Auckland Bound This November

My love of New Zealand came about because of – like many I suppose – Peter Jackson. Lord of the Rings is one of my favourite books, and so I just had to see Jackson's movies when they came out. I was utterly stunned by the landscape pictured in the films and made a mental memo to visit the source of the amazing scenery – the group of islands named after the Dutch province Zeeland.

I did that in 2009, flying into Christchurch and trekking around the Mt Cook National Park. I've booked my second trip to New Zealand for November this year, but this time to the north island, and the exciting city that is Auckland. Here's a quick run down of what I intend to get up to whilst I'm there:

Rangitoto Island
I love nothing more than strapping a pack to my back and stepping out into the bracing fresh air whilst taking in some incredible scenery. I can't wait to get to Rangitoto Island, which is known as Auckland's most iconic landmark. Rangitoto is actually a volcano, and a relatively new one at that, exploding into existence – literally – some 600 years ago. I just hope the next eruption doesn't occur just as I am ascending the summit!

It's on the cards
I love poker almost as much as I love travelling. I usually play online, but have played a few friendly hands with my buddies. Whilst in Auckland I intend to pop along to the ANZPT (Australian and New Zealand Poker Tour) event at the fabulous-looking SKYCITY casino around the middle of November. It will be fun rubbing shoulders with genuine poker pros, and as there are some events with low buy-ins, I might just see what the cards hold for me.

Auckland Zoo
Another must-see for me is Auckland Zoo. It's the home to a massive collection of both native and exotic animals, all set in 17 hectares of glorious parkland. There are plenty of staged events at the zoo, and I'm particularly looking forwards to the chance of helping a keeper wash down an elephant!

Kura Gallery
I find the Maori life and culture fascinating and utterly unique, so a visit to the Kura Gallery, which was established in 1998, is an complete must. The gallery (there are two – one in Auckland and one in Wellington) is home to numerous examples of both traditional and contemporary Maori artworks and carvings, all featuring genuine designs and traditions that go back centuries. It's definitely a culture that demands to be preserved for future generations to enjoy, and I am so pleased that Auckland agrees with me.

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