Recently, I visited The Mount for the first time. I’d never been, unlike every other young person in New Zealand, who spent every new year there in an RTD-fuelled haze of happiness. (My parents had always ‘accidentally’ scheduled the family holiday so we were away for new year).
So I made my first visit there this month as a rather more sober twenty-something. Now, I won’t lie. I expected to be unimpressed. Of course I did; I’m a Jafa. Aucklanders always expect to be unimpressed by everything and everyone – we live off caffeine and arrogance.
What happened instead was that I loved it.
Perhaps the tingle I felt around my heart when I arrived was just withdrawal from overpriced almond milk lattes … but I think it’s actually because I fell for The Mount, just a little.
You see there’s something about The Mount that I didn’t expect. It was the relaxed attitude. I had forgotten what it’s like to live in a city where not everyone is stressed.
In Auckland you carry a constant knot of tension in your chest – like you’re always worried you’ve overstayed on your parking-meter (which you probably have, landing yourself a ticket, and a bill the size of a small African nation’s annual defence budget).
Getting around is a painful grind of anger and tears. Commuting to anywhere further than the dairy will take you at least an hour. Parking is the cost of a mortgage on a three-bedroom home in Hamilton. In their pursuit of a two-metre gap, the drivers are as aggressive, sweaty and ruthless as Genghis Khan.
When you start and end the day as though you’re fighting in Resident Evil, your mood is severely affected. You walk around ready to stab anyone who so much as sneezes near you.
But because everyone’s going through this, you forget that normal people don’t have the constant urge to impale things.
Yes, there are fewer people than in Auckland, but it felt like more. The Mount was throbbing with life. The sun was out, couples were sipping Luca coffee, and everything from the dogs to the dustbins seemed to frolic in the sun. People were pleasant, chatty and politely interested in your day. There were parking spots on the main street. There was a pop-up hipster rug sale. There was so much activewear!
The main beach was beautiful, and even though it was sunny, it wasn’t crowded. There were hardened surfers, a few enthusiastic swimmers, and a crispy breeze skimming the water. Diving into the sea in a bikini was utterly exhilarating. I felt Auckland’s grit, sweat and stress slide off me. I came up to the surface convinced I’d just had a born-again experience.
And after a weekend in The Mount, I realised that this is what Auckland should be like. Friendly, relaxed, and a fun place to hang out. The Mount has amazing food, great wine, and enough quirky homeware shops to fill as many loose Sunday afternoons as you can muster. It’s the ultimate town.
Auckland could be like that one day. But only if it wasn’t so goddam stressed, and so obsessed with looking like a concrete Lego set. But until then, The Mount will just keep smiling quietly when Jafas boast how great Auckland is. After all, they are the ones watching their population swell with Aucklanders on the move.