New Zealand – Multicultural Auckland

As the last stage of my round-the-world trip I visited New Zealand. That’s possibly the farthest I could travel in this planet, since the exact antipodes (point on the Earth’s surface which is diametrically opposite) of Madrid are in New Zealand’s North Island.

I arrived in Auckland early December and was lucky enough to strike great weather, which makes this a very nice city. While hosting 1/3 of the country’s population, it has more of the feel of a lovely smallish city but with endless, sprawling suburbs. Sailing is a big thing in Auckland and the views from the harbour are just fantastic.

Auckland

Auckland

Auckland is known for having a very interesting ethnic mix. Indeed, foreign visitors walking in the street or clubbing often exclaimed: “how weird!“, just because we’re not used to seeing such different people mingling together anywhere else. White kiwis and aboriginal Māoris couldn’t be more different. They’re joined in huge numbers by Pacific Islanders coming from a variety of islands in the Polynesia and elsewhere, which makes Auckland the city with more Pacific Islander inhabitants in the world. In recent years, European immigration has diminished in favour of Asian countries like China, Korea and India. So you can probably imagine the mix; multiculturalism is as real as it gets in Auckland.

There is also some room for Spanish culture, or so it felt on my first day. My friends Pablo and Lili, expats in Auckland, picked me up from the airport and invited me to a very Spanish home-cooked meal in their house, to the delight of their Asian friends.

Later that evening, I went to much-awaited outdoors music festival called ‘Christmas in the Park’, sponsored by Coca Cola. The whole city seemed to be there for the occasion.

Christmas in the park!!

Christmas in the park!!

Another great view of the city can be struck from the crater of the volcano at Mount Eden, if you go on a clear day.

Mount Eden

Mount Eden

View from Mount Eden

View from Mount Eden

From Auckland I kicked off my quick trip around New Zealand. Some more tips and facts in my next posts.

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Sydney or Melbourne?

Most Aussies (and foreigners alike) would take sides on the controversial “Sydney vs Melbourne” debate. Australia’s two biggest cities are constantly scrutinized and compared to feed the discussion between Sydneysiders and Melbournians.

Having visited both, I conclude that Sydney and Melbourne aren’t THAT different. They’ve both got a tick over four million residents. They’ve both got a dense CBD, trendy inner city ring and sprawling, endless suburbs. Both cities also share very expensive prices.

Surely, Sydney makes a better postcard. The views of the harbour are just impressive. And the opera house is probably the best-known landmark in the country. It is fashion and glamorous. The old bridge across the harbour is a privileged spot to photograph the opera house, harbour and CBD as I did:

Sydney harbour

Sydney harbour

Melbourne’s Yarra River doesn’t sparkle like Sydney Harbour, although it’s pretty nice too. Melbourne’s treasures are somewhat more hidden. Federation Square is home to live music  and fairs. The trendy inner city suburbs host sporting events, festivals and shows. The music, arts and food&drink scenes in Melbourne are world-class. It is a very cosmopolitan city with an interesting racial mix. The old-style trams add to the city’s charm. Finally, Melbourne has been named “the world’s most livable city” by prestigious publications such as The Economist.

Melbourne

Melbourne

Between these two big cities I also stopped in what seemed to be a different world. The city of Wagga Wagga is on the interior of NSW and serves as the main shopping and services hub for neighbouring villages and farms. There are no hostels and it didn’t look like it receives many international visitors. I’d never have gone there had I not found a couchsurfing host willing to invite me to his home (or his little farm) and share his insight of live in that region. And it was definitely worth it!!

We went to dinner at a local pub, sports, gym, zoo and other places. But perhaps the highlight of my visit there was the livestock market. On Thursdays, the animals on sale are sheep, and farmers and wholesalers gather to auction individual lots of sheep. This market is the same concept but completely different to the one I wrote about in Kashgar, China. They move quickly from lot to lot, having inspected the lots beforehand. Traders, farmers and agents in-the-know dress appropriately in their jeans and cowboy-style hats. A different glam to Syd/Melb’s. 🙂

DSCN2364

My host, who was very educated and well-travelled yet proud of his Australian “bush” roots, told me that this is very traditional Australian lifestyle. Before the resources boom, farming and ranching always was the main source of income and jobs in this vast land.

Well, so leaving Wagga aside, you may wonder what side I take in Melbourne vs Sydney. Having been only about a week in both, I can only have an outsider view, but I won´t dodge the issue. My pick (to live): Melb. 🙂 And yours?