Thursday 14 January 2021

Devonport by Segway


No two ways about it: I'm a sucker for a Segway. Today was my ninth ride, as far as I remember - one in Perth, one in Durban, a couple in the US, and the rest here in NZ - and I've only fallen off once (epic bruise!). There was no chance of that this time, as Pauline of Magic Broomstick Tours was very good at indicating all the potential snags and dips that might catch me out.

It was such an easy day - ferry across to Devonport, quick demonstration on a quiet bit of the wharf that I knew what to do, and then we were away, off on a seamless ninety-minute tour that took in the waterfront, North Head's tunnels and gun emplacement, gorgeous villa-filled suburbs, and lots of places I knew nothing about, despite having often been to the suburb.

We passed Elizabeth House, the Wren's base during the war and, not surprisingly, Party Central back then; and then cruised on along Torpedo Bay, stopping often for bits of naval and other history, local gossip and architectural drooling. Devonport is a treasure trove of beautiful old wooden villas, all lovingly restored, surrounded by neat gardens and each worth millions. One, Pauline said, was bought for $5m-plus by an English family who spent another $3m on doing it up and then - just as it was finished - got trapped in the UK by the lockdown. Painful.

We skimmed up North Head - now under iwi control, so get used to hearing it called Maungauiki - to prowl through the hand-dug tunnels where small boys were making the most of the echo-effect. There's a maze of tunnels under the hill, mostly closed to the public and, I was disappointed to hear, none of them seriously thought to be hiding the first two Boeing aircraft ever built. That was a story I was intrigued to hear the beginnings of at the Everton Boeing factory, near Seattle, in 2010, and it would have been such fun if it were true. And it still might be...

Still, the views over the harbour, city and Rangitoto were terrific. Then we scooted back down and along the seafront, to discover a tearooms right over the water that I had no idea existed, past a giraffe in some eccentric lady's garden, paused outside an even more tempting French café that I really must get back to, and then dived into the depths of Devonport's secret suburbs. So much gorgeousness! 

Pauline told me some interesting geology, and we visited Mt Cambria, that I'd never even heard of before, and saw the little museum set up in a disused church. Another must-visit for the future. There was more local gossip - always fun - and then we headed downhill again, pausing under a big pohutukawa where Bertie (should actually be Beatrice) the cockatoo sometimes hangs out, and stopping at Old Albert, a huge Moreton Bay fig tree by the fancy new library - planted way back in 1883. 

Nearby is the band rotunda which, I'd never noticed till Pauline mentioned it, has music notes all around it - the beginning of God Save the Queen. Except, and I only found out later, looking it up, the workmen got the notation order wrong, and the music goes wonky. The first bit is right, though, I was pleased to be able to, er, note.

And then we were back at Windsor Reserve, with its temptingly fun-looking playground, and the old Nothing Happened joke plaque in the ground, and the tour was over and I had to get off. That's the worst thing about a Segway tour, every time. But up till that point, it had been great fun.

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