While counting our last days in New Zealand, I found myself having the odd retrospective episode or two about the last 3 years I've spent here. I remember quite vividly how I felt when I saw Auckland for the first time - I had just spent a week in Melbourne prior to landing here, and in all honesty, I wasn't too impressed with the first look of New Zealand's biggest city.
It seemed to be quite similar to Melbourne but just smaller, less vibrant. Like a lesser version, a copy that doesn't quite live up to the original.
All of this of course was a missconception on my side (you should generally never compare two cities with one another), and I would soon discover the interesting and unique sides of this big city. And here is the one that surprised me the most: Auckland is the city of volcanoes.
A couple of hours after I landed a friend took me on a small city tour, and our first stop was a cafe at Mission Bay. This is where I had my first wow effect: the beach, the sea and the imposing Rangitoto island reigning over the Hauraki Gulf.
The symethrical cone and the deep black color made it obvious that the origins of this island lay in a massive and violent volcanic erruption. But it was only later that I would find out the full extent of Auckland's volcanic origins, a fact that never stopped to amaze me up to this day: There are over 50 volcanoes in this city.
The two most prominent craters, apart from Rangitoto island, are probably Mount Eden and One Tree Hill. They both offer amazing views over the whole city and should be among the first places you visit while in Auckland. One Tree Hill and the surrounding Cornwall Park were a legacy of John Logan Campbell, who used to run a farm in that area in the 1880's. He later donated this 220 hectares property to the city upon the condition that it will be kept as a public green space.
The name "One Tree Hill" might seem a bit missleading, as the top of the hill features a lone obelisk, without any trees around it. But this was not always the case: according to colonial records, there used to be a pohutukawa tree near the summit (native to New Zealand).
The tree was felled in 1852 by settlers, if for firewood or as an act of vandalism is not quite clear. The tree was later replaced by two radiata pines (John Campbell repetedly tried to grow native trees without any success). Both pines fell to an act of vandalism by Maori activists, one in 1960 and one in 1994.
They were regarded as appropriate targets as the pines are not native to New Zealand and can be seen as symbols of the injustices inflicted upon the local Maori population. The chainsaw used was later sold on ebay.