Woke up to the stunning view from the Spencer on Byron. Erin was still sleeping, so I read for a while. Eventually though, she crawled out of bed. She'll probably want to crawl into a hole and then kill me for saying this, but she looks pretty good disheveled with her hair down before she has her coffee. But I digress…
We ate breakfast at the Spencer's 1st floor restaurant. Buffet style, but pretty good. Should also mention here that New Zealand generally follows the European floor numbering system. Floors start at the ground floor, and the first floor is one level up.
On the plan for the day was to take a sail trip in Auckland harbor. I contemplated taking the bus into the city center because from the hotel room it looked like traffic across the Auckland Harbor Bridge was quite congested. Busses, however, were driving on the shoulder and passing everyone. By 10:30 or so it had cleared up substantially though. So we drove in. The sailboat cruise was to start at 1 p.m., so we had some time to kill. Wandered around the waterfront, and through the strip club district at the foot of Queen Street. Found out prostitution is legal in New Zealand, so some of those may actually have been brothels. Sadly, we never actually checked that out. We also walked the length of lower Queen Street as well. Can't say that we saw anything interesting there. On the waterfront we found a coffee shop calling itself the Seattle Coffee Shop. We stopped in. Guy behind the counter said the person who opened the store was from Seattle, but had long since sold the place.
Across the hall in the same building was the local tourism office of the Department of Conservation. I had already noticed the Waitakere Ranges on maps, so I checked there and they had a lovely map of the park with short walking trails helpfully marked. I bought one, as well as a bunch of other maps and postcards. This is where I found the first batch of wood postcards which I sent to some of you. Those were the coolest, so I got some of those.
Pride of Auckland was the company running the sailboat tour. First they motored us through the recently renovated area where the last America's Cup was based. Probably more interesting to those who are really into sailing. Sucked for us because we mostly wanted to be sailing, not touring. After the tour of the dock area, we headed out into the harbor for just under an hour of actual sailing. Too short. Sailed under the harbor bridge and back. Couldn't get Erin to take the helm, cause she knew I would just take a photo of her (she's pretty damn photo averse). On reflection, we should have taken the day-long Dolphin Explorer cruise instead. Course, that would have meant Erin getting up much earlier than normal.
After the sailboat, I wanted to go tramping (we would call it hiking) around Waikatere Ranges Regional Park so we headed off to find the place. Took the Great Northern Motorway to highway 18, then headed southwest. Unfortunately, I got confused as to which branch off one of New Zealand's ubiquitous traffic circles was the extension to highway 18, and turned the wrong way. Ended up going through a few other suburbs of Auckland, but eventually stumbled on a road that cut through the eastern side of the park from north to south. Extremely windy road, but we came out on a great view of Auckland and stopped to take pictures before heading on.
Now that we knew where we were, we headed toward Karekare beach. On Piha road though, I again got somewhat confused and turned off too soon. Looking at the map though, it was the other end of the loop I wanted to go on, so we just kept on in only going the other direction. There were no lane markings whatsoever, and it was narrow enough that I thought it was a one lane road. That is until I was nearly munched by an oncoming S.U.V., whose driver curtly told me to
keep hard left after we screeched to a stop with her bumper inches from my face. Seems it was, in fact, a two lane road. Some people actually live in the park on that road, and they tended to drive it pretty speedily. Another one tailgated my ass for quite some time on the road just after the near collision. And then we came over the windy road into a canyon and could see the beach. Very picturesque. Drove down, parked, and headed out to the beach.
Little bit of a walk out to the beach, but it was worth it. We followed a stream bed out. Several surfers were winding up their day, carrying their surfboards back to the car park (i.e., parking lot). Above us was apparently a cave, but we decided to head to the beach first. The sand was extremely fine, and portions of it were dark black. Not sure if that was a result of volcanic rock being pounded into sand, or crushed mussel shells. Climbed out on some rocks to get some great pictures of the surf crashing into the rocky part of the shore. We were pretty high up, but there were actually tide-pools there from some previous high tide that wouldn't be seen again for a while. Got some pictures of anemones, crabs, and a couple of other items of sea life on the rocks before we had to high-tail it back to the beach before the incoming tide trapped us there. We almost headed up to the cave for our first cave visit of the trip, but after climbing rocks and running around on the beach (sand is tiring), we decided against it.
Back on the road to Auckland (though technically, we never left Auckland), or what I thought was the road to Auckland. Roads weren't label led to well, so I gave up on the map and just kind of headed in the general direction I thought the city center was. Jut barely made it into the center, when I got turned around and before I realized it, we were almost back in Western Springs. Luckily, from there I knew how to get back to Takapuna.
Dinner was at the hotel's restaurant. Afterward, we headed next door to check email at the internet place. WHich was much cheaper than internet in the hotel.
And then bed. I was sun-burnt despite having used sunscreen. The one day on the trip I used sunscreen is the worst burn of the vacation. All the walking plus the burn left me pretty beat, so I was out pretty quick.