A glorious day in Auckland

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February 13th 2016
Published: February 13th 2016
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Feb. 1 and 2 In New Zealand

In the early morning of Feb. 1 we sailed into the Bay of Islands on the North Island of New Zealand. I got a nice shot of the sun rising, but it was foggy and the famous scene was not at its best. There was tender service to a nearby small island, and ferry service from there to the mainland and other islands, but we stayed on board. The main offerings ashore were hikes that were longer than I was up for, and parasailing from a special boat outfitted for it. We saw the parasailers extremely high, just a dot at the end of a long tether. The infallible wind is provided by the forward motion of the parasail boat in a steady straight line, and a powerful winch controls how high you go. It was easy and very safe, but hard to book. Dolly went up, at age 93, booked well in advance, and was winched down again to the parasailing deck for a soft step-off landing.

But our high point came the next day. We docked early in the beautiful bay at Auckland, against a huge docking structure. There was a very short and solid gangplank from the third deck. Onshore, there were escalators down to ground level. We went down at 9 AM, and soon found our friends Don and Gay Dawson, whom we had met in Turkey, on a tour of Gallipoli. On that tour they gave us little kiwi lapel pins, which we wore faithfully so that we could claim to be New Zealanders in case of kidnapping. They were waiting with a very capacious black four-door car, and we were off for a driving tour of Auckland and vicinity.

Auckland has a wonderful geography. It is situated on forty or more hills that are actually ancient volcanos, intertwined with complicated inlets all around. It is just fifteen miles across from the Pacific to the Tasmanian Sea. The ship’s dock is right downtown in a modern city, so you step off into all sorts of conveniences if you are on foot. After a driving tour of the downtown, we went to three main destinations. The first was a park that contains the main museum of New Zealand, and a conservatory, extremely well kept up. NZ has more native orchids than anybody, and some of the showier ones were in glorious bloom inside. I will attach as many photos as I reasonably can. Just read the captions.

Then we motored on to a volcano topped by the Maori cultural center, with natural NZ bush all around it, including silver ferns, which may (or may not) soon replace the small Union Jack on the national flag of NZ. It’s up for a vote very soon, and the NZ natives are about evenly divided.

At the Maori Cultural Center we saw a kiwi. Stuffed, I admit, but still kind of real. It was much larger than I had imagined (maybe 20 inches high), displayed with the enormous egg that they produce. They are shy and nocturnal, and very few people have ever seen one in the wild. There is a night house at the zoo, where you stand a chance to see one in very dim light. Back outside, at a shady table on the lawn, and overseen by a towering Maori totem pole, we had a nice lunch of sandwiches, fruit and boiled eggs thoughtfully packed up by Gay.

We spent the rest of the time we had visiting notable spots nearby. We went up one of the little volcanos called One Tree Hill, which is now topped by an obelisk, though at one time it was a high spot with one tree at its very top. Unfortunately, this tree had political enemies, and was cut down in the dark of night for being a foreign invasive species, prominent and well beloved as it was. From the obelisk you could see both the Pacific and the Tasman Sea, and the town spread out all around. I’m sure my photos don’t do the scene justice, but I will add one or two.

The last place we hit was an absolutely perfect beachy cove, marked off by large rocks at either end,one called Lion’s Head. We were there on a Tuesday, and it was fairly deserted, but it looked like the perfect place for swimmers and surfers. From there it was back over the harbor bridge with a nice view of the whole harbor, an amazing number of private sailboats, and our ship, in time for the all-aboard at 4:30. It is really pitiful that they give such a short time to see so much. Without Don and Gay we would have just seen just a few blocks of the downtown.

We just can’t thank them enough for taking a whole day to make this stop the highlight of our whole voyage.

And it was nice to reminisce with them about the trip to Turkey. On the Archeological Tour you meet people you want to keep up with, though they may live on the other side of the world. So unlike the ship, where we have yet to meet anyone of enough interest to write down an e-mail address.

Additional photos below
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13th February 2016

Glad you enjoyed
Hola Gringo Viejo, Glad you enjoyed your short visit here! If you make it back someday and go swimming at Piha / Lion Rock, be careful of the undercurrents. And if you want to see a kiwi not in captivity, my recommendation would be to visit Tiritiri Matangi Island and book well in advance to stay overnight in the bunkhouse - not that you'd get much sleep if you're out kiwi hunting most of the night!

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