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Published: November 24th 2019
After promising the customs official that we aren’t importing any Antarctic toothfish and that if we do see a stink bug we will contact them immediately (despite the fact that I, for one, would be unlikely to recognize it), we were through the rather rigorous biosecurity customs service and we entered New Zealand into glorious sunshine and a balmy 22 degrees.
Auckland, our first stop, is a nice city with some lovely areas. We agree that in 5 to 10 years time it will probably be a wonderful city, but that there is way to go yet; this is reflected by the extensive development and building works all over as we wandered. Having said that, it’s easy to see why so many New Zealanders choose to make it home- it is the most densely populated area in the whole country- with its bustling, cosmopolitan marina and huge number of places to eat, drink and be merry.
I even made it one morning to the Auckland Tepid Baths - or “the teps” as it is apparently fondly known- a 100 year old public swimming pool (which has been recently refurbished) and, despite no longer being salt water, retains the old
Kev dressed in the Rosé colour pallet
school charm. I was most impressed, though, by the gentleman with only one leg in the neighbouring lane powering up and down doing underwater legkick and putting us all to shame.
To make our stay even better we met up with our good friend, Kevin, who has been working out here for the past 6 months and who had never visited Auckland either. Unfortunately poor Kev had a spate of bad luck en route to meet us, having planned to drive via Coromandel and stay overnight there the day before, but having his car break down on the way and having to be towed to an Auckland garage so that they can order the relevant part from Singapore. To add insult to injury the Airbnb apartment that he booked last minute in Auckland turned out to be non-existent and a scam (evident when he turned up to a block of dilapidated offices).
Luckily we had just the antidote to cheer the poor chap up: a day trip to Waiheke Island, known as “the island of wine” and home to 30 boutique wineries open to visitors. Apparently Lonely Planet listed Waheike in the top 5 places in the world
to visit and I would have to agree; it is just absolutely stunning. So green, lush and beautiful with perfect beaches and, my goodness, the wine! Needless to say this place has jumped up the ranking as Charlie’s favourite place on our trip thus far.
We went on the infamous Explore Bus, a hop-on-hop-off bus that makes circuits of the island dropping eager tourists off at various vineyards. After our first glass of chilled rosé at Stonyridge Winery, we headed up to Peacock Sky, which is a little off the bus route and required a taxi to reach. The endeavor was so worth it, though. The wine tasting was led by a très serious French girl who didn’t appreciate our frivolity when it came to le Vin, but the wine was delish, the food excellent and the setting exquisite. A long boozy lunch (quelle surprise) and then brief walk through the forest later (cutting the 30 minutes estimated by the manager at Peacock Sky down to a mere 15 at Charlie’s wine-fueled pace) led us to our afternoon spent basking in the sunshine and admiring the view whilst, you guessed it, drinking more wine. The hop-on-hop-off bus would be
more aptly named hop-off-stagger-on, as that’s what we did. It is little wonder that Charlie “there is no way I’m wearing a hat” Carse got a sunburned head.
It’s lucky that there is so much stuff to do in Auckland, really, as the apartments we stayed in were pretty grotty, with a particularly unpleasant cheesey aroma in the stairwell, so we spent as little time there as possible. We were the only people at checkout on our departure date who didn’t have to have a room check before they were allowed to leave, so I think that says a lot about the sort of place it was.
Relieved to be out of the grot-hole we collected le voiture, a big, blue Mitsubishi SUV, and Charlie bravely volunteered to take the first shot in the driver’s seat; it is his first time driving an automatic and he did a cracking job- only going through one red light on our way out of Auckland (“how rude, it was barely even red”). There was just enough time to squeeze in brunch and a walk along the beach in Takapuna, a 15 minute drive from Auckland city, before we had to say
Ferry back to Auckland from Wine Island
a fond farewell to Kev (who took the 9 hour overnight bus back to where he lives in Palmerston North, ready to start a night shift the following day - sucks to be him) and set off to our next stop: the Coromandel peninsula. No wineries there but fear not, we’ve got un petit peu de vin to take with us.
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