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    Friday, 22 January 2010

    A Trip to Auckland

    Auckland Skyline [Enlarge & More]
    In spite of being in New Zealand for over a month, we still had not been to the biggest city in the country yet. As my sister lives on the outskirts of the city in a rural area, it was the perfect place for us to go and visit and be shown around by her and Giles!

    Miranda Hot Springs [Enlarge & More]
    On the drive up from Waihi we stopped at Miranda Hotsprings, a thermal-heated set of swimming pools near the coast. It was a good opportunity for a swim, but to be honest the weather was a little warm to sit in a 30 degree pool! Still, it was pretty quiet and nice not to be surrounded by lots of kids and families – we pretty much had the pool to ourselves!

    Dinner at Jo and Giles [Enlarge & More]
    We arrived at Jo & Giles’ place and enjoyed a lovely evening meal in the garden, accompanied by their pet chicken Mr. Bopper (not on the plate, it’s a real chicken). We also visited the horses and did other rural stuff. Even though it’s just minutes from the Auckland suburbs there, it feels like you’re right out in the countryside which is nice.

    Sky Tower Reflection [Enlarge & More]
    The following day we visited Auckland city. At just over 1 million people, Auckland is definitely not the largest place we’ve visited, and it showed. It was really cute – the largest city in New Zealand! It was much nicer than I remembered, mainly as every other time I’ve been to Auckland it’s rained. Not that day though – it was all sunshine and blue sky. Giles’ sister, Lucinda was our Auckland expert for the day, and she guided us around the city.

    View from the ferry [Enlarge & More]
    Walking down Queen Street (the main street of central Auckland) was interesting, and then we took the ferry across to Devonport – the harbour was very pretty. The ferry ride was just 15 minutes, I think I’d have liked to stay on the water a bit longer! The boat was crammed with tourists, and I overheard one of the ferry staff saying “Why are they all going to Devonport? There’s nothing there!”

    Sitting on Mount Victoria [Enlarge & More]
    Well, Devonport was actually lovely – we had a bit of lunch and then climbed up Mt. Victoria. Outstanding views on top. We could see Rangitoto Island, most of the city and right out across to the Coromandel Peninsular, where we’d been just a few days before. There was a man flying a remote controlled glider up there, he seemed to really enjoy it – gave us a little thrill when he zoomed it over our heads. We then hiked back down and visited a funny shop which sells stuff imported from the UK. There was all sorts of random stuff in there, like Marks & Spencer’s bean soup – how odd. We bought some sweets and Jo bought some chocolate fingers. Yum yum.

    Waiting for the ferry [Enlarge & More]
    A ferry ride back and a short drive later, we reached Mission Bay – full of people lounging about on a slightly dirty beach. It reminded me of a beach we visited in Mumbai, that’s not very good is it! We did have some lovely icecream there – so good! After that it was back to our base for the night and a good bit of sleep.

    Gannet Colony, Muriwai [Enlarge & More]
    The following day I felt rough, like I’d been scraped along the ground in the night. It turned out I was getting a cold (I have no voice right now), but at the time we marched on with plans and visited some of the west coast beaches. We checked out Muriwai. The sea was really rough and the sand was very black. We watched Giles do a bit of body boarding which looked difficult given the rough seas, and then we wandered up onto the cliffs and had a look at a gannet colony – one of New Zealand’s two colonies. There were a lot of birds there, and reading about them was really interesting. They were quite smelly though!

    Mist,Piha Beach [Enlarge & More]
    After that we drove a strangely long distance to go a very short way down the coast (no direct roads) to Piha, the infamous surf beach near Auckland. It was quite calm that day, and the cameras set up to film the surf rescue TV series there were not rolling – there was no one to rescue! We enjoyed a wander along the beach. It was very misty with sea surf, and despite it not being a perfect blue-sky day it was very atmospheric and beautiful. You can tell why The Piano was filmed in the region.

    Opera House [Enlarge & More]
    After that it was back to Jo & Giles’ place, where we packed up our stuff ready to go. It had been a weekend packed with activity and fun, and we’d been treated well by our hosts. Sadly I felt ill and we had to go back to Waihi to pack up and get ready for our next adventure – our trip to the South Island.

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