Woke to a nice sunnyish morning and another bloody great cruise ship in Auckland Port.
Pretty full-on day (after our usual late and leisurely breakfast…..)
Sorted out where we collect our hire car from tomorrow for a 35 day period (!). Then walked to the Sky Tower, where we found a wonderfully helpful girl in the visitor centre there. Booked on two hop-on-hop-off bus tours of the city, plus tickets to go up to the observation platforms in the Sky Tower itself. Also, following a tip from a friend, we booked dinner in the Cable Bay vineyard on Waiheke Island, a 40-minute ferry ride from the Auckland Quay, a short walk from our hotel. We then booked the ferry tickets via the same source. Fantastic service.
The first of our bus tours was the Central route, which took us through, er, the central district of the city and out to the east. We just stayed on the bus the whole way round, making note of some places we can maybe visit tomorrow when we have the car. Very interesting, and a great way of seeing the city, although there were now a few spots of rain. Managed to take a couple of pictures on the way through the bus windows.
The second bus tour was the Western route. Guess where that took us? Again, we stayed on the bus for the full circuit. Not as pretty as the Central tour, but you got to see more of Auckland generally. It is the largest town in New Zealand by far – around 1.6 million people in a total population of approximately 5 million.
The area around the quay is very nice, extending quite a way east, but many of the other parts of the city were less impressive – unkempt and built-up. Pretty much like any city anywhere, I suppose.
Then up the Sky Tower to take some pictures from way, way up:
Thence to the ferry taking us to Waiheke Island for dinner. Nice crossing, but unfortunately far too windy for pictures outside the main cabin. However, a nice scene awaited us on docking:
Consulted good old Google Maps, which indicated a 20-minute walk to our destination. Following the trail took us into a car park and a rather unsalubrious area, so we were at a loss. Blessedly, we were spotted by a coach driver who asked where we were going. When informed, he scratched his head and pointed out a path which led up to the restaurant, but this was obviously overgrown and through bush-style territory. We were not equipped for this at all, as we’d been expecting an easy walk.
Totally out of the blue, he offered us a lift up there – yet another example of the openness and kindness of the New Zealanders. We accepted gratefully, and arrived in style as the only passengers on a full-size coach at this lovely place.
This kind of episode really restores some faith in human nature. So, so fortunate. He, poor sod, was faced with the prospect of taking some pissed young lads on a stag do back to the ferry terminal. He was not looking forward to it. Apparently, this island is now a fashionable destination for stag and hen dos, and he has seen a major and increasing influx of tourists over the sixteen years he’s been living there.
The view out from the dining room was sensational – a clear evening and a great sunset.
The meal was also sensational – one of the best we’ve had since we started this trip. We both went for the lamb main dish – wonderful flavours and beautifully cooked, accompanied by the sommelier’s wine choice – a rosé, rather surprisingly. And very good it was too. We had a longish wait for the meal, but it was certainly worth it.
Time came to go, and a rather chaotic ride ensued back down to the ferry terminal in a minibus full of other guests. The boat back was rammed, mainly with boisterous yoof who’d had a number of sherbets. Despite my initial misgivings, it was all pretty good humoured. The boat staff were obviously used to this scenario and handled the situation well.
Back to the hotel to prepare for our departure from Auckland tomorrow. Should be fairly relaxed, as we will have the car, but it is still a three-hour drive to our next destination north of Auckland – Paihia.