Auckland All to Black
In 1999 I used to meet with French fellows who lived in my neighbourhood. In those months of the end of the year the Rugby World Cup was at its heydays. Some were fierce supporters and even one of them had played before, when he was younger. Optimism reigned. On October 24 they win the quarter-final against Argentina at Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin.
The 31 French team faced in semi-finals New Zealand All Blacks at Twickenham, London. So, that day, once supplied with enough beer we met at one of my French friends home. Needless to say they which side they were on. I arrived dressed in black.
Sometimes I followed on TV kiwi rugby matches and always remember impressed some of Jonah Lomu runs. I never wanted to figure out how may a defender feels just facing a Lemu’s charge. How impossible must to be try to stop that Auckland beast six foot forty high and two hundred sixty pounds and a half at full throttle. More than fear probably panic.
But on that fateful day Christophe Lamaison started the scoring for the Blues, and despite two spectacular trials that left Lomu and the All Blacks as favourites, they succumbed 43-31. A mournful day to forget.
On November 12, with the defeat still fresh in memories, I landed precisely in our antipodes: Auckland Airport. I spent the jet-lag and part of the night in a cave called Hard Rat's Cafe, on a terrace at three or four stories high, where I met a group of Maori people. We sympathized, and after a few jugs of beer we were lamenting the outcome of the All Blacks match. They probably appreciated I dressed in black among the Frenchs.
Once jet lag left hangover appeared. Auckland, one of the most quiet great cities of the world seemed terribly noisy. I headed Queens up to Victoria Market and walked half the city once and once again. At the end of the day when I could no longer I landed in a real restaurant in Lorne Street: Tony's. Pacific oysters as starter and filet mignon. Auckland and life seemed noticeably better.
Auckland is a ... peaceful, quiet and pleasant and manageable city. It’s wide and spread because most of the people live in single-family homes surrounding a few skyscrapers along the harbour. The area now occupied by the city was settled in the fourteenth century by Ngāti Whātua and Tainui Maori tribes who built the pā, hilltop fortifications, in some of the volcanic craters that protrude into the urban grid, like Maungawhau, Mount Eden, the highest at only 196 meters above sea level. In 1841 Auckland became instead Kororareka-Russell capital city of the colony, although the situation of Port Nicholson, Wellington Harbour, finally seemed most appropriate to house Parliament and Governor's house, where they moved in 1865. Throughout nineteenth and twentieth centuries the city has been expanding in the isthmus between the Tasman Sea in the south and the Pacific Ocean in the north. This allowed to be one of the few cities in the world that has ports in different seas. North, Waitemata Harbour opens to the Hauraki Gulf and to the south Manukao port. Metropolitan area has added the populations from North Shore and Manukau City staying census close to a million and a half inhabitants, the largest concentration of people in the South Pacific. The city is a major hub of the region. All connections pass through. Weather is awfully soft, and in neighbourhoods as Devonport, at the other end of the bay from where city skyline is seen, is extremely quiet. All enviable.
Communications tower stands over skyline. Completed in 1997, the Sky Tower is the tallest in the southern hemisphere. It has a couple of restaurants and three viewpoints. From the main one, about three hundred meters high, the perspective when good weather, arrives up to eighty-two kilometres afar. Until Coromandel Peninsula southwards. Even more impressive is the view looking down, Victoria and Federal Streets, though neither have any particular attractive.
Reinforced crystals allow to stand over the abyss, but the first attempt is unsuccessful, it appears stepping or jumping into the void. Down, by car or on foot, ants.