Taking a Trip on Auckland’s Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, Literally
Illustration by Ben Thomson

Taking a Trip on Auckland’s Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, Literally

What I learned being a tourist in my own city...on acid.
November 18, 2016, 12:00am

This week has been a hard one for New Zealand morale, but thankfully we always have Mr Key directing us towards what matters most—how the earth ripping apart beneath our feet will affect New Zealand tourism. Over the past year we've cemented ourselves as one of the most desired destinations in the world. In April tourism was announced our number one export and shortly after, the Telegraph declared us the best country in the world. Now, as the dust settles on Trump's new America, it's official—everyone wants to be here.


In fact, last summer Auckland saw a record number of tourists come through the city. While we sweated out our overheated property market, foreigners flocked in in droves to experience the best Auckland has to offer. However, what that is exactly, is unclear. Auckland isn't a traditional hotspot mentioned in the same breath as London or New York. Without the carefully-curated-never-sponsored wisdom of the Urban List (truly the Wizard of Oz of Auckland culture commentary) where do sightseers go and what to they do? At 11am on a Tuesday morning, I boarded a hop-on/hop-off bus on a round-trip into the unknown: Auckland's tourist industry.

To guarantee a good time, I did it on acid.

The hop-on/hop-off bus is an Auckland institution, if you're lucky, you'll get a double decker. If you're not, you've just paid $45 dollars for the Inner Link. There are a lot of things you can get for $45 dollars: tickets to a C-list RnB singer that was big in 2006, a beret from ASOS, a toaster, the list goes on.

You can also, if you're a masochist, get on this silent tour of the city (save for the pre-recorded commentary) because talking during the ride is forbidden (it interrupts the pre-recorded commentary). What precisely might happen, though, if you are caught talking wasn't expanded on. All I knew is that on a scale of one to the Apple colour wheel, I was hitting about a 3.5.

Forty minutes in, I was still relatively sober and it didn't look like any hopping off was a happening thing anytime soon. Then we pulled up to Bastion Point and boy did the games begin. We were told by our driver we could either get off for half an hour and wait for the next bus to pick us up, or stay on. There was no advice as to what we were supposed to do for 30 whole minutes at a look-out, so I didn't feel the need to wake the American couple that boarded just after me. No one needs half an hour to stare at the harbour. I got you, guys.


Thankfully, throughout the ride we were regaled with a constant stream of facts. This, coupled with the LSD, made for a very educational experience. Think you know a whole lot about Auckland just because you're a local? Think again pal. Were you aware Kelly Tarlton's has the largest collection of stingrays?! Did you even think to research that Bill Clinton's favourite place in Auckland is Parnell? Exactly, break off a bit of that.

Unfortunately, the commentator couldn't maintain this kind of banging momentum. Not only did he call Parnell "one of Auckland's most popular attractions" (a stretch considering it's a village, or suburb at best, not the Eiffel Tower), but he specifically pointed out Parnell Primary school as we passed it, saying it was "typical of New Zealand primary schools." Who he was trying to impress with that tasty tidbit, I just don't know. This woefully reminded me that there's not a whole lot going on here. To his credit, though, he recovered quickly and was right back at it with more premium content: Parnell was home to many stray cats. That's a cause I can get behind.


By the time we reached the Auckland Museum (our main destination, the glamour!) things were getting pretty intense. I almost immediately ran into someone I knew, because of course this is Auckland and you can never escape. I proceeded to try and play it cool like "thanks yeah I'm really happy with my life lmao and definitely not on acid early afternoon on a Tuesday", as you do, while sweating profusely, as you do. At this point I also really, really missed my sobriety.

On the road to recovery, I discovered the Wintergardens have a whole array of furry—I'd even go so far as to say fluffy—plants, which pleased me greatly. Things took a turn, though, when I found the ice cream truck both unmanned and without the advertised sherbert option. I decided there was no greater metaphor for New Zealand than this one, an unmanned, out-of-sherbert icecream truck. All show, and no punch.


At this point I was freaking out because my hands had become super dry and powdery, so tried to distract myself by entering the Pan's Labyrinth of buildings, the museum. Elephant taxidermy and a collection of doll-wear isn't appealing at the best of times, but on acid, it's a bonafide nightmare. This, coupled with kids crying instead of appreciating the culture, I'll be real, I barely got out of there alive.


I managed to score the sweet seats on the way home, at the forefront of the double decker's top level like a true VIP. As high, and high up, as I was, it felt like living Google street view. Regardless, the ride gave me time to really consider the merits of Auckland: home to beloved celebrities like Sally Ridge, five-dollar flat whites and Max Key's snapstory. I also contemplated the lifestyle of a friend, who runs to her Les Mills class, works out then literally runs home. I'm not quite sure why I thought of her (this kind of efficiency is far beyond my comprehension, even sober) but her productivity proves at least she, and I assume many others, really thrive in Auckland.

Finally on the colour wheel comedown, I realised drugs or no, seeing Auckland from a tourist's perspective was probably just the refresher a jaded local like me needed. I mean, it's pretty—handy if you enjoy engaging in something grotesque like family cricket—and the air is almost impossibly clean for a major city. Also every person I came across was pretty damn nice, even to an obviously very out-of-it little old me.

Most impressive is, despite New Zealand's proclivity to earthquakes, the housing situation and a public transport system seemingly created by a piece of deep-fried tofu in a suit, this country is really quite beautiful. Aucklanders also do really, really enjoy this city, so much so that we end up taking for granted for just how good we really have it. The hop-on/hop-off, like the city itself, is what you make it…and you know what? It's worth hopping off here.

When in doubt, though, there's always acid to improve your trip.

You shouldn't do drugs, but you can follow Beatrice on Instagram.