December 9 - Auckland
We arrived in Auckland very late in the evening and by the time we had cleared the airport and jumped in a cab, it was well after midnight. We drove through deserted streets and finally arrived at The Wharf. We had called ahead and the night manager was waiting to show us to our unit. We took a quick look at the view and then were happy to call it a day and head for bed.
Next morning, we could actually SEE the view from our window and balcony and it was pretty impressive.
View from our Studio Apartment
Exterior of the apartment building from the wharf
Interior of the apartment
We had no idea where we were in relation to the city so we went exploring. It turned out we were only a few minutes from the Ferry Building, which is as central as you can get.
Main Ferry Terminal
Main Ferry Terminal
The downtown shopping, business area and railway station were all within walking distance of the Ferry Building and our apartment. We briefly explored the area and after buying a few groceries we returned home to plan our day. It was a beautiful sunny day so we decided to take a ferry to Devonport, which is about ten minutes away across the bay.
When we arrived in Devonport, a one hour city sightseeing tour was about to leave, so we took the opportunity and jumped aboard. Devonport was orginally a major naval base, but it's now a very desireable and very expensive suburb of Auckland. Our driver, who is now in his sixties, grew up in Devonport and shared stories about the many changes to his hometown from his perspective. Our first stop was the hill at the center of Devonport, once defended but now a good place to get a view of the area.
We then continued our tour, seeing some of the historic homes and public buildings, all beautifully preserved. After our tour, we browsed in the shops and galleries on the trendy main street and stopped for a glass of wine in one of the pubs, before heading back across the bay to the city and our little self contained apartment.
Devonport from above
December 10 - Auckland
On our second day, we had a late start and took the ferry to Waiheke, an island about forty minutes from the CBD. This time, we had a tour arranged in advance and the bus was waiting for us. Waiheke is both a suburb of Auckland, with some people commuting by ferry every day and also a small self contained community popular. The pretty beaches, wineries and community of artists make it a popular place for tourists to visit. Unlike Devonport, which is a peninsula, Waiheke is an island, so getting there does require a ferry ride. It's also a place for wealthy Aucklanders to buy a second home.
Arriving at Waiheke on the ferry
Onetangi Beach at Waiheke
We stopped in the pretty village of Oneroa for lunch and after strolling around the shops we caught the ferry back to Auckland and worked on our blog before eating dinner on the wharf at Buffalo's, one of the many restaurants located on the Wharf in the same building as our apartment. It was a lovely evening and we chose a table outside. We were also treated to a spectacular sunset from our balcony.
Sunset from our apartment
December 11 - Auckland
We walked to Victoria Park and the adjoining Victoria market, located in an old factory. The market was described in the guide books as a "must see", but the goods on sale were disappointing to say the least - those damn marketing people got us again. We walked up the hill (pant, pant) to the Sky Tower, which is also a casino. We gambled extensively ! Kris lost $2 with about six spins. I lost $2 as well, but not before I was actually a little ahead ($1.80) for a few minutes, before I lost it all. What risk takers we are !
We (OK - I) debated doing the Skyjump, where you jump off the top of the tower and do a controlled fall. It seemed like fun but it was expensive and I plan to go bungy jumping later, so I chickened out.
The Skytower - you can see the freefall cables on the left
We took the free bus around the city which took us up to the University area and then back into the city. The actual city is quite small and because it does not have any old buildings or large park lands it lacks any real character.
After we returned to our apartment, we were surprised to see a large collection of Santa's running and walking below us on the wharf. We later learned (as we had guessed) that they were racing for charity.
A multitude (?) of racing Santa's - some more convincing than others
December 12 - Auckland
Today we headed for the Auckland Museum which is on top of a hill with nice views of the city. It has a really good collection of Maori items, some really large and spectacular, although with no knowledge of the Maori culture, it's hard to put them into context. Still, some of the items were large enough and spectacular enough that we could appreciate them just as great pieces of art.
The Auckland Museum
One highlight was "Hilary's Axe" - the actual ice axe he used to pull himself up the last slope of Everest before he summited in 1953. It's a great iconic piece - all the more so because Sir Edmund Hilary died last year. Hilary was, of course, from New Zealand.
After the museum, we walked downhill to a small shopping area called Haymarket and refreshed ourselves before jumping on the Link bus back to the city. The Link bus went back a VERY long way round and we saw various places in Auckland we would never have visited otherwise. We finished up back at Victoria Park and we walked back from there, finding another part of the wharf we hadn't seen before.
Cricket match at Victoria Park - all very British !
A view of the wharf
We stayed home that evening and Kristine cooked lamb chops which we enjoyed with a good bottle of New Zealand wine.
December 13 - Auckland
Today the weather seemed like a good day for a sail and I headed out to take part in a "race" between America's Cup yachts. The yachts were from the early '90's so weren't as high tech as todays yachts, but they promised to be fast enough. Of course, the crew did most of the sailing, but we were invited to help working the grinders - the man powered winches which raise, lower and move the sails. Sadly (!) one of the other paying guests grabbed my spot, so I could only watch.
Leaving the dock
The race started really well and with strong winds (25-30 knots) we were really flying along and heeling over nicely. Just as we were getting into our stride, there was a loud "bang" and the jib sheet started flapping. We had broken the clew at the base of the sail and we immediately had to stop racing. In fact, that was the end of the sail and we limped back into port under power. A great shame but it shows we were really working the boat to it's limit and beyond.
Our last day in Auckland. We decided to take the bus from the Wharf to Mission Bay a pretty suburb on the coast. After riding the bus for ten minutes we got off and walked along the coastal road admiring the homes and the boats anchored in the bay.
After stopping for coffee at a nice little beach front cafe we took the bus to another of Auckland's fashionable suburbs, Parnell. The bus dropped us nearby and we started climbing a VERY long steep hill. We walked past some very nice older homes and eventually came out into the heart of Parnell's high street where we pottered around enjoying the atmosphere before heading back to the city and our apartment.
Mission Bay Beach
Later in the day, we went to the Voyager Maritime Museum, which was right on the Wharf near where we were staying. As you would expect, it was a celebration of sailors and sailing in New Zealand but again, without some context, many of the exhibits were a little difficult to comprehend. Still, some of the boats (and there were many) were worth seeing.
"Black Magic" which won the America's Cup for New Zealand in 1995
Historic sailboat outside the museum