Thursday, January 8, 2009

1/7/2008 - A Three-Hour Tour

Out of bed and breakfasted fairly early today, nothing starts a morning off right like the colon-cleansing power of Muesli. I catch up with Rick, and ask if he is still up for snorkeling. He does not recall this conversation, understandable given that the amount of free alcohol (passed on by people leaving New Zealand) had been substantial. Nevertheless, he is up for it.

As parking in downtown Auckland is expensive, we figure the bus is actually going to be the way to go, and there is a bus stop right next to the campground.

IMGP1157.JPGBack of the bus - old school bus habits die hard.

This particular bus ends up winding its way through south Auckland and doesn't deposit us on Queen Street (downtown) for about an hour. Rick and I talk pretty constantly during this time, and I find out that he has a friend living in south Auckland that has been robbed multiple times, twice by the same guys. Manukau (where the campground is) is in south Auckland. Maybe I can find a better place to spend time.

It doesn't take long to find the ferry across to Waiheke Island. We grab a bit of early sushi lunch for the ride.

IMGP1158.JPGOn the top of the ferry with sushi. Delicious, but it is like playing with fire - if I eat too much sushi, I get queasy. Being on a boat can make me queasy, too. Luckily, no rice and chicken was horked today.

The ferry ride is about a half hour. It pulls into Waiheke around 1:00PM. Very little rolling.

IMGP1159.JPGAuckland downtown from the ferry.

IMGP1161.JPGComing into Waiheke Island. Lots of little sailboats, big houses on the shore. The island is a lot bigger than this picture makes it out to be.

After hopping off the ferry, Rick and I decide to make it to the closest town where I am planning to rent snorkel gear. Rick already has his own. There is a nicely-marked path that says it leads to town. Foregoing the bus (spent plenty of time there already today), we decide to hoof it.

The path is quite nice, but terminates at a random road with no signs or any indication of the direction of the town. We stop at a winery which is nearby to ask for directions. "That way," says a rather disinterested looking lady, pointing (I now think) in a random cardinal direction. We head down the road she pointed toward, and eventually run into some people who tell us that the town is the opposite way.

Finally come into town.

IMGP1162.JPGThe biggest town on Waiheke Island. It looks like every house has a view. The telephone wires are just a bonus.

I check 4 or 5 different stores, no snorkel gear. At the last store, a lady tells me to "just head down the road" and I'll find a surf shop next to a grocery store. Rick and I start walking. Houses are less crowded out here, no sign of stores. We happen by a young woman sitting at a bus stop, and ask again. "Oh, she means the store in Onewangi. That's a long way from here." After talking for a bit, she convinces us that the beach in Onewangi is a lot better than Enclosure Beach anyway, might as well take the bus. The three of us hop on and travel the 10km to Onehangi. Would have been a long walk. Glad that the third set of directions was the charm.

Gretel (the girl on the bus) meets up with her friend in Onewangi, and the four of us stop in at a cafe for a quick beer prior to swimming. Aurora (the friend) is in the New Zealand army. I held back from saying what I am sure everyone thinks - There is a New Zealand army? She is about to head over to do peacekeeping in the Solomon Islands, and is pretty excited about it.

IMGP1166.JPGAurora, Gretel, Nick, and me. Aurora looks angry in this picture, but I think only because she had just made a New Year's resolution not to drink alcohol.

We eventually parted after a bit and Rick and I headed for the beach.

IMGP1168.JPGWorth every minute of the three hours we spent getting here today.

A beach like this would be completely covered by people in the US, I think. Here, there was a scattering of people (mostly tourists) along the sand, but plenty of room to roam and to swim.

IMGP1173.JPGSwimming. The water is cool, but not cold. The sun helps a lot.

There is just enough wave activity to body surf, too, which is one of my favorite beach activities.

IMGP1174.JPGDon't laugh too much - taking a one-handed shot while body surfing is not as easy as advertised.

Spent until about 5:30 there, then figured it would be a good idea to make it back. The bus was waiting as we came up off the beach, so ran and hopped on sopping wet. I pity the poor person who sits in dry clothes on that seat after me.

The busses, incidentally, take our day bus passes, which means we travel for free.

Back to the ferry, which is just about to leave as we get there. I can't seem to find my return ticket, but the guy lets me on anyway. It shoves off almost immediately.

IMGP1177.JPGOther islands between Waiheke Island and the mainland. Doesn't look like the same kind of vertical adventure that Tongiriro Natl Park was.

IMGP1178.JPGComing back in to Auckland. Note the large "mombrero" in the lower left.

It's been a long day, so Rick and I find some food, at a little Irish pub just off of Queen Street. Fish and chips, and they are excellent. But the best part of the meal was the Guinness.

IMGP1179.JPGMuch of the meal was the Guinness itself.

Headed back on the bus, another hour. By the time we made it back, it was about 9PM. I end up asleep by 9:30. It's been a long day, with about 6 hours of traveling to get 3 hours on the beach. Oh, well, it's a hard life.

No word yet on the bike. Will hopefully find something out tomorrow!

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