Auckland Day 11 – The Waitakere Ranges

Lake Wainamu

Today was the day to explore the Waitakere (way-tucker-ee) Ranges with Tristan of Habitat Tours. We had a relaxing breakfast and watched the news for the weather (still not good) and went down to wait at 8:50 am. He was on time to pick us up and there was one other passenger, Victoria from Germany, who had spent 5 weeks in New Zealand.

We drove out of the city to our first stop- Lake Wainamu which has black sand dunes from volcanic ash. We walked a narrow trail next to a little stream until we reached an area that was all dunes. We climbed the dunes until we saw the lake and a beach. Tristan said in the summer hundreds of people flock here. Today it was all ours due to the overcast/rainy weather. We spent about an hour here.

2016 - Lake Wainamu, Auckland

Bethells Beach

We walked back to the van and drove to our next stop at Bethells Beach which was only about 2 minutes away. It reminded us of the Californian Coast with the rocky shore and big surf. There was lots of foam made by the waves and a calm area near the entrance. We walked to the lifeguard stand and took lots of pictures. We spent about 20 min here then back to the van.

2016 - Bethells Beach Auckland

On we drove to Cascade Kauri Park where Tristan gave us a choice of lunch first and walk second or vice versa. We agreed to lunch first then walking otherwise we might take naps. So we ate meat pies, a coleslaw, and couscous he made himself. Afterwards we had ANZAC cookies and tea. It was all very good. It started to drizzle again so we packed up and got started on our walk. It was a single track through the rainforest where the Kauri trees and silver fern live. We had to wash our shoes when entering and leaving so we didn’t bring/take any bugs or bacteria in/out with us.

We walked along and Tristan would show us birds/plants/trees that were living in the rainforest. We also saw a slot canyon with a small waterfall. We crossed a few boardwalks and bridges in our path. Then we left and continued on to Muriwai.

2016 - Cascade Kauri Park Auckland

Muriwai Beach

Muriwai has a beautiful coast line. The gannets (birds) have a colony here. We were able to see some of them. Tristan said they come over from Australia to mate and give birth and raise young then leave for AUS again. One side of the beach was rocky and rugged with big boulders on the beach with water caves and high surf. When you walked up the trail to see the birds you saw the other half of the beach which was smooth and had no rocks and there was a windsurfer enjoying it. We spent about 40 minutes here. It was really windy and starting to rain again.

2016 - Muriwai Beach Auckland

We started back to downtown Auckland. Our whole day was 9 am-5 pm. Tristan showed us a beautiful area of Auckland but he was quite dry in his personality/presentation. I wished he’d showed his passion for what he does. We got back to the apartment and rested a while then went out in search of dinner. We ended up at Countdown grocery each getting something different.

Total step count for the day – 16,798

Auckland Day 12 – Rangitoto Island

Auckland Skyline from Ferry

Today is Rangitoto [the youngest of the volcanic islands that are found in the bay at Auckland. It is an uninhabited national and can only be reached by ferry] Day. We need to make the 9:10 am ferry so we have as much time as possible on the island before having to catch the return ferry at 3:15pm which is the last one of the day. We got ready and then left the apartment and stopped at Ronnie’s Bakery for some ham and cheese croissant sandwiches. There is nothing available on the island because it is a national sanctuary.

Map of Ferry Destinations Rangitoto Island

We had to brush our shoes off before going on the ferry because of the pests we might bring to the island. Our ferry today was ½ the size of the one to Waiheke Island and Victoria from Germany joined us on the trip over. We stopped in Devonport again and landed at 9:45am.

The island is mostly lava bed so everywhere you look there is black lava rocks. The paths up to the summit consisted of nothing but lava rocks. We got off the ferry and walked by a natural swimming pool that fills with seawater, next to it was an arch left when it was a prison camp for men.

Arriving Rangitoto Public Seawater Pool Rangitoto

We started up the path with a lot of volunteers who I think were going to the neighboring island of Motutapu to do some work. The path became pretty steep fast and by halfway up Eaglet and I shed our fleeces and then our rain jackets. CurbCrusher took off his rain jacket. The high temperature today was only 60F with intermittent rains all day.

Trail to Rangitoto Summit Lava Field On Trail to Rangitoto Summit

We finally got to an area that has lava caves and we saw 3 or 4 and walked the loop around them. We shined our flashlights into them but didn’t find the ones Eaglet saw online that you could stand up in. Most look collapsed to me. Coming down from the tubes on a really rocky slippery path it started to rain. So we had to scramble and get covered again.

Lava Cave Trail Sign Lava Cave

We had hiked about 40 minutes so far and the tubes were another 20 minutes of walking around and we still had to walk another steep path to the summit boardwalk for another 20 minutes. At least the path became wider and less rocky. We came to stairs that led to a viewpoint area that if it wasn’t raining would have been an awesome view of Auckland.

Kelsea on Rangitoto Summit Trail Rangitoto Summit
Views from Rangitoto Summit Nadine and Kelsea on Rangitoto Crater Rim Track

We then waked the Crater Rim Track for 15 minutes which hooked up to the boardwalk stairs that led to the Summit Road (a million stairs it seemed) [At the bottom of the stairs we ran into Victoria, who was the first person we’d seen since the summit. She was walking the same loop we were in the opposite direction]. The views were gorgeous once the rain cleared up. But the wind became fierce. We walked along the Park Rd which was nice and wide and mostly level for about 45 minutes until we reached Mackenzie Bay and the Beacon Lighthouse. It was a cute short Lighthouse with red and white stripes.

Road From Summit to McKenzie Bay McKenzie Bay Lighthouse

We decided to make use of the toilets located here and to eat on the beach. So we sat on a huge piece of driftwood log and ate lunch while admiring the view, it was sunny but the wind was cold. After we finished we started walking back toward the wharf on the road.

McKenzie Bay McKenzie Bay Lighthouse
Panoramic of McKenzie Bay

Rangitoto Island is supposed to be known for birds but there really weren’t a lot today, maybe because winter’s coming. They had lots of traps set to catch predators that eat the birds with an egg in each trap.

The walk through the mangrove are took about 1 hour and 15 minutes. We crossed a causeway and noticed there were no fish in the pools either. So not a lot happening on Rangitoto Island today. [It was about here that we ran into a family of four that had been on the morning ferry walking in the opposite direction from us. To give an ideal of how deserted this island is, they were the first people we’d seen in the 2+ hours since we’d run into Victoria at the bottom of the Summit Stairs.]

Rangitoto Summit View From Road McKenzie Bay to Wharf Road McKenzie Bay to Wharf

Getting closer to the wharves there were several Baches (beach houses) or signs for them. Most of them were built in 1906 or so and lots of them were knocked down by people in 1978-82. There were only a few left standing. One is a museum open on Saturdays during the warmer season. [It seems while Rangitoto was never really officially occupied by people, in the early 1900’s camping permits were issued for a shilling a year. Some folks built some rather permanent camping facilities (the Bachs) and a community starting growing up there following WWII. In the 50’s the government made an attempt to clear the island of residents, but gave life deeds for some Bachs. People transferred the titles to their children in order to keep the Bach private longer. Hence there are still a few Bachs left on the island.]

Bach Bach Interpretive Sign

We ended up back at the wharf area and waited for the return ferry. We ended earlier so we are taking the 2:15pm ferry back.

Departing Ferry Higher than Dock Bean Rock Lighthouse

When it arrived it was about the size of the snorkel boat in Cairns. The captain gave us a running commentary [Actually, the 2:15 ferry from Rangitoto to Auckland is also the 1:30 harbor cruise, so you are basically joining the harbor cruise in the middle.]the entire way back which included a closeup view of the Bean Rock Lighthouse and the new commercial harbor they are building. Also, we were able to see a close up of Queen’s wharf where the cruise ships dock (next to a large white caterpillar awning). We then walked back to the apartment and rested for a while until dinner. We had walked over 10 miles on the island today according to our phones and CurbCrusher’s Garmin.

Total step count for the day – 23,770

2016 - Rangitoto Island Auckland

Auckland Day 13 – Just Roaming Around

View from Sky Tower View from Sky Tower

Today is our last full day in Auckland. I think today we will go up to the SkyTower to see some good views. It is lit up red for the firefighters climb on Saturday for leukemia. Victoria from the last 2 days told us for $4 more you can go up as much as you want in 24 hrs.

So we got ready after breakfast and walked about 4 blocks to go down into the Skytower. That’s where you catch the elevator that takes you up 50 floors to an observation deck. The elevator has a glass floor so you can see the shaft as you go up as well as cut outs in the walls to see how high you are.

The doors open at the 50th floor and it’s a beautiful view this morning. It hasn’t rained yet though. We were able to see all the islands we visited as well as the rest of Auckland. They also have glass floor panels in 4 places to look out below. One floor above here (on 51) is where they do bungee jumping and Skywalks where you are harnessed and walk around a platform outside.

We saw a beautiful rainbow over the city and surprise! it started raining while we were up there. You could see the rain moving in from over the water. Then we preceded up to the 60th floor for even better views. Here is where we could see the workers getting the harnesses ready for the day below us. There is a restaurant and café up here that turn once an hour and at the bottom of the tower is a casino, night club, 36 more restaurants and 2 hotels.

Rainbow from Sky Tower View from Sky Tower

Once we saw our fill we went down to the bottom where they play a movie of how it was built and a gift shop. We found a fern ornament and a pin for CurbCrusher’s collection. Then we were off to Albert Park to walk around and then through the campus of the University of Auckland.

Fountain in Albert Park Floral Clock in Albert Park

After that we walked over to the Domain which is a large park with a rain forest trail, Winter Gardens (a conservatory) and the Auckland Museum. We took the coast to coast walk and ended up at the Duck Gardens which had geese as well.

The Duck Ponds Auckland Domain Steve and Kelsea in Auckland Domain

Then onto the Winter Gardens that had a beautiful hot house (and it was hot and humid!) then on to the fernery which was a mini rain forest inside (it was 3 floors with winding paths). Then we walked up to the museum and walked around it and looked at the views. We went inside to see the gift shop but you had to buy a ticket to access it so we left again.

The Winter Garden The Winter Garden

On the way back we walked the Auckland rain forest Lovers’ Lane path which was winding and had a stream with a small waterfall. Then we retraced our steps to the University of Auckland where we ate lunch from a food truck on campus. Then we finished up with hot donut holes from another food truck.

We went to Countdown grocery to look for Manuka Honey. We can’t afford 100% (it’s around $75!) so we bought a blend at the grocery along with New Zealand coffee. Then off to the souvenir shop near the wharf for Rugby Lambs and CurbCrusher’s pin.

St Patricks Cathederal St Patricks Cathederal

We stopped to look inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral that we can see from our window. The inside is beautiful, they have beautiful pipes for the organ in the balcony and the ceiling looks like the inside of a ship. It was built around 1905. Later today near sunset (5:15pm) we are going back to the Sky Tower to see the lights of the city.

Sunset from the Sky Tower Evening View From Sky Tower

We went back later to see the sunset and were able to make out some of it but as usual in Auckland it started raining again. It was cool to watch the rain move across the bays and into the city. After watching for awhile and seeing all the lights of Auckland we left to go to Subway and get dinner. We took it back to the apartment and ate and started packing to leave tomorrow.

Total step count for the day – 15,288

2016 - Auckland

Auckland Day 14 – Headed Home

Our Plane Bound For Houston

Well today is the last day. We are going up to the Skytower to see the city one last time. Since we got 24 hours to use our pass if we get there before 10 am we are good. So up we go suited up for rain again. The elevator moves very fast going up 50 floors. We are able to view for a short while before the rain moves in again.

We leave and go to a coffee shop down the street from our apartment. I ordered an espresso but it was awful and bitter. Should have done what Eaglet did and order a tea. We went back to the apartment and finished our packing and called for an Uber.

The guy who came was on his 2nd day of driving. He is actually a performing arts major/dancer and can’t find work right now so he drives an Uber.

Before too long we are at the airport and checking in. This time they make us follow all the rules. We don’t like checking bags but they weighed all our carry-ons and wouldn’t let us on with them so we had to redistribute things and check our roll aboard luggage. Air New Zealand checked them all the way to Orlando but I suggested we will off the tags in Houston where we go through Customs and keep them for the next flight. [And once again, CurbCursher’s passport will not work in the automated reader at immigration while exiting the country. The New Zealand officer tells me that I’m not the problem. This is apparently a regular problem with US passports according to him.]

After arriving in Houston and clearing customs, we keep our bags and are glad we did. Our Air New Zealand flight was great until the last 30 minutes when we hit turbulence near Houston. They had a lot of storms today and we had to fly through them to land. We went through Customs and got our bags back. Then looked for our next gate. We weren’t supposed to leave until a 3 pm flight but we saw there was an Orlando one that was still on the gate from a mechanical so we went to see if we could catch that one. The gate agents said no, they had already closed the flight, so we went to sit and wait. [To make a very long story short, we didn’t leave Houston until 12:00pm the next day, getting home about 19 hours after we were scheduled, making the trip home twice as long, a 38 hour trip vs. the schedule 19.]