Auckland Bush, Beach and City

Auckland, New Zealand
February 8, 2017

Awaking to the sound of the crew getting ready to pull into our berth, I opened the balcony drapes to see the gorgeous skyline of Auckland, New Zealand. We are right in the downtown and I am anxious to explore! It is know as the City of Sails. It has approximately 135,000 yachts and launches sitting in its harbor, more per capital than any other city in the world! The city sits between two harbors on New Zealand’s North Island, across from South Island. Since it is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is currently summer here. However during our visit here today, is a little cool we even have some sprinkles.

Though we are anxious to check out the city, we first meet our Daniel Craig lookalike guide (only better looking!) for a minibus drive to the Waitakere Ranges for a bush walk, and then to Piha Beach for a walk.

I have to admit that my excitement regarding Auckland is diminished by the horrendous traffic. Daniel, er I mean, Alex (our guide), explains that gas and used cars are relatively inexpensive. Therefore there are two and half cars for every Aucklander. It took a while to get out of the city and Alex continued to tell us more about his adopted home. He and his wife were Germans, but fell in love with New Zealand over 18 years ago. They are not alone, the city of Auckland is currently growing at 80 people per day. There are significant housing and transportation issues here, as one might imagine, and that we see on the highway! He said that many of the newest immigrants are Asian, and that the current population is about 69% of European ancestry and 15% Polynesian, with, as I said a rapidly growing Asian population. In fact, this is the largest Polynesian city in the world. Real estate prices are rising and foreign investors have an effect upon those prices. He talked of a Chinese family whom he met on one of his tours. They lived in a very small flat in Hong Kong worth well over two million dollars, but could pay half that for a larger, nicer home in Auckland with a better quality of life.

Finally out of the traffic, we climb the verdant, green hills to start at the Arataki Centre, gateway to the rainforest. From here there are views to all of Auckland isthmus with the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Tasman sea to the west. There are some impressive Maori carvings of men with very decorative man parts. There is also a small but interesting nature museum.

Then we head off for our bush walk among giant fern trees and native birds. The movie, The Piano, was filmed here and I promise myself to watch it again soon! The rainforest does not disappoint, it’s just beautiful. We were fortunate to see several kauri trees. These trees were heavily logged by early Europeans, nearly 2/3 of these ancient trees are gone. They are dense, huge trees that take 1,000 years to reach maturity!! They are being replanted and protected, but with their slow growth rate, it will take a very, very long time for the recovery effort to make any effect.

Back into the minibus, we drive to Piha Beach to see the iron rich black sand beaches and the famous surfing area. The wide beach and unusual rocks at the coastline remind me of the Oregon coast, but the black sand is pretty unique. Today is drizzly and cool, but on a warm day, the black sand is very hot on bare feet.

On our drive back to Auckland we pass wineries and orchards, many of which were established by Slovenian immigrants. Though New Zealand has nine sheep to every person, with four million people, we didn’t see sheep today.

We did pass a huge movie studio that is owned by Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame. He is from Wellington and has most of his studio business there. The New Zealanders call Wellington “Wellywood”.

Alex drops us off by the ship, but Barry and I head off into the city. We walk down the harbor side area with modern buildings and shipping containers repurposed into lounges and take-out restaurants. Past the North Harbor area we toured the fish market. It was fun to see the variety of local seafood. Getting hungry, we go to a pub and shared some fresh fish sliders and a beer sampler.

It was an early morning for us. We find that downtown Auckland has most of the big chain stores that we have at home. It is crowed and not that interesting. We head back to the ship. An excellent folkloric show with Maori dancers tops off the evening. If we go back, we’d see the glow worm caves, Auckland tower and maybe Albert Park.

There will be three sea days before we get to Sydney and disembark this ship. I am sooo ready. This isn’t quite our longest cruise, but it sure seems like it. Maybe because it is a small ship, or there’s been more rough and colder weather? I am getting buggy being onboard. I have finished a few books and made an embroidered map of Australia. We’ve played lots of pickle ball, seen some good movies, but I’m ready to be on our way in Sydney.

Many of our fellow passengers are staying onboard until May! (Half of our dinner group and nearly all the pickle ballers!) They are on a world cruise that will continue from Sydney to Asian ports, and beyond. As for me, I just don’t think I’d enjoy that much time on one cruise, limited time in ports (almost always just one day) and the people to people connections that you make are the fellow American passengers, not inhabitants of the places you are visiting. Just for fun, I looked up where the World Cruise 2017 will go after we leave them in Sydney: Cairns Australia, Papua New Guinea, Guam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Sanya China, Singapore, Phuket Thailand, Cochin India, Mumbai India, Dubai UAE, Petra Jordan, Suez Canal, Santorini Greece, Rijeka Croatia, Venice, Koper Slovenia, Malta, Gibraltar, Algarve in Spain, Bermuda, Ft. Lauderdale, Aruba, Santa Marta, Panama Canal, La Paz Mexico and end in LA.

Bon voyage! I think Alaska and one week transatlantic are my favorite cruises. Alaska because you can see the glaciers and some great excursions and transatlantic because you arrive in Europe or from Europe without jet lag and feeling quite spoiled.

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