Part 7: Auckland, Volcanos and The Marriage Survives!

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We finally arrived in Auckland in the late afternoon. Our hotel was lovely, if a bit unexpected. The Langham Hotel is veddy, veddy much in the old British style, stately and serene with butlers galore to take care of you. We heard that this is where former president Clinton stays when he visits Auckland, ostensibly for the fly-fishing. Our tour guide claimed it was because the red-light district is just a couple blocks away, and therefore most convenient for “Billy-boy”.

What can I say? Our last, and best, tour guide was an older fellow by the name of Don, who had humor and irreverence in abundance, and an apparent liking for whiskey (he called it “bloody lovely”). Our only full day in Auckland, he ushered us onto his bus and showed us his beautiful city.

Auckland from the Harbor Bridge

First off, we drove over the Harbour Bridge, which he claims all the locals call “the Nippon Clip-on” because of the way lanes were added to the original structure. Two young Japanese fellows figured out a way to just clip new lanes onto the original lanes, saving years in construction time, hassle and cost.

From there we drove around the waterfront a bit, then up to Mt. Eden, an dormant volcano that hosts a park. The weather was clear enough so we could see far past the city of Auckland in every direction. I wish we could have walked down into the crater, but that was not allowed.

Leo from Mt. Eden

Did you know that Auckland is built on about 60 dormant (not extinct) volcanoes? Whose bright idea was that??

Because Auckland is in the Ring of Fire, with many small earthquakes and always the potential if not the likelihood of really big ones, there are no high rise buildings in the city. Nor underground tunnels. Are you listening, Seattle?? Maybe you could learn something from Auckland.

Penguins

Tour Guide Don, who could be heard muttering “Ballocks” occasionally when faced with a less than intelligent driver, next dropped us off at Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World. We rode in a little tram through the penguin exhibit, where there was not enough penguin time and too much lame display time. Then we were pushed and shoved along with half a million schoolkids, past the rest of the exhibits. All in all, it was underwhelming, and we wouldn’t recommend it nor go back there ourselves.

After lunch, it was time for a quick visit to the Auckland Zoo, which we enjoyed very much. It’s quite a lovely zoo, ranked around 6th in the world, I believe. We especially enjoyed the program on NZ wildlife and for the first time, saw a kiwi bird actually feeding and then running around a bit.

Kiwi

We were surprised at how the kiwi is actually constructed, with relatively long, skinny legs, a rather round, fluffy, ungainly body and then a longish bill. Watching the bird eat was entertaining-the bird picked up the corn kernel, then kind of tossed it backward towards her mouth. Watching her run was even funnier-it was a very goofy, herky jerky affair. We were totally charmed by that little bird and found ourselves hoping that current conservation efforts would help keep kiwis around for many generations to come.

After the zoo, it was back to the waterfront for our first ever sailboat ride. I was a bit nervous about this, because a) I don’t know how to swim; b) I’ve always been prone to motion sickness and the water was looking a little rough; and c)at least one of the sailors looked kind of young.

Leo & Kathy Sailing

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about, even when the boat was in full sail and we were tipped quite a bit to one side or the other. It was very enjoyable, with the breeze hitting our faces. The captain was quite confidence-inspiring, and funny to boot. The water never got very rough, and it was a great way to see more of the harbour and all the boats residing therein.

Alas, by the time we returned to the waterfront, it was starting to rain. We bade boat and crew a sad goodbye, and walked north on Queen Street to the Sky Tower in the rain. It was a warm rain, after all, and nothing we couldn’t handle.

At Sky Tower, we had a tasty buffet dinner, then went up the Tower to the observation deck. Unfortunately, due to the clouds, we weren’t able to see 60+ miles all the way around Auckland, but it was still worthwhile. The Sky Tower was built to withstand an earthquake registering 8 on the Richter scale, but it’s still not where I’d want to be during one. It’s the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere.

Auckland Harbor

Because of Auckland’s temperate climate and abundant water supplies, there is never a shortage of locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. I find myself
envious.

Of course there was much of Auckland and the northern island we simply did not have time to see, and we may return there someday. We’d like to see some of
the islands and more of beautiful Auckland itself.

On the afternoon of Feb. 10th, after a very tedious, lengthy, frustrating (and lacking common sense) security screening, we once again boarded a plane
and began our lengthy journey home.

Will we return to Australia and New Zealand? Probably, although I can’t say when for sure. The trip was absolutely, positively worthwhile and eye-opening in many ways. We saw many beautiful places and met many wonderful people from all over the world. We came home feeling lucky to live in the beautiful place that we do, and blessed for being able to take the trip of a lifetime.

If that weren’t enough, after 3 weeks of almost constant togetherness, we still liked each other. That’s quite an accomplishment, after 30 years of marriage.

Comments

  1. I like the photos of the birds. penguins and kiwi. I never knew he kiwi bird appeared so prickly. Ahh, the good things a nice adventure can do for a relationship