Karangahape Road – the unglamorous and drug addled roadside hooker centre of Auckland.
Known fondly among locals simply as “K’ Road”, this is a street in upper central Auckland famous for its bars, clubs, smaller shops and being a former red-light district.
The conversation started half way along this street, at about 11pm, sober, bar one or two experimental cocktails.
“I feel very safe here”
This took me by surprise. “I’m sorry?”
“I feel safe here, I always feel like this street is so busy that I could never come to any harm here, I’m comfortable. I can be absolutely anybody I want to be here and it wouldn’t attract any attention because everybody here is so diverse. I don’t feel judged. At home I could never feel like this, at home people judge you for the clothes you wear, the way you speak, the way you carry yourself, too fat, too thin… everything is judged by everybody.
Here, if you want to be fat, be fat. If you want to be gay, be gay!”
I took a minute to consider this, because I hadn’t really looked at K Road this way before. This street puts me on edge and I’d made the assumption that anybody else outside of the local working population would feel the same. The first time I set foot here was at 9.30am on a Sunday and I had to pick my way tactfully around a drunk (or otherwise intoxicated) and staggering, transgender hooker hurling extensive abuse at what seemed to be an innocent passer-by for being a ‘slut’. I hadn’t considered it safe then and I hadn’t really thought of it as safe on any of the other occasions when I’ve been forced to take this route.
But now that my friend puts it that way… Maybe I’m wrong to judge so harshly? The fact that this street gives me the willies doesn’t mean to say that it’s factually unsafe.
In May 2013, Mark Garrison wrote a journal piece describing the reasons behind police and community groups’ actions to try and improve safety on Auckland’s Karangahape Road in the evenings. It talks about the gay community’s fear of openly showing their sexuality in public and examines whether homophobia has been an issue in assaults on K Road, but notes that the prime driver of assault and crime in Auckland is drunkenness. The paper can be found at Auckland library.
3 of the 50(ish) reviews I read of Auckland on tourism websites specifically pick out K Road as an area where they witnessed ‘more violence than in the US’.
Inspector Gary Davey, Auckland crime-prevention manager, listed K Road as one of the ‘City’s hotspots for drunken violence’ in an interview with the NZ Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11208092
A stabbing in 2015 saw Ms Rani and a 22-year-old man attacked at the AWI International Education Group School near Karangahape Road in May. Ms Rani, who had been studying in New Zealand since 2013, died at the scene, while the 22-year-old man was taken to hospital with serious injuries. Read more: http://www.newshub.co.nz/nznews/man-admits-to-auckland-stabbing-2015081909#ixzz41Y7c8Si3
In January 2015 a revolver was pulled on a man in a K Road car park, following an argument with a stranger. The trigger was pulled several times before a round was finally fired in the direction of the man, and the resulting police chase followed the gunman to the Harbour Bridge, where he, thankfully, gave himself up.
I tracked down several additional media releases from police reports filed regarding violence in the Karangahape Road area between 2012 and today.
… And these are just the things that made it to the internet!
So is my friend wrong to feel comfortable? Should she live her life afraid of what horrors might lay in wait around the next corner? Absolutely not!
This road is unavoidable, and frankly, there are a heap of fun bars in this area that we’d be fools not to venture into at some point during our stay here. (see picture above… couldn’t be happier!… And for the record, I am standing in this photo… yeah) Rightly or wrongly, people like it here, this is one of the most popular streets in Auckland and despite how I feel when I venture out alone, I have a great time there in the right company.
I have a new frame of mind when I take this route now, thanks to the wise and unlikely words of my friend. I see it through her eyes a little more, and I’m quietly entertained by the bizarre sights I see there through my upgraded line of vision.
My advice, if you’re visiting Auckland, definitely pay a visit to some of the K Road bars. Be careful there, obviously, but don’t avoid it based on reputation, make your own judgement, it’s definitely worth your time… Even if all you’re looking for is a pretty decent kebab.
So I’ll leave you with this fairly relevant quote:
People are supposed to fear the unknown, but ignorance is bliss when knowledge is so damn frightening. ~ Laurell K. Hamilton.
And one inspiring quote about life in general from my friend Elodie:
If you want to be fat, be fat. If you want to be gay, be gay! ~ Elodie