For those of you who have been hiding under a rock for the past six weeks, you may not know that there is this little sports tournament happening in New Zealand – The Rugby World Cup.
The city of Auckland has been buzzing with international rugby fanatics, and even those who aren’t rugby mad (like myself) have been caught up in the atmosphere.
The husband and I were lucky to be invited along to a Pool B match. So, off we went to the city centre to gain an authentic Rugby World Cup experience.
We kicked off our rugby afternoon with a few hours at Party Central, where we checked out The Cloud, all the interesting food stalls, and enjoyed a few beverages in Shed 10 at the Fan Zone. The Australian vs Russia match was playing on the big screen, so while we waited for our English supporting friends to arrive, we joined the throngs cheering at the screen.
We could have taken the train to our main event, however for an authentic experience we had to follow the fans. So, with cape flags flying in the wind, we set off on the official Fan Trail, following the big green footprints. The Fan Trail is a 4.5km walk from Queen Elizabeth Square (downtown Auckland) to Eden Park. The first kilometre of the trail leads straight up Queen Street to Aotea Square. There was an interesting performance from some wanna-be Spice Girls on the way, but I’m sure this was all tied to the England vs Scotland theme.
By Aotea Square we were a little thirsty, so we stopped to rehydrate at The Playhouse (which happened to be the cheapest beers that we found for the entire day). Perched on an outdoor table, with ale in hand, we had a great view of the festive trail walkers streaming past, kitted out in kilts, flags and facepaint.
The archway (Waharoa by Selwyn Muru) in Aotea Square proved to be a popular photo spot by fans.
The next stop in the trail was to view the interesting student art collection, named ‘AMPED in the Park’ in Myers Park. This installation consisted of seven pieces of work. ‘Recasting’ played homage to the humble umbrella (much needed with Auckland’s unpredictable weather), and changed each time the Fan Trail was active. On our late afternoon stroll through the park, the umbrellas were matched with black ghost figures with white masks. I’m glad it wasn’t dark, or it would have been a little ‘Scream’ like scary.
On this particular day, we were also accompanied by the magical sound of bagpipes.
The step aerobics from Myers Park to St Kevins Arcade on Karangahape Road worked up a thirst again, so about 2km into the trail we were once again forced to stop for rehydration. We were also happy to find a ‘convenience’ stop, conveniently located along Great North Road. On Bond Street we stopped for a compulsory photo pose in front of the “I walked Auckland’s Fan Trail” sign, while enjoying the live band.
We dog-legged into Kingsland for a quick bite to eat, and experienced the best kebabs we have ever tasted, courtesy of Gyros Kebabs. Another culinary gem was to discover how well hummus goes with garlic bread, but that’s another story.
It was then time to hit Sandringham Road, find the correct entrance to Eden Park, and Bob’s-your-Uncle, we were seated and ready for a thrilling game of rugby.
The fans definitely made the Fan Trail a much more interesting and entertaining way to get to the rugby than catching a train or taxi.