A cosmopolitan beginning to our New Zealand travels.
Auckland, New Zealand
Safely in Auckland, New Zealand, after eighteen hours of travel. Yawn. Double yawn. Much of the last eighteen hours had been spent in cramped quarters attempting to find a position which offered even the slightest semblance of comfort.
Once on the ground we … Correction. Once on the ground a tired Terry had the added stress of driving a rental car with the steering wheel on the ‘passenger side’ and everyone driving on the wrong(?) side of the road. He did well considering his side-seat-driver was often covering her face and audibly gasping for breath. When his side-seat-driver (we won’t mention names) wasn’t grimacing from behind cupped hands, she was shouting words of questioning encouragement. “Stop!” “Look right!” “Cross all the way over the road when you turn right.” “We want three o’clock on the round-about.” “Watch out!” “I can’t figure out the map!”
Attempting to keep jet lag at bay until evening we, within the hour, were back on the road with directions from our B&B hostess to the Pine Harbor Marina where we checked out the ferry schedule for tomorrow’s journey into downtown Auckland.
A search for a ‘cooler’, to keep picnic supplies cool, was a more lengthy project than expected until we realized New Zealanders call them ‘chilly bins’. For something to put in our chilly bin we were directed to a food store and while going up and down the aisles we were kindly given some mini-lessons on cooking and eating local produce; very friendly folk here.
A somewhat brisk walk along a beach helped to bolster Sherrie’s wavering resolve to stay awake, but we were both fading … and fading fast. Arriving back ‘home’ to our B&B we heard, and saw, a large white truck sounding a musical horn as it entered each cul-de-sac – it was the milkman announcing his evening rounds.
Bed at last, with windows wide open. No screens! This was March. No flies. No mosquitoes. Just the sounds of crickets and cicadas (a locust type insect which cluster in trees and play their song by rubbing legs against their wings) singing us to sleep.
We slept … horizontally. All body parts horizontal … all at the same time! It’s often the little things we tend to take for granted.
Sherrie, wanting to catch her first New Zealand sunrise, went early to the deck. The sky was just starting to lighten but cloud cover hid the otherwise picture-perfect sunrise. However, seeing and listening to a new day beginning is always magical; the scenery and the tweeting and fluttering of birds among the bright flowering shrubs made it enchanting.
Terry, well rested, took a morning run along the path we had walked the previous evening.
We purposely took the noon departure of the Pine Harbour Ferry to get a full tour across Hauraki Gulf; from Pine Harbor to Waiheke Island and then on to Auckland.
The ferry is not a slow tour boat; its main purpose is taking commuters in and out of Auckland. It’s passengers-only; room to seat thirty passengers inside, ten outside and with a limit of fifty, ten can stand. For those who want to feel the full speed and bounce and don’t mind a little salt water misting, the best viewing site is an aft corner of the boat. (If you plan on sitting inside, we would recommend sitting as far back as possible. The closer to the front, the less view.) The trip to Auckland, making a stop at Waiheke Island, took one hour; a direct trip between Pine Harbor and Auckland is about thirty-five minutes.
The Auckland skyline is impressive. My favorite building is the one front and center; the Ferry Building. Piers are active with the constant coming and going of commuter ferries.
A tour bus is the best way to get acquainted with Auckland and its surrounding area – home to approximately one third of New Zealand’s population. The driver was most informative as we drove through both commercial and residential communities.
We stopped atop Mount Eden, an inactive volcano once a strong hold for a warring Maori tribe. This hill (the highest in Auckland) was terraced by the Maori as a form of fortification. The chief and his numerous wives lived at the top and the rest of the tribe lived on continuing lower terraces according to their rank in society. Today the hillside grass is keep clipped by tourist-friendly cows. At the top there is a marker and a pedestal holding a large brass plate positioned to allow visitors to learn the direction to home and how many kilometers away.
Terry pointed to Vancouver; 11,362 km … that-a-way.
As the bus was maneuvered from the parking lot, the driver pointed out the deep crater left by volcanic action. “People drive their dogs up here to be exercised. They park their car, sit on the edge of the crater and throw a ball or other object into the crater and tell the dog to ‘fetch’. Two or three trips up and down the walls of the crater and the dog is ready to go home.” “Another time, a number of years back,” the driver continued, “some high school students, as an April Fools prank, collected a whole lot of tires, rolled them into the crater and set them on fire at daybreak. The black and gray smoke billowing from the crater could only mean one thing to the panicking residents of Auckland below. They caught the pranksters and dealt out some punishment. But,” added the driver, “I thought they should have been praised as well for coming up with and executing such an ingenious plan.”
We walked some of the downtown area and then sat on a pier bench and watched Friday commuters and ferries come and go until the Pine Harbor Ferry, at full throttle (once clear of the inner harbor), sped us away from Auckland just as the setting sun was preparing for nightfall.
SIGHTSEEING IN & AROUND AUCKLAND
AUCKLAND I-SITE VISITOR INFORMARION CENTER
Address: Corner Victoria & Federal Streets
Phone +64 9-365 9918
GETTING TO-FROM AUCKLAND – PINE HARBOUR
PINE HARBOUR SEALINK FERRY SERVICE
The modern high-speed catamarans run 15 times daily, Monday – Friday to Auckland. Besides catching the ferry, Pine Harbour has more to offer visitors and locals; cafés, a Marina to stroll, landscaped gardens and a sheltered beach both do well for a picnic and, if you are there on the first Saturday of the month, there is a Fresh Market where you can buy picnic makings or succumb to the market’s artisan delights.
Physical Address: 190 Jack Lachlan Drive, Pine Harbour
Phone: +64 9 536 4720