Sunday 12th May, 2013
Monday, 13th May, 2013
Tuesday 14th May, 2013
Wednesday 15th May, 2013

Sunday 12th May, 2013

Drop Cap e were picked up in good time by our new shuttle service - DJ's Airport Shuttle - and bussed comfortably through to the Holiday inn, Sydney Airport. Our usual shuttle, Anchor Minibuses had given it up due to Rod having had two hip replacements and no longer permitted to drive passengers for hire.

The Holiday inn was just the same except that Amelia's Restaurant had been rebranded Sirocco. Food was still quite good, and we had a good night.

Monday, 13th May, 2013

Drop Cap p at 5 a.m. to shower and shuttle off to the shemozzle of the airport. It is such a madhouse with traffic and people everywhere. When we got into the terminal the Air New Zealand people directed us into their self-check system. This rang warning bells for Mac and me after the real mess we encountered at Heathrow (with BA) a few years back, but it really went very smoothly: we scanned our passports, answered a few questions and printed out our baggage checks and boarding passes. Then we found a desk to drop the bags and it was done. Really smooth.

After this we had some breakfast and headed off for security. We stopped to go to the loo and on coming out we literally ran into Lillian, Geoff's friend Nigel's girlfriend, who is heading back to Manila for a holiday. Such a coincidence!

Drop Cap nyway, we got through Security with no problems, even Geoff's metallic leg did not get a peep out of the scanner. It was an uneventful flight (not too comfortable though) our meal was good, Thai beef salad (Mac and me) and salmon with vegs (Geoff), with a chocolate brownie. Very nice.

When we arrived at Auckland we were able to use the "smart" passport check as we have e-passports, to our surprise. There were no dramas and our shuttle driver was waiting for us just outside the customs .

BestWestern Auckland photograph

Best Western President Bathroom

Drop Cap he Best Western President Hotel is right in the middle of downtown, surrounded by eateries of all persuasions and convenience stores. We have a really good two bedroom apartment, complete with full kitchen, and even a laundry! It is spacious and quite well-equipped. Our room has a queen bed, Geoff's has twins. The one downside is the hot water - it only provides enough for fifteen minutes at a time, then has to heat up again. This doesn't give much scope for three showers. Still, it can be got around, I suppose.

BestWestern Auckland photograph

Best Western President Kitchen

Drop Cap eoff went straight off to JB Hi-Fi to get sim cards for our phones and his I-Pad. Unfortunately it seems that his I-Pad is blocked by Telstra and the sim he got did not make it work. Very frustrating, we were depending on it for navigation and communications. Mac and I found the AA Building, closed, (it was after 5 pm) and bought some groceries at horrendous cost for breakfasts. Later we discovered there was a well-stocked supermarket nearby which might have been cheaper. Should look before we leap!

Drop Cap e went out for dinner. There was a great deal of choice from vegan to Italian, Thai, Mexican, and Pacific Rim. We opted for the Mexican, up two flights of stairs and it was very nice. I had chicken flauta, marinated chicken breast wrapped in a tortilla with sour cream, guacamole and rice.
I haven't dared to look at the WW guide! Mac had chilli con carne and Geoff had chicken enchiladas and a jug of sangria. Mac and I had cider.

Afterwards we had a short walk and came back to the hotel to crash. It has been a very long day!

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Tuesday 14th May, 2013

Drop Cap fter a leisurely start, showers, brekky etc, Mac went to the AA and bought a copy of the road rules and a road atlas of New Zealand which looks good and will do for when we return and do the South Island.

Auckland photograph

Auckland Waterfront, Old and New

Drop Cap hen we headed off on foot for the harbour. It is only just over a kilometer. When we arrived we looked around and booked a tour including ferry for Rangitoto Island, tomorrow. We had morning coffee at a coffee bar and explored the waterfront a bit more. Auckland reminds me a lot of Fremantle, the refurbished marina areas which are a legacy of the America's Cup Defence, and sparkling new hotels and restaurants where used to be dingy wharves.

Auckland waterfront photograph

Auckland from the Harbour

Drop Cap e had lunch at a food court in a mall which used to be a Westfield but is no longer. Here I bought the jade earrings I wanted and Geoff bought some cufflinks and a T-shirt.

Skytower panorama photograph

View from the Skytower

Drop Cap e dropped our parcels off at the hotel then walked up the road to the Sky Tower. This iconic phallic symbol is the highest in the southern hemisphere and one can jump off it (if one really wants to) or walk around outside it, but that is really expensive and we really did not want to, although Geoff would have liked to take his camera outside the glass.

Skytower panorama photograph

Rosemary & Mac at the Skytower

Drop Cap ut it was quite spectacular, despite the brown hazy smog which was obscuring the distant view as we watched. We were able to get a few pictures and had our photo taken at the entrance and sold back to us on our exit. By this time we were all a bit tired and footsore. By my pedometer we have done over six kilometres today so that should help offset the Mexican meal last night and the curried egg salad today.


Drop Cap fter quite a long nap, we went out for dinner and actually found a Coffee Club Cafe, much smaller than our usual at Penrith but with some of the same menu items. Geoff had a seafood chowder and garlic bread followed by pancakes. Mac and I both had a lamb shank with a sauce which had quite a lot of cinnamon in it, interesting flavour, quite nice, and we had a serve of steamed veges with it. Mac had a citrus tart, but I just had coffee.
A roundabout stroll took us past the "Reverse Bungy" right opposite our hotel. It starts from the ground, screwed down tight, then when it is released it bounces way up high to the accompaniment of wild screaming. Don't think I'll try it!

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Wednesday 15th May, 2013

Drop Cap uite a full day today. My pedometer says we have done over ten kilometres. I think it may be out a bit because of the jolting on our volcanic tour to Rangitoto Island.

Ferry at Rangitoto photograph

Ferry at Rangitoto

Drop Cap irst thing after breakfast Geoff headed back to JB Hi-Fi to see if they could do anything about his locked I-Pad. They spent 3/4 hour on the phone trying , but could not - damn Telstra! So they offered Geoff a discount of 50% off a new Samsung Galaxy with all the connectivity etc that we need and he took them up on it. We will pay half because we want the use of it for navigation and communication. It was only $Nz200-00 with the discount. Not bad. So now he is set up again. We gathered up some foodie things and headed off for the waterfront again, where we picked up some sandwiches to go and waited for our ferry tour boat to Rangitoto.

Rangitoto vegetation photograph

Rangitoto Island

Drop Cap his is a volcanic island which just appeared following an eruption about 1000 years ago, quite recent in geological terms. It has never really been lived on by the Maori or anyone else and is developing into a pleasant bushy place with self-seeded trees and native plants colonising the lava fields. The lava is mostly very broken up, it looked like a ploughed field.

Lava Field photograph

Geoff & Mac in Lava Field

Tractor Train  photograph

"Volcanic Explorer"

Drop Cap ere we joined the Volcanic Tour, a carriage pulled by a tractor, which bumped and jolted its way around the island with a cheerful commentary from the driver as we went. It stopped at the base of the summit ascent, a boardwalk of 350 steps! Notwithstanding Geoff's leg and my knee we made the ascent. It wasn't too bad as the steps were mainly interspersed with longer sections of easier walking.

Rangitoto Crater photograph

Rangitoto Crater

Drop Cap he summit viewpoint (not really the summit but we were thinking about the way down) was of the crater of the volcano, about 60 metres deep by about 200 metres around, very well forested now, unlike the barren peak the first white observers saw.

Rangitoto Vegetation photograph

Steps from Rangitoto Crater

Drop Cap e made it back down with time to spare. The island is a nature reserve, all the flora is native and there are traps all over to eradicate the possums, wallabies and rats (none of them native) who invaded since the 1930s. They have done a good job. We caught the ferry back, had coffee and munchies at the wharf and dragged ourselves up the hill to the hotel. A good day, but tiring.


Drop Cap e went out to dinner at an Italian Restaurant called Da Vinci's. It was very nice. Perhaps a bit more salt would have improved the veal but a bottle of rose left us feeling no pain (except at the thought of Weight Watchers)! A pleasant evening.

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