Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rangitoto Island

We bid farewell to Kathy and Paul this morning as they flew to Sydney today in preparation for their flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and then Minneapolis tomorrow morning. After they left, we walked down to the harbour to see all the sailboats. Auckland is known as the "City of Sails" due to its abundance of sailing vessels. It has hosted the America's Cup a couple of times, in fact.

A little after noon we took a ferry to Rangitoto Island. The island was formed by a volcanic eruption around 600 years ago, and now rises 850 feet over the Hauraki Gulf. It is a public reserve managed by the Department of Conservation. There are no permanent residents on Rangitoto, but in the early 20th century a small community lived in baches (simple holiday houses). A few remain today.

We hiked up the path to the summit lookout, which was about an hour's walk uphill. It was challenging due to the incline and the loose rocks. The lady at the ferry terminal told me my walking shoes would be okay, but she lied. I should have gone back to the apartment for my hiking boots which have more support as well as better insulation from the rocks.

The views from the top were great, and we enjoyed the many birds we found on the island. The fact that so much plant material sprouted out of lava is amazing to me. A few things were still blooming despite the fact that it is fall here.

Once back in Auckland we went back to the harbour as there is an industrial area that has been redeveloped into walking paths, shops, restaurants and playgrounds. It was very interesting to check out. By then our feet were killing us, so we came back to the apartment to eat dinner and do laundry. We head for home tomorrow!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Coromandel Peninsula

We rented a car today and drove south and then east to the Coromandel Peninsula. The drive through the Coromandel Forest Park was filled with steep, windy roads. The scenery was quite different than what we had seen in Auckland. We saw Hot Water Beach, where the water was cold. But supposedly if you dig a whole in the sand where the hot springs are located within two hours of low tide, the water that fills the whole can heat to 140-147 degrees! We also visited Hahei Beach and Cooks Beach before beginning the long drive back to Auckland.

Before returning the rental car, we stopped for our last dinner together at Di Mare Cafe & Restaurant where we had an excellent meal. Corbins leave in the morning to fly to Sydney, where they will catch their flight home to Minneapolis on Wednesday. We will have one last day in Auckland before leaving for home from here, also on Wednesday.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday in Auckland

We had a quick breakfast in our apartment before making our way over to the Sky Tower this morning. Located in the central business district of Auckland, it stands at 222 meters tall (728 feet). We took an elevator to the viewing room on the 51st floor. It offers 360 degree panoramic views of the city. If you so desire, you can bungee jump off a higher floor. We opted not to do that activity. It was great that we arrived fairly early in the morning as it was not too crowded.

From there we walked down to the wharf and caught a ferry to Devenport, a peninsula located about a 10 minute boat trip from downtown. There is an old Victorian town there, as well as many places to eat and shop. But the best part was walking up a very steep hill to the Bunker, which was used during WWII. The bunker itself was pretty interesting, but the views from the top were of the hill were spectacular. Later the guys wanted to stop for a beer before taking the ferry back, and we shared a table with a young couple from southern France who are working in the Auckland area for a year. It was fun to talk to them and hear about their adventures. Tomorrow we are renting a car to explore more of the North Island outside of the Auckland area.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Saturday in Auckland

Since it was our first full day in Auckland, we decided to walk down to the wharf area and visit and Information Center. The lady provided us with information about the Hop On Hop Off buses, which we decided to do so that we could get an overview of the area. Also rain was in the forecast, so it seemed prudent to have a form of transportation should the rain occur.

Before we got our bus tickets we stopped at an ice cream place as we saw that they had bakery goods for sale as well. I tried a cronut, which I had read about in the states but never had a chance to purchase. It is a combination of croissant and a donut. It looked delicious, but in reality it was a little tough. I definitely wouldn't run back for another.

We picked up the bus at Princes Wharf, which is at the entrance to Viaduct Harbour. This waterfront harbour was developed to host the America`s Cup regattas in 2000 and 2003.

The first stop on the bus was Bastion Point which offers views of Waitemata Harbour and back to the Auckland city skyline. A statue of Michael Joseph Savage, New Zealand's Prime Minister from 1930-1940, towers over the formal gardens. By the time we walked down to Mission Bay, the wind picked up and a storm blew in. We spend the rest of our time waiting out the rain under the protection of the restroom!

The next spot we got off the bus was the Auckland Museum, where we learned a bit of military history. We grabbed lunch here before heading to the Wintergardens. We very much enjoyed the floral displays there.

Last stop for us was at Parcell Village, a grouping of 1860 era buildings that were saved from destruction in the 1960s by a man named Thomas Leslie Harvey. He restored them and turned them into shops and restaurants. After that we walked back to our apartment to rest up and dry out. Tomorrow's forecast is much better.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Yesterday was a travel day. Overnight there was no snow in our area, but we could see some light dusting in the upper elevations. We drove over two hours from Te Anau to Queenstown, where we dropped off the rental car and later flew to Auckland to begin our exploration of the North Island. At least the area around Auckland, at any rate. It was dark by the time we reached our apartment, so I'm not sure what the neighborhood looks like.

Last night we walked a few blocks to a steakhouse for dinner. It was fun because you pick out your piece of meat, and talk to the chef about how you want it prepared. Then it is brought to your table. It was so good! Today we will get out and look around.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Te Anau

Today we stuck close to town as we had an excursion planned in the afternoon. We took a nice walk along Lake Te Anau, which is the second largest lake in New Zealand.

After lunch we walked the short distance to our excursion location. We took a catamaran type of enclosed boat across Lake Te Anau to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves. A beautiful rainbow appeared along the way.

Once at the cave, we got a brief orientation about the glowworms, which are really maggots with glowing intestines. Then in small groups of 12 we were led first on a walking tour of the cave. Then we boarded a small boat to cruise further into the cave to see the worms. No photography is allowed as the light disturbs the worms, so I don't have any pictures to share. The best way to describe the experience is to say that it was like looking up into a night sky and seeing a bunch of twinkling stars. It was quite interesting.

By the time we we were walking back to the boat, the rain that had been forecast finally arrived, along with super-strong winds. They are predicting snow for tomorrow, hopefully only at the higher elevations. We leave here tomorrow anyway, driving back to Queenstown where we will catch an afternoon flight to Auckland. North Island, here we come!