It was her birthday. A cake came in the mail as did a case of champagne and a pair of woolen shoes. Cupcakes came yesterday along with a preemptive call from her sister. For days, the Birthday Girl, my roommate, concocted plans for the big day with the help of the Assistant Director of the Program. Eight people, including me, agreed to join her when the day came. She decided on one place: Devonport.
Devonport lies just on the other side of the bay, a mere 15 minute ferry ride away. Our New Zealand culture and history professor lives there, as does the musician Lorde. We were told that the views upon its volcanic hills were fantastic.
After a posh breakfast in Britomart next to the harbor, we jumped aboard a ferry and sailed in the sunshine. Once on land, we strolled along the coast, watching the few kids picking at the sand in their winter coats.
We passed houses decorated with Victorian trimmings surrounded by bright tropical plants. We passed dozens of docked boats, their lines whistling in the increasing wind. We passed the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum with visitors milling outside, staring at the sea. North Head was our goal.
This dormant volcano has been a strategic military point since the Maori settled the area. More recently it was used to protect New Zealand against a possible Russian attack in the 1880s. That activity left the sight with tunnels and buildings that have since been left to the birds and the tourists.
On the way up we stopped, pushed back strands of wind-swept hair, and stared back at Auckland. Greenery surrounded us, the houses of Devonport stretched below us, and there on the horizon was Auckland, clouded in rain and sunshine.
“Okay,” one person said. “Now we never go back.”
Cameras and phones out were now out, and we began to take pictures. We didn’t stop when we explored the pitch black military tunnels or when the wind battered our ears as we walked around the summit. We only put away our cameras when we reached the other side of the complex and rested along the rooftop of an abandoned outlook post. The rest of the peak sheltered us from the wind as our feet dangled, and we gazed out over the water at another volcanic mass, Rangitoto.
“It’s like Narnia,” one girl said. “Everything here is beautiful.”
We soon left the spot and wandered down to Cheltenham Beach and strolled along the deserted sands, shells and seaweed bolstering our steps. We didn’t stay long as people had classes to attend, so we repeated the long walk along the shore, back towards the ferry station, content in our tiredness to say nothing and simply take in the beauty of our surroundings.