Auckland Adventures

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Like any decent city, Auckland has its own landmark – the Skytower – and although there are barely half a million inhabitants, in terms of area Auckland is roughly 4.5 times larger than New York!

After a year of beating around the bush in Australia, I decided to hit up the big city life in New Zealand for a little while. Seeing that I was actually arriving in the country’s biggest city – Auckland – I figured that this would be a good place to get my urban culture fix, so I promptly went searching on the fabulous website couch surfing.

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The awesome and awe-inspiring Anna Cruse who hosted me for 5 eventful days.

It was to be the seriously interesting belly-dancer, martial art expert and circus acrobat Anna Cruse and her two trusted knights who became my generous hosts for my 5 days of Auckland adventures. Actually, without them, I am not so sure that I could have even titled this post in this fashion. On the very first night I thus ended up at a fully-fledged Goth party where I saw some very wonderful burlesque dance and had the dubious pleasure of getting electrocuted by the Auckland phenomenon Professor Boris Van Galvin.

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One of Anna’s faithful knights, Siberian Vanya (a.k.a. Ivan The Red) pulling out a bit of intestines at Auckland’s hottest Goth party – the Death Wave Disco.

The next morning I voluntarily let my alarm clock induce an early wake-up with an ensuing hangover, only to get pushed to my limits and beaten up. Anna, Vanya and Allen are all practitioners of the Russian martial arts technique called Systema. This was my very first martial arts lesson ever and I am happy that Systema broke me in, because this is all about winning a fight as quickly and harmlessly as possible and there is no element of competition involved. Beauty!

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The other faithful knight of the Carnie House Order, Allen, enjoying a protein shake before Systema training…

My following days were dedicated to live music. I came across a highly informative website with everything you need to know about jam-sessions in Auckland and so I grabbed my mandola and went hunting for gigs and giggers. Yet, it was a random street-meeting that lead me to my first performance in New Zealand.

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Luke is one of Kiwi’s most active musicians, playing the streets of Auckland close to every day come rain or shine with the stamina of an 18-year-old, the insight of an 80-year-old and the heart of an angel.

Bopping down Queenstreet one late afternoon, I came across the Kiwi legend Luke Hurley and his highly original, beautiful guitar-play. I had hardly dropped a dollar in his hat before he invited me to sit down and next thing I knew I was jamming with a new friend. Luke is a cool cat with a big heart and that night he gave me a lift to an open mic gig where I played my latest songs for an – admittedly – not very interested audience. Guess they preferred people they knew or perhaps I just didn’t do that well…

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It was really nice to be in a place where culture isn’t just something that happens in the pub on Friday nights but also takes the shape of sculptures like this and street musicians like Luke.

Anyways, I met up with Luke for a jam and a bite to eat a few times that week and fate has it that next year he is booked for a concert in Denmark of all places! So if you like his stuff (see the link above), please feel free to contact me so we can arrange some more concerts for him when he hits the old Danish Kingdom sometime in April 2014.

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This tower presides over one of the fastest growing cities in the Southern Hemisphere where more than a third of the people have migrated there in their lifetime. I reckon they will need a bigger tower in just a few years with that rate…

Anna’s flat, where I was staying, is called the “Carnie House” (as in “carnival people”)  So it came as no surprise when they all took me to one of their acrobatics sessions in a nearby gymnasium. The hall was packed with smiling acrobats and jugglers of all sizes, shapes and ages. It was truly like stepping into a circus training camp and I had the best time learning hand stands, doing “the bluebird” and having epic fails on a unicycle. I also learnt about a Kiwi circus festival for which I have now applied for a volunteer position. Cross your fingers friends!

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Here you see the Carnie House Trio posing as regular citizens. They spent all morning refining their costumes and getting into character 🙂

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and being the country boy that I am, I felt like I needed to move on and hit the open roads again. Although I do love an urban vibe and the great variety of sub-cultures that only big cities can provide, the concrete jungle always gets to me after a while and my eyes feel like they need a good stretch over some natural scenery. And so it was that I packed up my bags and bade Auckland and its carnies goodbye and stuck out my thumbs, ready for the next destination: The fart-smelling town of Rotorua!

PS: Massive big thank you to Anna, Vanya, Allen & Luke who all made my stay in Auckland the wonderful adventure that it was! You guys rock!

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