Chapter 3 - Auckland

11 Feb 2013

Sadly we had to leave the beautiful Bay of Islands and the only good thing was that our driver, Paul, returned after his couple of days off to drive us back to Auckland. He continued to entertain us with his cheerfulness and wicked sense of humour and laughter was soon ringing out in the coach as we wended our way southwards. It was a fairly leisurely trip, stopping a couple of times on the way including a visit to a small but fascinating clock museum in the town of Whangerai. Eventually we arrived back at the same hotel in Auckland in which we had stayed on our first night in New Zealand ('The Langham') to find that our rooms were not ready as the hotel staff had been inundated with new guests arriving all at the same time whilst other guests' departures had been delayed. We are a fairly chilled bunch and would have been quite happy to just wait, but the hotel gave us free tea/coffee and biscuits as an apology, this was very welcome.

As six of us had to leave within the hour for our sunset dinner cruise our rooms were the first to be made available and we were able to all be down at the quay in plenty of time. We had a lovely surprise when we got there to find that the yacht we would be sailing on was a slightly smaller version of an America's Cup yacht! We were greeted by Noel and Michaela, and once on board they used the motor to take the yacht slowly to the edge of the harbour, moored up and invited us to go inside and sit down to enjoy our evening dinner. This was delicious, prepared at one of the waterside restaurants, and accompanied by wine that we paid for (you can't have everything!). Once dinner was finished we went back up on deck, Noel raised the sails and we spent an hour sailing around the harbour, under the impressive bridge that the Kiwis like to think is a rival for the Sydney Harbour Bridge (no chance!). A few of us took the wheel, including Mike, and we tacked from one side of the harbour to the other without any incidents. I did not trust myself, no brakes... Whilst we were sailing along the sun was setting, giving us the sight of a wonderful sunset and providing some great photo opportunities. Auckland has a lift bridge in the harbour which was raised twice during our trip, very exciting! It was such a shame when it was time to return to the quay but we all agreed that it had been a really memorable evening.

The weather since we arrived in New Zealand has been gloriously sunny and warm, much to our (the Brits) delight. However, the Kiwis are not so happy as since December only two millimetres of rain have fallen and the green land is rapidly turning to brown. There is a chance of rain over the coming few days though so we may see the land revert to green, more like we were expecting!

12 Feb 2013

In the morning Mike and I took a forty minute ferry over to the second largest island off Auckland, Waiheke Island, where we joined a tour bus whose driver took us around the island pointing out all the lovely sandy bays and the very expensive houses there, most of which were used as holiday homes. Who says there is no money around? Mike asked the driver for a recommendation for lunch and following his suggestion we found ourselves walking up a very long drive to Stonyridge Vineyard where we sat overlooking the vines, sampling the wines and enjoying a delicious roast lamb lunch. This took most of the afternoon, after which we walked back down the drive and waited for a bus to take us back to the ferry terminal. There was a crew of road repairers busily and noisily resurfacing the road at the bottom of the drive (opposite the bus stop) and for about twenty minutes we were subjected to what seemed like a sandstorm from the dust kicked up, to say nothing about the noise and vibrations made by the machines. It was a relief when the bus arrived even though we found ourselves packed in like sardines. Our ferry back to Auckland was quite quiet but when we arrived at the terminal it was packed with people going over to Waiheke - the bus driver over there said a lot of the locals on the island worked in Auckland and commuted daily. As he said, they had the best of both worlds, a high powered job in the city and then back to paradise every evening. He had a point!

On returning to the hotel and following a much needed shower to remove most of the road dirt we had inadvertently brought back with us from the island we eventually went down to the bar for a quick drink. On the way we met up with Joy and Michael and caught up with their day's news. It's quite difficult to spend much time socialising as the schedule is fairly hectic so we have to snatch the moments when we can!

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