New Zealand Journal

March 6, 2003 (remember we crossed the international date line)

Hello ....

We have arrived safely in Auckland New Zealand after 18 hours of traveling (yawn!), and trying to find creative ways to sit in a seat for that length of time so the body wouldn't seize up entirely. Once landed, we -- correction -- Terry had the added stress of driving off the car rental lot with the steering wheel on the "passenger side" of the car and everybody driving on the opposite side of the road. He did well considering his side-seat-driver was often covering her face and audibly sucking in her breath. When his side-seat-driver (we won't mention names) wasn't doing that, she was shouting encouraging phrases such as "Stop. Look to your 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 this out on the map!" Despite that, we found our way to the Mariner's Bed and Breakfast    ( http:// www.mariners.co.nz ) and moved our few pieces of luggage into the studio apartment.

Trying to keep jet lag at bay, within the hour we were back on the road with directions from our hostess, Liz.   We checked out a ferry, not far from our B&B, that can take us to downtown Auckland (saving some heavy traffic hassle with the car). We then went on to a small shopping center in search of a cooler ("chilly-bins" they are called here) plus some other picnic style odds and ends. Now for something to put in our chilly-bin. We were directed to a food store and along with going up and down the isles, we were kindly given some mini-lessons on cooking and eating local produce. Very friendly folk here.

Terry was doing a great job in driving and I had my nose inside a map when .... bang!  Terry said "I saw it happen." There was an accident in the intersection ahead. With no where to pull over, Terry circled the car around and parked in a service station so we could walk back. The police arrived, took Terry’s statement and we were once more back on the road.

 

 

 

Bringing our treasures back to Mariner's we ate a dinner of salad and sandwiches on the deck overlooking Maraetai Bay (which sits in the Hauraki Gulf). If you are wanting to look on a map, click here on North Island.   See Auckland?  It is the gulf to the right of the word "Auckland"  

Although jet lag had wavered my resolve some, with encouragement, Terry and I walked down to the beach. These beaches on the bay are mostly crushed shells in an array of delicate colours and rock outcrops. We walked for a while in one direction and then doubled back along the fine graveled pathway and continued in the other direction past a boat launch, boat club and another wide beach and finally circling around on the roadway back "home". As we walked back up the hill we could hear a large white truck playing a musical horn as it entered each cul-de-sac and discovered it to be the milk man announcing his evening arrival.

As we say good night from New Zealand, our windows are wide open without screens! No flies. No mosquitoes. Just the sounds of cricket or locust type insects called Cicado that stay in the clusters of trees and play their song by rubbing legs against their wings and sing us to sleep.

 

March 7, 2003

We slept.  We slept horizontally.  All the body parts being horizontal ... all at the same time!  It's often the little things we tend to take for granted.

I wanted to catch our first New Zealand sunrise, so while Terry was still sleeping, Ted (it's the teddy bear I'm talking about, folks!) and I went out on the deck to watch.  The sky was just starting to lighten up and the view was "cut and paste".  That is a term that the family started using after Michael first used it to describe scenery in silhouette.  Just like in school the children used to cut out shapes of trees from black construction paper and paste them to a more brightly coloured paper ... therefore ... cut and paste.

There was so much cloud cover that the picture perfect sunrise we had been waiting for just didn't appear; but seeing and listening to a new day begin is always magical and the scenery and the tweeting and fluttering of birds among the bright flowering shrubs made it even more enchanting.

Terry was well rested and took a morning run along the path we had walked the night before while Liz allowed me to get a couple of emails away to let the family know we had arrived safely.

Before leaving the B&B for the day's adventures, the police contacted Terry to go over his statement about yesterday's accident.   

We were on the road again but only for a short distance to the Pine Harbour Marina where we (Terry, Ted and I) boarded the ferry  It is run single handed by Alan Murus.  We purposely took the noon departure to get a full tour across the Hauraki Gulf,  from Pine Harbour to Waiheke Island and then onto Auckland. 
This is not a slow tour boat.  Its main purpose is taking commuters in and out of Auckland.  This passenger-only ferry has room to seat thirty passengers inside, ten outside and with a limit of fifty; ten can stand.  The five o'clock departure from Auckland (particularly on a Friday) is usually full and often times leaves passengers on the wharf waiting for the 6:30.  A round trip to Auckland (adult) is $13.50.  If you want to feel the  experience fully, the speed and bounce and don't mind a salt water misting take the best viewing site at the back (aft) corner of the ferry.  If you plan on sitting inside, we would recommend sitting as far back as you can. 

The closer to the front, the less view you are going to have.  The trip out, that stops at Waiheke Island and on to Auckland, takes one hour.  A direct trip between Pine Harbour and Auckland is thirty-five minutes.  Coming into Auckland the sky line is ... well ...

... FABULOUS !                            (yes, photo by Sherrie)

My favourite building is the one front and center ... the Ferry Building ... which now houses ticket centers for tour and cruises on the ground floor, Auckland's number 1seafood restaurant  (average meal price $70 per person) is one floor up and the top floors house offices of ship and cruise lines.  The piers to the right of the Ferry Building are active with commuter ferries  coming and going constantly  ... and where our ferry docked at 1:00 and picked us up at 6:30.

The white spire above the tall building on the right, is actually the top of theSky Tower ... the 1076 foot high landmark of Auckland.  You can see it a bit better in the evening picture below.

The tall building on the left of the picture met with differing and sometimes unflattering reviews by locals.  Is the round object (reported as decorative only) a halo or perhaps a piece of a bathroom fixture.  To some the latter seems appropriate since the building was built by and is home to an insurance company ... as in throwing money down the .....?   

Auckland was still abuzz with America Cup spectators and participants, with most of the competing boats still in the harbour.   Hauraki Gulf, on which Auckland's Harbour sits, has been considered for years tops for sailing.  Kiwis (not a derogatory name for New Zealanders) prize their boats and have more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world and with the shore line providing numerous bays around this protected and prized  habour, it is no wonder why so many sail boats find their way onto these waters.   

A tour bus was the best way to get acquainted with Auckland and its surrounding area which houses approximately one million three hundred thousand or one third of New Zealand's population (slightly less than the population of British Columbia).  The driver was most informative as we drove through both commercial and residential communities.  We made two stops.  One atop Mount Eden, an inactive volcano once a strong hold for a warring Maori tribe.  This mount (the tallest in Auckland) was terraced by the Maoris 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  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 points to Vancouver 11362 km ... that-a-way.  (Please note Terry is wearing a money belt full of money .... he has not gained in weight since we were married and is not starting now!)

As the bus was maneuvering its way out of the area, the driver pointed out the deep crater left by volcanic action.  "People drive their dogs up here to be exercised.  They park their cars in the parking lot and then the owners sit on the edge of the crater, 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 few years back," the driver added to the crater stories, "some high school students, as a 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 billowing smoke coming 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 plot."

We walked around some of the downtown area and then sat on a pier bench and watched Friday commuters and ferries come and go until Alan arrived with the Pine Harbour Ferry and at full throttle (once he cleared the inner harbour) sped us away from Auckland as the sun prepared to set.

MARCH 8, 2003

After confirming our return reservations with Liz at Mariners we drove a short distance along the coast and turned inland past Clevedon and Papakura onto the No 1 highway and proceeded south.  At Hamilton we visited a tourist information center, purchased some ham and buns at a grocer and went to nearby Lake Rotoroa to enjoy our picnic.  A wonderful park.

The only picnic table we saw was near the parking lot, so we set out our picnic and enjoyed watching the activities in the children's park and got a little lonely for our grandchildren, Tavis and Tyler.  Oh, how they would have enjoy this place with all sorts of innovated children's "rides" plus an opportunity to feed the ducks.

After cleaning up from our picnic we walked a pathway along the lake and on the way back stopped to watch children feeding the ducks, white geese and Canada Geese.  Bought ice cream cones, jumped into our white Toyota and headed south.
We arrived in Waitomo  (Wai in Maori means water)  and booked into Big Bird B&B.   While taking the luggage out of the car, we introduced ourselves to our hosts, Ross and Ann, and began a discussion about a Harley Davidson trike that was parked on the lawn.  It was a very upbeat and lengthy discussion of how Ross and their son, Kyle, had just received their permits for the first 3-wheel vehicle  in New Zealand to carry paying customers.  
Their "Harley Trike Tours" (to start in Auckland) uses a Harley Davidson motorcycle modified to hold driver and two passengers.  Understandably, they are very excited about their new venture.  Kyle is 27 years old and quite the entrepreneur ... not only for the trikes but for other ventures he has in the planning stages.  
Our hosts Ann and Ross were such warm and welcoming people and take a great deal of time to share their knowledge with their guests. Along with the B&B they run a gift shop in town (Ann's shop for the past 12+ years), they have a farm with ostrich, miniature horses and cattle.  Ross's day job is as a conservationist and one of his responsibilities is the development of nature trails in the area. Each evening at sunset, he takes his guests along to feed the ostrich and explains the growth and development of the big birds. Afterwards, Ann follows up by showing ostrich eggs and hides including leather jackets, vests and the seats on the Harley Trike.
If all that wasn't enough on their plates, each evening Ross takes their guests on a trail (one he had developed through his day job) and gives an excellent talk on the flora and fauna along the path.  The main attraction  ... glow worms.  Like a firefly, the glowworm has the ability to light the tail end of his grub body to attract prey into spider-like web lines that hang down from its cocoon.  The light is produced by the same chemical reaction that lights the glow rods used at rock concerts.  The populations of Glowworms are numerous in this part of New Zealand and a great deal of the tourist trade is focused on seeing them in their natural environment.  

Tomorrow we plan to see more as we go black water rafting. 

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