A New Zealand Odyssey, Bookshop Style

They said the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,

Well I am neither man nor mouse but my New Zealand trip was not quite what I had planned. I was going to go to Christchurch and tour the South Island but didn’t think that Christchurch would be an ideal spot for a tourist two weeks after a 7.1 earthquake so rebooked for Auckland and the North Island.


I planned to hire a car and visit book shops and other slightly less exciting places of interest like Rotorua and Mt Ruapehu. We spend the first couple of days travelling around Auckland using public transport and I found some great books shops. Ponsonby Books on Ponsonby Rd in Auckland is a series of rooms and hallways full of books where I found a nice early copy of Seven Little Australians. After I paid I introduced myself to the manager and gave The Bookshop Blog a little plug. To my embarrassment I was given a book as a gift. It was a lovely little volume featuring artwork of some of the attractions of Wellington which helped focus my sightseeing when we got to that town. The village of Devonport, a short ferry ride from the Auckland CDB had two well stocked and attractive second hand book stores as well as two extinct volcanos. I always buy at least one book when I go into a used bookstore (it’s a rule) and had no trouble finding something in both stores. I also climbed to the top of the first volcano so can tick climbing a volcano off my to do list. Okay, it is only 87 metres high but a volcano is a volcano and it has the most magnificent views around Auckland harbour. There was also a secondhand book shop on the wharf itself but my children dragged me past with cries of

“quick quick, the ferry is about to leave”

Looking to travel further afield I sauntered down to the street where the car rentals jostled for business only to find that somewhere between Melbourne and Auckland my driver’s license had gone astray. No license; no car hire. With limited options I decided to make the ‘bus’t of it and spend a couple of days in Rotorua and a week in Wellington before heading back to Auckland and then home.

To be honest I had travelled over with a mildish case of bronchitis and a course of antibiotics. I finished the antibiotics but not the bronchitis which steadily got worse while I foolishly put off visiting a doctor so driving would have been a trial anyhow.

Rotorua has a VERY famous bookstore called McLeods Books which somehow I did not manage to visit though I did call into the two second-hand book stores and a couple of thrift stores. I had a bit of a chat to the book exchange owner in Rotorua and as you’d expect he has the same trials and tribulations as second hand booksellers around the world. Rotorua’s famous thermals do not seem to do much for its books unfortunately; as a lot of them were badly affected by foxing. but the golden rule was followed and I did manage to find a bunch of Essie Summers for which I have a certain fondness (and can resell without too much trouble).

Plus it was fun to lie on the ground on a fairly cold and damp day a few metres from the Geysers of Whakarewarewa and feel pleasantly warm.

The bus trip to Wellington involved a stop at a cafe in the middle of nowhere for half an hour. The gift shop sold a few second hand books. Needless to say I bought one. Continuing our second hand books nz tour, we passed through a number of small towns containing some great bookshops but sadly the bus did not stop. I did consider throwing myself off the bus but you know, it probably would have been a bit excessive.

Wellington hotels were booked out because of something called WOW so I accepted a booking ‘just outside’. Just outside to me meant just outside the CBD but what it really meant was about 20kms away. The bus arrived at Wellington railway station and I looked at the accommodation voucher. Yes, we had passed through a place called Pirirua just half an hour early so it was a bit of a wait, then a train ride and a stiff walk back to our (very pleasant) motel.

second hand books nzWellington is a most beautiful city on a harbour that is yet another extinct volcano and I naturally managed to find a few second hand book shops and fill my suitcase up. I didn’t even need a map. I found another store called BookMark’s on Lambton Quay and Arty Bees and Ferrett Books in the Cuba Mall area.

Books are not cheaper in New Zealand, for example a new trade paperback in Australia is $32.95 and in New Zealand it is $34.95 so given the difference in the exchange rate the retail prices are about the same as at home. However I did manage to pick up a few treasures that will help pay for the trip. If I had a car I think I might have been standing in a queue in a post office somewhere.

As soon as I got home from the airport I dragged myself to see my GP as breathing was becoming a fairly serious problem. Next trip away I will NOT be sick.

New Zealand is only a pleasant four hour flight from Melbourne, Why did it take so long for me to visit?

Therese Holland
McLeods Books
10 Station St
Nunawading 3131
ph 0398777214
open 7 days

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