “Sure.” The music’s pretty enticing.

We walk into the bake shop, which is more of a narrow, unadorned hallway, really. ‘Voted best bakery in New Zealand’ promises a sign. Hmm. It looks adequate, but not that special. I peer into the partially filled pastry cases, and ask about a veggie hand pie. “Well they’re all veggie,” says the clerk. What? “Yeah.” She points at a huge sign I don’t know how I could have missed.

Best Bakery in New Zealand.

We finally try mince pie, and sausage rolls. They are savory and flaky and wonderful. We have turmeric coconut lattes spiced with cardamom and black pepper. And a strawberry custard filled doughnut, with little flecks of unpureed strawberries. I can’t believe this place exists. I can’t believe that it both exists, and that we stumbled upon it. What are the odds? Does it exist all the time? Or is it like the Brigadoon of pastry shops, and it only appears on certain days? Maybe that’s why the lack of interior decor- they don’t want to date themselves. We wrap up some lemon Thai chicken sandwiches for lunch, and reluctantly tear ourselves away.

Down through the stairs of the old station building, or whatever it is, we step out into a bizarrely narrow park. It almost seems like the city didn’t know what else to do with this shaped piece of land, so turn it into a park, eh? It has towering trees lining it on either side, the largest palms I have ever seen, and the far end has a playground that looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland- tall discs glass stained in a flower pattern, metal caterpillars and punk-collared birds.

We reach the place on Queen Street that we veered from to reach the townhouse. We turn and start through the city, heading for the university. Our pathway is taking us, we realize, across almost the same route we had walked home from the museum. I was lamenting this, considering it wasted time- we could have just walked straight here from the townhouse! Then again, we wouldn’t have had our magical breakfast; when I realize that I quit my grouching.

Onto fresh track, we climb Mt Eden, one of the volcanic crater cones in the city.

Down the other side and on to One Tree Hill, which is another volcanic peak, and has gardens and a hand made cabin constructed by John Logan Campbell, the man who established most of this park as public land. We have lunch and I open my card- Prana had Ellie Bro and Parker all sign it with a message in their native languages, and he looked up how to to write a message in Māori- what a sweetheart!

We cut through a new part of the campus, and since the path isn’t immediately defined, when our eye catches a colorful wall, we turn that way.

The campus is filled with graceful old trees and art nooks like this. Another alcove displays painted canoe paddles.

We are beginning to leave the congested inner part of the city behind, and the walk joins a lovely curve of volcanic seashore , the Manukau Harbour and Coastline. We follow this for the rest of the afternoon, the lava rocks sometimes gray, often black; sometimes pooled and wrinkled into shapes like petrified elephant skin. There are neon and dark green algaes growing on the rocks, and streaks of lighter colored sand. The sky reflects in the pools and sheens of water; it is a kaleidoscope of abstract minutiae to watch as I trace the curves of the cove with my feet.

The home stretch of the day is around a sewage treatment plant. Actually not unpleasant walking, although the smell is unpleasant; and incongruously one of the ditches draining the treated water is filled with dozens of black swans. I at least assume they were naturally black, before they took up residence in the wastewater outlet stream.

At the southern end of the Harbour, we turn into a flat meadow filled with waist high beach grass. We poke around, trying to figure out a way to set up our tents without losing all the stakes. We finally just decide to burrow into an approximation of a ground nest- it’s like a combination mattress/ hammock.

Prana cooks a delicious (and heavy) meal of gnocchi with fresh pesto. Full belly, tired feet, happy heart, friendful flock, cozy nest. Good night.

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