Mount Maunganui to Auckland

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, May 11, 2012

Our entrance at Silver Fern Backpackers was far more dramatic than it needed to be. After barely missing the first red bus up Queen Street we arrived just after reception had closed.  Sylvia had prearranged for a key to be left for us but it was nowhere to be found.  Other backpackers tried to help us out but to no avail, at least not until the night reception guy came back out, opened up and showed us where the key was waiting.  We were very happy not to have to sleep in the lounge or hallway.

The firm bed and tiny pillows made our bodies ache by morning.  Jason got up, cracked his shoulders a few times and plowed through another free breakfast of toast, jam, tea, milk and cereal.  Ever the slower riser, Sylvia followed shortly after.  We wandered downtown and browsed the shops in search of a few bits of camping gear.  The few sights we strolled past were less than appealing in the overcast skies.  We hit the harbour front and enjoyed a seafood platter for lunch, complete with mussels, scallops, prawns, calamari, fish, smoked salmon, Turkish bread, olives, sundried tomatoes, pearl onions, as well as a selection of cheeses and spreads that went well with a bottle of Mac's Gold Lager.  The rain began to fall harder.  Jason was prepared with head to toe Gore-Tex but Sylvia got her feet wet.  That was the New Zealand fall weather we'd expected and were we ever glad it waited so long to burst forth. Muesli, fruit and yogurt for dinner followed by more research with our new guidebooks made for a productive evening in the lounge with a couple of amateur guitarist guests showcasing their talents and improving the ambience.  With nothing posted since our arrival we noted that as expected, visits to the blog slowed considerably.  The pace of travel and the price / lack of wifi made this inevitable.

We met our three new German friends over breakfast again and found out they had the same plans as us for the day.  We all walked down to the pier together in the light rain and boarded the boat bound for Waiheke Island, known for its wineries, artisans and scenery.  Dave and Sally added the island and Mudbrick Winery to our must-do list since they got married there and it claims to be one of the most romantic places in the world.  The half hour ride over was smooth despite the somber skies.  On arrival the rain stopped and the skies cleared a little.  After a short bus ride and a short walk we arrived at Hekerua Lodge, a quiet retreat in the forest.  We were shown to our room with a busted lock and hoped for the best.

We ventured out for a stroll along the coast, got lost a few times and soaked up our relaxing surroundings.  We eventually found our way to Mudbrick and immediately loved the layout and view.  After tasting ten wonderful wines we decided to splash out and have lunch overlooking the rolling hills and shimmering sea.  Sylvia opted for the fish of the day while Jason went for New Zealand lamb loin with a Middle Eastern twist.  The former was a fantastic meaty fillet hemmed in by modernist clouds of gastronomic foam while the latter was accompanied by more down to earth couscous, fruit, nuts and succulent sauce.  A side of truffle mashed potatoes and a fine glass of cab-merlot completed the main meal.  We also shared a milk chocolate and hazelnut mousse with Bailey's ice cream and pear ragout on butterscotch sauce.  The sun shone brightly throughout and the setting was spectacular.  The lamb didn't end there.  We walked back to the lodge via the beach, butcher shop and grocery store, then barbecued lamb, mint and rosemary sausages with yogurt and salad for dinner.

After filtering through our photos again we found that 5,700 had made the cut so far.  The slideshow would probably have to become a trilogy.  With boats, buses, planes and a new country on our minds we lounged with other travellers while reading guidebooks and watching Bear's crazy adventure show on TV.  The next morning we realized we had too little time in another beautiful place so we packed up and hiked up the road to the bus stop with the Germans.  The sun came out and it warmed up quickly.  Twenty four hours after arriving we left Waiheke Island behind.

Auckland looked much more appealing in the late morning sun.  We checked in to Jucy Hotel, the lime and eggplant company that does it all for tourists in New Zealand.  We'd seen their brightly-coloured campervans all over the country.  A little chroma-splash can really make a dull building look much more hospitable. 

After another grocery haul meant to last for 24 hours we took to the streets and called home from a payphone.  Then we wandered over to Parnell, a quaint village known for shopping and dining just outside the downtown core, which was our next destination.  We picked up a camping stove and cooler bag for use in Australia.  On the way back to Jucy we grabbed some end of day sale sushi as an appetizer to our breakfast for dinner plan.  That plan was nearly dashed by the stubborn burners that didn't feel like working too hard.  It took about half an hour to make scrambled eggs with bacon, onion and mushrooms.  Later that night Jason's New Zealand beard finally came off after a full 31 days and no one was more pleased than Sylvia.

Bright morning skies greeted us on waking for our final day in kiwi-land.  A languid morning was spent at Jucy enjoying a big breakfast and serendipitous free wifi.  With Mt Eden in our sights we set out on foot again.  We noticed that the roadside curbs are made of volcanic rock slabs punctuated by thin strips of cement to hold them together.  A couple of wrong turns and an hour and a half later we were at the summit with 360 degree views of the city, several volcanic cones, both harbours and surrounding islands.  Jason asked the on-site Maori guide which peak was the One Tree Hill that U2 sang about on 'The Joshua Tree' and he not only pointed it out but also passionately shared the story of a European settler cutting down the sacred Totara tree in the mid-1800’s, its inadequate replacement with a pine a century later and its subsequent felling in 2000 by a Maori activist.  Today there is no one tree on top but a monument marks the spot instead, with plans to replant in the near future.  On the windy acme of Mt Eden we gobbled down the best sandwiches we’d made yet... shredded chicken breast, avocado and bacon on toasted bread.

Most of our final afternoon was occupied with preparing our long overdue blog posts.  For dinner we treated ourselves to seafood pasta for Sylvia and steak for Jason followed by a shared rhubarb crumble.  After retrieving our bags from Jucy we dropped them again at a cafe with free wifi upon purchase of a $7 hot chocolate.  Sylvia helped with the photo filtering then nodded off on Jason’s shoulder while he completed parts one and two of eight New Zealand posts.  As the clock struck 1:00 am our bus pulled out of the ferry terminal; destination Auckland airport.
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Ivy on

awww - it's ok! i'm still reading your blog posts :P

Jen Elliott on

Sounds like a fabulous place!!!! I enjoyed the reference to U2 : )

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