Good Morning Auckland

It was just after 5am when I landed in New Zealand.  We had good tailwind, I guess.  Our 14hr and 15 min flight turned into a 13hr and 30 min flight.    Exciting, I know.  What was even more exciting was to watch the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Safety video, while sitting in the plane.  Granted, I had already seen it on Youtube, but it’s a totally different experience while sitting on the plane.  The Auckland Airport was a very nice airport, with lots of Agriculture Amnesty Bins available for use from the moment you get off the plane all the way to when you encounter the final official prior to exit.  And the final official at the exit was a quarantine officer!  Ahhh!  A country that has the proper priorities!  The customs officer that stamped my passport was very friendly and welcoming and it helped that he was easy on the eyes as well.  There were signs posted near the exit, warning travellers that filming for NZ’s Border Patrol was taking place on that day.  However I didn’t notice any film crews or camera anywhere.  I also didn’t see any agriculture dogs working that morning either.  But because I had declared my hiking boots, I was sent in for further exam!  How exciting!  It was a very pleasant experience.  The quarantine officer wanted to see the soles of my shoes, easy since I was wearing them and didn’t have to dig them out and then my bags were x-rayed for agriculture stuff.  A very painless process which only took up at most, 10 minutes of my time.  Afterwards, it was out the doors to meet my tour guide.

Julie James from Red Carpet Tours was there bright and early to pick me up.  The first thing I had to do?  Get a SIM card for my phone.  Telecom or Vodafone?  According to Julie, Telecom.  Done.  Next stop?  The Spencer on Byron in Takapuna, just outside of Auckland city centre.  I would equate it to staying in Burnaby and travelling to Vancouver city centre.  Julie was very chatty and gave me lots of ideas on what to do for the next three days since we weren’t meeting up again until Monday evening when the rest of the tour group would be arriving.  In total there will be 10 of us.  Love it.  I like small tour groups.  I hope we get along.  Anyway, Julie drove me around Takapuna and then showed me where the beach was and pointed out Rangitoto Island.  She mentioned Devonport which I had already done a little reading up on and then dropped me off at the hotel.  Julie also told me that it was taboo to climb Mt. Ngauruhoe a.k.a Mt. Doom.  WHAAAAAT?  According to her it is a sacred mountain for the Maori, and not that I doubt Julie, seeing as she is a local but if the Department of Conservation website lists it as a side trip, then what’s up with that?

Check-in at the hotel was relatively painless.  At 6 in the morning, I was not up to doing much talking but Julie was able to get me into my room almost immediately plus the helpful staff that was working that morning.  Julie did mention that nothing would be open till probably 9am so that meant I had 3hours to putter around or nap.  I puttered and showered.  I couldn’t nap.  I didn’t want to worry about falling asleep and waking up late to waste a perfectly good day.  I puttered a lot longer than I thought I would and didn’t get out the door till just after 10am.  My first stop, Devonport.  And how did I get to Devonport?  I walked.  I remember doing research back home on what to do in Takapuna and I came upon some walking ideas. One of them was a walk to Devonport via beaches.  However in my final packing episode, I decided not to bring the walking route along with me.  The only thing that I remember from reading was that if I stuck to Lake Road, it would take me all the way to Devonport.  So I stuck with Lake Road.  And it took me all the way to Devonport in just under two hours!  Well, at least I worked up an appetite and a possible tan/burn.  I was not expecting the weather in Auckland to be so humid.  It was the first thing I noticed when I got off the plane.  And it was even more noticeable when I stepped out of the hotel to go on my walk.  Luckily I had sunblock in my bag.  I wasn’t too worried about sunburn when I first started my walk since it was kind of cloudy but as my walk progressed, the sun came and went and when I reached a welcoming garden, I headed on in to check it out and at the same time, slather some SPF 60.  Afterwards, while I was waiting for the the stuff to soak in, I took a closer look around.  It was a very lovely garden, part of the Wilson Home Trust for children with disabilities.  If you ever decide to walk to Devonport from Takapuna Beach, make sure you stop here for a little breather.

The rest of the walk to Devonport was not really too exciting.  But once I got into Devonport, it was time for lunch.  Wandering around for a bit, I found this lovely little cafe called Henri Cafe, on 57 Victoria Road that looked clean and had a good number of people going in and out.  So I went in and had my first meal in New Zealand in Devonport.  I had an Italian Chicken Salad, tasty and my first Flat White, kind of like a latte.

It was a good meal.  Shame it was so expensive but as I wandered around the rest of Devonport, I found that all the places served expensive dishes.  Unless you get Chinese food.  After my lunch I headed down to the wharf, just to see what there was down there.  The views of downtown Auckland was quite impressive.  There are defiantly more tourists than locals in this area.  And I had a nice gentleman take my photo for me.  Good efforts for him however I’m sad to see that I am blurry.  However there are a few photos of Mini-Aunty.  I had to be careful she didn’t blow away.  It was quite windy by the water, but beautiful.  I will be headed back here, probably on Monday.  My goal is to get to Rangitoto Island and hike this extinct volcano.

Afterwards, I wandered over to the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum.  It was a very nice museum with lots of informative displays.  And it was free.  I was going to climb up to North Head but I couldn’t figure out the where I was supposed to go so I gave up and headed to Mt. Victoria and climbed that instead.  On my way to the mountain, I came across my very first yarn store.  I was so excited.  However I did refrain from making any purchases, but I did examine all the wool and patterns that were on display.IMG_0004_2

Once at Mt. Victoria, the views from the top were quite amazing.  Once again Mini Aunty made an appearance and here especially I had to make sure she didn’t blow off the mountain.

After my climb up the mountain, I decided it was time to head back.  I had a two hour walk back.  So back to Lake Road.  As I was walking along, I noticed markers under this really nice section of Lake road.  They were markers for fallen soldiers from the wars.  I don’t know which wars, if it encompassed all the wars, but the few markers that I stopped to look at, the soldiers were from World War II.  I had noticed it on my way towards Devonport, but at that time, I was super tired and just wanted to reach the village so I could sit and eat.  But on the way back I was renewed and took a little more time to look.DSC_1036

Further along the road, as I neared a school, if you look down at your feet as you walk, and you will after you start to develop blisters, you’ll notice this:

IMG_0008_2I don’t really know if there is a school bus call The Walking School Bus.  I have a feeling it’s just all about walking to school.  It was cute.  So I took a picture of it.  Anyway, I reached the hotel in an hour and a half.  I shaved off 30 minutes.  Nice.  I took another shower because I was hot and sticky from the sunblock and got ready to go out for dinner.  However, it was not even 430pm.  It’s strange going from one city where the sun sets at 4:30pm to another city where the sun did not set until just before 9pm.  So, I puttered and relaxed in my room for a little bit.  Dinner was a Chinese food place.  Nothing too exciting, just beef noodle soup.  It’s funny, but since being here, I have had no trouble understanding the New Zealand accent.  However I have had trouble with everyone who looks at me and starts to speak to me in Mandarin.  Seriously?  Do I look like I can speak Mandarin?  Of course as soon as I speak to them in English, they switch back to English but it’s kind of funny.  I wonder if that’s going to be like this for the rest of my trip.

One other thing I have discovered so far, it’s hard to come upon free wi-fi.  Right now, I’m plunked in The Coffee Club using their free wi-fi.  Not a big deal.  I purchased a Flat White and a dessert and I’ve been sitting here for a couple of hours now.  The other thing about their internet:  SLOW.

You might think I’ve wasted time sitting here, but I was sitting nice and dry and watching as others were walking around in the torrential downpour.  As I wind down my blog, the rain has stopped and I will be wandering out and about the town now.  On a Sunday, there’s not much open and it’s also the sunday after New Years day.  Earlier on this Day 2, I headed out to the Market that sprang up in the middle of town.  I got some fresh strawberries for dessert tonight and got myself a new bag.  I don’t have a picture yet.  I’ll try to get one to you later.  The market took a couple of hours of my time.  There was lots of fresh produce, food venders and crockery stalls.  It was almost like a market/garage sale.  It was an experience.  Afterwards, I headed down to Takapuna beach.  But the wind was blowing like crazy and the tide was in so I didn’t play in the water.  But I found myself a nice place to sit and read my book before the wind started to blow even harder.  I left the die hards and made my way to The Coffee Club and I’ve been here since.  I think I’ll head back to the hotel and putter around a bit, perhaps get ready for my first volcanic climb tomorrow.  It’s just over 250 m high so not really difficult, but still, I’ll need supplies, i.e. food and water since it’s an uninhabited island.

I’ll do my best to get a post up everyday, but that’s all dependent on time and internet access.  Till then, I hope everyone at home is well.  I miss the kids already.

Lots of love to all, Aunty


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