News and Views

Up, down, all around the Bridge

Posted by Website Admin on October 26, 2017

Up, down, all around the Harbour Bridge 

When I was little the best thing to do on a Sunday afternoon was to drive across the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Takapuna Beach for ice cream. The right to throw the 25 cent bridge toll into the payment bucket was highly coveted by us kids. Driving on the outside lane would freak our heights-fearing Mother out, “For Pete’s sake" she'd gasp, "those side bits are barely glued on." 

Sitting in the back, my brother Pete would wind down the Hillman Hunter window and stick his whole body out to suck in the briny sea air. Then Dad would yell at him, "Get back in the car son........NOW!"

For the past 16 years however, there’s been another way to cross the bridge. On foot with Auckland Bridge Climb, run by adventure specialists AJ Hackett. Best known for bringing Bungy to the World and their exemplary safety record, this company also runs the SkyWalk and SkyJump off the Auckland Sky Tower.

When AJ Hackett acquired the Bridge Climb rights, they invested around $3million to safely accommodate climbers. So this Auckland Guide felt it was high time, she took a high rise walk up, down and all over the Auckland Harbour Bridge. 

Checking into the Bridge Climb’s Westhaven base, our group of seven felt in safe hands. Dressed in beige boiler suits to blend in with the bridge and not distract the traffic, we clipped into a rope harness and started our gradual ascent sandwiched between guides Anneka and Jess.  

We soon appreciated why loose items like cameras and phones are stowed in the base lockers before the Climb. You need both hands to hold on in the wind and to guide your tethered carabina along the safety rail.  Plus any falling objects could create a calamity for the bridge traffic below because phones don’t bounce!
 
The actual walk, rising to 65 metres above sea level is around 1.8 km long and involves over 450 steps, both up and down. 

It took 950 men around four years to build the original four lane bridge which opened in 1959. More capacity was added ten years later with the Nippon Clippons, prefabricated lanes imported from Japan and attached to the outside of the existing bridge. Health and safety was very much in the hands of the individual worker and if you fell into the water below, it was considered your own dumb fault!  

The most surprising thing about the Bridge Climb however is the all-over access you get with this experience from climbing right down in the pylons to the very top of Auckland’s world!  Here are some other favourite points:

Most freaky point : When you pop up from under the bridge onto a staircase between the northern and southern lanes. For about 10 seconds as you climb, you feel mashed between traffic; heavy trucks, buses and speeding cars. For me, it was the most hair-raising and unexpected moment of the Climb. 

Puncture Point: The noise at the very top. Two New Zealand flags clacking and flapping. The traffic roaring below our feet punctured by the occasional horn-blast as drivers spotted our beige-brigade high above. Then our guide shouting to be heard over the relentless wind. 
 
High point:  Pausing at the Northern end to observe the motion of the bridge and placing your hand on the concrete.  It moves up and down as the Clippon extensions are designed to rise and fall up to a metre as they adjust to the load of the 200,000 vehicles which travel across it everyday. It felt like the bridge's heartbeat as it takes a breath or two. 

Low point:  In the bowls of Pier Two, we learnt that three men died during the construction phase. One of the men is believed to still be on the bridge, entombed where he fell during a weighty concrete pour. It rammed home to all of us, that with a dead man under our feet, bridge-building is risky work.

Best team player: Goes to staff-member Mason who did a bungy jump just for the bridge climbers’ benefit. Although he didn’t get his hair wet, Mason did display the more difficult feet-first technique (used by experienced jumpers) rather than the default-dive tethered at the ankles. (This Guide will never do either).

Best Special Effects: Arriving soon is Vector’s “Light up the Bridge” project. Contractors are currently attaching loads of light pixels all over the bridge which will be in place for ten years to create a night-time necklace of light across the harbour. 

Reality Point: This is a working bridge and the sight of maintenance crew suspended on ropes in hi-vis jackets painting its undercarriage reminded us of what it takes to keep Auckland moving.  The workers’ lunch room, a drab tiny prefab is bolted underneath. There is one toilet. It’s windy, noisy and invisible work keeping New Zealand’s busiest gateway functioning. 

The whole Auckland Bridge Climb experience took two hours from check-in to disrobing the beige suits and I didn’t want it to end. Would I recommend it?  Absolutely!  

For visitors it’s a great way to stretch the legs after a long flight, get your bearings from above and experience an ‘off-limits’ local treasure with friendly guides. (Bit like our city walking tours.) 

For Aucklanders, it’s an iconic part of our city’s history, a chance to get behind the scenes and another example of how we can deliver top-quality engineering and tourism projects with flair. Do it this summer!

 

Aucky Walky Tours Guide Liz paid to do the Auckland Bridge Climb. This is her independent opinion.
Visit the Auckland Bridge Climb website 

 

 

 

 

 

Insider's guide to Auckland Art Gallery

Posted by Website Admin on October 23, 2017

Insider's guide to Auckland Art Gallery

A recent rainy day was well spent on a guided tour of the Auckland Art Gallery or Toi O Tamaki which means ‘our treasure house’. 

The Auckland Art Gallery is regarded as the world home or wharenui of New Zealand art. This superbly designed gallery views itself as custodians or kaitiaki of the art in their care.  Works of famous New Zealand artists like Charles Goldie, Ralph Hotere and Colin McCahon are on public display instead of hidden away in private homes or personal vaults. The 100-strong staff at the Gallery also include highly-skilled conservators who care for precious collections and undertake pain-staking repairs to valuable artwork and papers.
   
The Gallery runs one hour tours daily (except Xmas Day) at 11.30am and 1.30pm at a very reasonable charge of $10. After checking in bags and brollies, we met our knowledgeable guide Catherine who showcased the Gallery from top to bottom to our small party of six.  After the tour we did some snooping of our own to expand on Catherine's fascinating facts. Here's seven gems which stole our interest:

  • The Gallery is home to around 20,000 pieces of art going back around 700 years but only 800 pieces are normally displayed. When we asked Catherine where the bulk of the art is stored, she couldn’t tell us. It’s housed offsite in secure storage, the location of which is a closely guarded secret. Even most of the staff don’t know.
  • One of only two Picassos in New Zealand resides on the walls of the Auckland Art Gallery. The other Picasso is in Dunedin. Painted during the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1944, ‘Verre et Pichet’, a still-life of a table setting (sans food) isn’t regarded as one of Picasso’s best works but it does symbolize the dark years of deprivation experienced during the Second World War.
  • Outreach workshops in the community like ‘Art in a Suitcase’ are just some of the services the Gallery provides. So it’s not only a display gallery but an activation of arts in the suburbs of Auckland. This makes art accessible to everyone. The Gallery conservators are also available to undertake restoration or consultations on private collections. 
  • The Gallery has a members-only lounge which looks flashier than the Koru Club!  For just $50 annually, you get access to this plus a whole range of benefits like unlimited entry to paid exhibitions, invitations to behind-the-scenes tours and Rialto movie ticket discounts.(For city meetings, the Art Gallery members’ lounge sure beats a noisy cafe.) 
  • The stunning addition of the new wing in 2011 with its Nikau-canopied roof doubled the size of the gallery and was recognized with a world-architecture design award.
  • The recent ‘Nudes’ exhibition on loan from the Tate London featured 100 revealing masterpieces from the likes of Rodin, Picasso and Bonnard’s ‘the bath’. ‘Nudes’ had to be renamed for New Zealand audiences because focus-group research prior to its Auckland launch revealed Kiwi’s still have a prudish streak. So the exhibition was rebranded as ‘The Body Laid Bare’ to hopefully appeal to a broader audience.
  • The Corsini Collection on display until January 2018 features renaissance paintings by Botticelli, Caravaggio and a painting of a Pope with a Nazi bullet hole through his head (you’ll have to visit the exhibition to find out why). This is the first time that the collection has been allowed out of Italy by the Florence-based family. Such is the high regard that the Corsinis hold for the New Zealand Maori Battalion who protected their family estate during World War Two. (Quite proud to hear that!)

The hour we spent with our friendly guide Catherine flew by and we parted ways in the gracious high-vaulted MacKenzie Gallery with a greater appreciation for the diversity and range of art on display.  

But the absolute best thing about the Auckland Art Gallery?  This small but world-class arthouse has FREE entry for both locals and visitors. Plus it's wheelchair-friendly too. There are not many cities around the world which can boast this.

Join us on a private Aucky Walky tour and we’ll include a short visit to the Auckland Art Gallery.  We know where the best art and culture can be found and enjoyed in the central city.  

Find out more about the Auckland Art Gallery here 

Conservation Week - what's on.

Posted by Website Admin on October 18, 2017

Conservation Week – Free Events

Love your backyard and make a difference this Conservation Week. That’s the message from the Department of Conservation (DOC) encouraging  locals to help protect and nurture our amazing and unique wildlife.

At Aucky Walky Tours, we share with visitors what the Department of Conservation (DOC) does to protect New Zealand’s natural beauty. Visitors are attracted to our country for this very reason. From restoring our endangered species, to protecting our special places and providing access to remote walks and places, the DOC has a massive mandate.  

Conservation Week runs until October 22nd and this year the Department of Conservation (DOC) is trying to get people to convert their love of nature into action.

There are more than 85 events happening all around Auckland and our pick of the free events include:

An insider’s guide to Auckland’s Dolphin Explorer Safari (Sat 21st and Sun 22nd October – mornings). Did you know you can see whales and dolphins right on Auckland's doorstep? Join the crew aboard the research vessel Dolphin Explorer at its berth over Labour Weekend. This is the perfect place to channel your inner marine biologist! Check out the marine research and conservation that is happening right here in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Inspect the captain's tech gear including VR, hydrophones and more!

• A close encounter with our Hauraki Gulf DOC Rangers (Fri 20th at 3pm and Sat 21st October at 8am).  Meet the Rangers down at Westhaven Marina where they’ll share their plans about keeping the Hauraki Gulf islands pest free. The Tamaki Makaurau/ Auckland DOC Boat the Taikehu will also be at the Marina. 

Fort Takapuna Tours (Sun 22nd October at 11am and 1pm). The Russians are coming! Or so we thought in the late 1800s. New Zealanders were afraid that the Russian navy would attack, these were known as the ‘Russian war scares’. As a precaution, a chain of forts was built around the coast and amongst the most elaborate of these was Fort Takapuna,built in 1886 and armed with two big guns. There were underground storage bunkers and accommodation for the soldiers. The fort has been restored by the Department of Conservation and tour/s will explore the maze of underground tunnels and rooms and tell some of the stories of this fascinating place. Meet at Fort Takapuna in the car park in front of the fort.

Check out the details and other Conservation Week events here   #conservationweek #lovemybackyard
Content adapted in part from DOC site.