Auckland, a Quick Recap

Friday, February 21, 2014

We’re checking out of the quite nice Heritage Hotel in Auckland this morning. In about an hour. We just finished our third breakfast at their rather extravagant breakfast buffet (featuring — amongst the usual eggs, sausages, and cereal sorts of stuff — build-your-own miso soup and little cups of coconut yogurt with tiny turkey-baster-like squeezy things full of berry jam). Christin’s downstairs doing some e-mailing and I’m up in the room making sure we’re all packed up and ready to roll to our next stop near Rotorua.

I’ll attach some photos below if I have time (and if they get from my iPhone to the laptop fast enough over this questionable wifi). (Note: Photos added!) But here’s the basic outline of the trip so far:

We arrived in Auckland around 5:30am after a little over 24 hours of travel time. Six hours in the air from New York to San Francisco. Twelve from San Francisco to Auckland. I’ve been on a few flights of more than twelve hours, but I think this may have actually been the easiest. The six hour jaunt had so exhausted me that I basically slept through it. I usually have a very hard time sleeping airplanes, so thank god. Anyway, we arrived at the hotel just as day was breaking, checked in, and sat down for our first breakfast buffet. And then took a walk down to the waterfront and poked around the city a bit. The waterfront’s nice, but not super-exciting. This, in fact, kind of describes Auckland. It’s a lovely city, but it seems like you could get your fill after just a few days. We passed by some start-up tech conference happening at a small convention center on the water and looped around the various docks and inlets to find a place to sit and have some coffee. After what felt like a day’s worth of wandering, we’d only reached about 11am.

So we went to the Auckland Sky Tower, figuring we’d get that out of the way. Very cool! It operates more-or-less like every space needle-like structure in the world. You go up, marvel at the view, take some pictures and head back down. It had a couple of unique features, though: First, you can jump off of it in a kind of rig that’s a cross between a zip-line and a bungee cord. We didn’t do this, of course, but mounted above one of the windows inside the viewing area was a red LED sign that would read “2 minutes to jumper” or “30 seconds to jumper.” So every few minutes we got to see one of these ballsy people swoop down in front of the glass on their way down to a target painted on the street-level below. The second unique feature: When walking around the outer ring, some of the floor is glass. So you can see straight past your feet and down fifty or sixty stories to the street below. I managed to summon the will to walk across. Christin did not.

After this we finally got to go to our room and take a shower and a rest. It felt like we’d completed a full day, but I don’t think it was actually past 1pm. So we took our nap and then headed off again, this time to Auckland Domain, which seems like one of their main parks (although Auckland seems to have many parks — it’s a very green (and hilly) town). We cut through Albert Park and through the Auckland University campus to get there. Quite a hike, but neat to see a different part of the city. In Auckland Domain we sat and watched some casual cricket matches being played — and tried (unsuccessfully) to suss out the rules. We then walked around and bothered some fowl at the duck ponds and tried to enter the Wintergarden glass houses (closed earlier in the day) before wandering up to the Military Museum (I think) and then down back to the city through a path called “Lover’s Lane.” Lover’s Lane is, in fact, a dank trail through dense trees and the loud, shrill howl of a million cicadas. One thing I’ve learned about New Zealand so far: There are cicadas everywhere. And they all are making loud, shrill buzzing and clicking sounds. It’s overwhelming sometimes. We experienced this during the summer in New York (when we left the city), but the woman we asked the next day at one of the vineyards on Waiheke Island said it happened every year. Wow.

Anyway: I’ve got to wrap up, here. Our first evening here we went to a place — I forget the name and the internet at the hotel SUCKS so I can’t check online — just west of the Hotel that had a few interesting kind of upscale comfort food places set up in a parking lot kind of area. We went to one called “The Food Truck.” I had a red beet burger along with a 50/50 — half beer, half seltzer water — and Christin and “lamburger” and what tasted like a virgin Pimm’s cup. Very good place. Very Austin-like in atmosphere, as well, we thought. Then back to the hotel and, after a half-hour or so on the rooftop deck where Christin sat in the hot tub and I watched an episode of “The Soup” under the stars (and rapidly color-changing Sky Tower), to sleep. Finally.

That was two days ago. Yesterday we had our usual breakfast (and I ran for a half-hour-ish) and then caught the ferry to Waiheke Island. The day was extremely warm and sunny, which was great after the months of ice and snow in New York. So we ferried over — through the million gorgeous islands that pepper the bay, here — and then caught the crowded little bus to vineyard #1, Goldie’s Vineyard. That was the plan: Catch the bus from vineyard to vineyard and taste the wine and maybe hit a beach. Well, we got to win-taste at one vineyard. Then learned that the bus ran hourly, so we decided to hoof it to the next vineyard. Which took an hour. In the sweltering sun. Which was lovely! But exhausting. We did meet up with some other guy also walking between vineyards and chatted a bit. He was from Philly and making the rounds from beach to beach and vineyard to vineyard. So we did finally get to vineyard #2, which featured archery and a beer and lunch menu, in addition to wine. So we just parked it there until 5pm. I had another beet burger and a couple of beers. Christin had wine. And we watched the people playing chess with those big, over-sized piece and bocce ball (which they call something else, here). We didn’t get to shoot anything, but we did finally wrap up and catch a bus to the beach at Oteroa — very nice — and then we walked back to the ferry terminal in the late-afternoon sun and caught the ferry back to Auckland and, from there, to the hotel. Which we arrived at completely sunburnt and exhausted. Evening dinner plans were off. We ordered room service and watched the second half of the 80s movie “Commando” (starring Arnold Schwartzenegger) before dozing off.

And now, this morning. Another breakfast. Cleaning up the room. And then getting out rental car out of Auckland for the rest of the trip.

I’ll post photos later, when I get the chance. (Note: Done!)