Indian Scout [N D IN] by 70_musclecar_RT+6 2019 Burt Munro Challenge, Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand.
E Hayes & Sons Teretonga Sprint Races Saturday 9 February.
Photographer: Leighton Smith
2 years late but in enforced lockdown seems the best time to complete these blogs if I am able to remember to any degree what I actually did.
My first visitors were my sister Viv and her husband Andy, they had planned to come to me for 10 days, sandwiched between short trips to see friends in Australia; meaning I didn’t get the jet lag portion or the sad our trip is almost over portion! Viv had also done a lot of research and even booking in advance so most of the activities were sorted and paid for. This made it easier for me having only been nursing since coming back in July and then having taken more trips than I should have done really given how much money I had saved, spreading the cost meant we could all do everything and any extra costs were paid for with those weeks’ wages!
Their flight got in around 4pm on Thursday 6th, the day after I got back from Queenstown and a few weeks after Rarotonga so sort of felt like I was living at the airport; my carbon footprint this year was pretty shocking. They had booked a posh flat in central Auckland just round the corner from the Sky Tower which I drove directly to, luckily arriving late enough to miss parking restrictions so I could come in and see the place too. Having this flat the whole trip meant they could pack small bags for our planned trips and leave all the rest behind, also there was a gym in the complex which apparently is important ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It did however mean their self-catering kitchen was empty, so first job was to head to a supermarket to grab some essentials, the next day we hadn’t planned anything out of town so coffee and milk were a must. We decided however to go out for dinner rather than cook so I took them for a short walk down to the Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter to see the harbour bridge, marina and view across to Devonport. We ate burgers or something similar at a bar and had a couple of cheap cocktails making it to well gone 9 o’clock before all the travelling (and I’m sure some jetlag) kicked in and we all headed home.
The next day I left the pair to figure out Auckland transport and met them at the Devonport ferry terminal, from here we took a gentle hike up Mount Victoria behind my flat (also known as the windiest hill in Auckland) with great views of the harbour, bridge and skyline. There is also an old gun turret type thing that was positioned here because it’s near the opening to the Hauraki Gulf and, I guess, the Pacific Ocean. Obviously we had to take the ‘there’s a giant gun between my legs’ photos but the classic NZ weather of blue sky, crazy wind and blazing sun directly in your eyes led to some interesting facial expressions. We had a late start to the day so after a few hours and a quick stop to see my flat, we were ready to head back over to the city and go for a drink. I took them to an Irish bar which I know seems so wrong but actually there isn’t really what you’d call a typical New Zealand pub (unlike the outdoor bars in Europe) so any pub was good; this one I knew did some classic NZ beers which was good enough for a local feel. We didn’t stay long as we were booked in for a full itinerary of activities on the Saturday but it was nice to end our first full day with a couple of beers, that’s what holidays are all about isn’t it.
Saturday saw an early start to catch the ferry to Waiheke Island, we tried to stay outside on the boat initially but all that wind that’s blow on Mount Victoria, also blows through the Hauraki Gulf and across the bow of the ship, so it was a bit too chilly to remain for the whole journey. There were lots of people on the boat, including a whole host of local primary/middle school football teams who were heading to Waiheke for a tournament; there was a lot of excitement so must have been a big deal! On arrival we were picked up with only about 6 others to head to the Ecozip HQ for the first of our ‘zip, wine and dine’ plans. The sun was blazing as we started out safety briefing for the 3 large zip lines we were about to throw ourselves down, all of which flew over a working vineyard and beautiful patch of NZ bush which we would then walk back through after getting to the bottom. The views from the top were amazing; I love the Auckland skyline anyway but seeing it across the water with the sun shining added an extra splash of magic; always makes a special holiday activity particularly memorable. The zip lines were set up in 2 so Viv and Andy went down together, of course trying to race each other, how else do you zip line, I went down by myself which meant I could 1) take in my surroundings and 2) film the others trying to beat each other. Not sure there’s anything you could actually do to increase your speed but I know they were trying. Each zip faced in a slightly different direction and was positioned high above the bush so each journey down was a new view; I highly recommend doing it as it was great fun. Once we got to the bottom, we were able to loosen our harnesses for the return climb, the guides walked us back up through the bush, pointing out the native plants, trees and animals which the company is helping to preserve and restore.
We were taken back to the ferry port to continue our day which for us meant being picked up by a different coach and taken to the first of 4 wine stops, Stonyridge Vineyard. We had a brief tour of the vines and the cork trees that they grew on site plus a taster of 3 different wines which we were then able to buy a large discounted glass of to have with lunch. Our tables were set up outside on a deck near the cork and olive trees and overlooking rolling green hills, if there’s a better spot to start an afternoon of drinking I haven’t found it. Also a good shout to sell a large glass for cheap at the start, as I found out on a later trip without this option, the tasters as not enough to keep you going for the whole afternoon (and I’m really against paying $15 for a small glass.) The next stop was Rangihoua estate in the centre of the island for some olive oil tasting and some different wine. By this point in typical Auckland fashion the sun had come out in force and wearing jumper, jeggings and boots I was overheating a bit but also determined to catch some sun following a long grey winter. Casita Miro was an amazing vineyard up in the hills towards the north coast of the island, ran by a family with decoration inspired by the Park Guell in Barcelona and Gaudi’s style of mosaic. The vines also grew on a pretty vertical hill, the dad (who was also a Dr) clearly put all his time and effort into the place and it really showed; what free time he could possibly have i don’t know. They gave us a tasting of 5 different wines, red/white and rose, each with a small complimentary snack balanced on a plate on top of the glass; some bruschetta, some cheese and some fruit, classy. Our last spot was Mudbrick Vineyard, with views back towards the city and Rangitoto island across the glittering green water of the Gulf, their vines went up the hill behind the vineyard which must have been near the highest point of the island? The whole place was obviously well established as a venue and even had extra buildings for wedding parties to use a bridal suites etc. We were able to buy more wine and stay longer if we wanted as our return ticket was valid until the last ferry, probably around 9pm. But we decided to head back with the coach and catch the planned ferry, totally in the mood to jump into another bar around the terminal and continue drinking. But in usual fashion the 40 minute ferry journey zapped us of this will and by the time we got back an early start and the best part of a couple of bottles of wine each caught up with us so we decided not to carry on but to crawl into bed probably grabbing something tasty and unhealthy on the way home.
Sunday, after a slow start, we decided to drive up the coast to Muriwai beach where there is a large colony of Gannets living on the rocks, I had been earlier in the year and there were barely any birds there, I guess September being the start of Spring they had all come back to nest. The west shore of Auckland is famous for high winds and crazy waves (they set a whole beach rescue programme at Piha just down the road) so there are some quite dramatic rock formations along the coast. Muriwai has a designated walkway up through the colony and when crowded with birds they literally nest everywhere, right up to the edge of the path so you can get a really close look at them. There was a bit of shagging going up close too which made some of the parents walking around move their brood on swiftly. Down the hill from the birds you can walk along the rock when the tide is out and people come here to fish and look in the rock pools, there’s probably some fresh shellfish being pulled out here and taken straight home for dinner. I had recently discovered a Sunday night market under one of the shopping centres near me which had fresh homemade Asian foods which were all pretty amazing. You could get a pile of dumplings or bao for not many dollars which we did and shared them between us plus some added satay chicken and other deep fried goodies. Not to mention the desserts on offer, ice cream/crepes/waffles all with fruit and chocolate bits and sauces in case the main course wasn’t enough calories. Stomachs filled and plans finalised for our flight the next day, I drove my guests back to their apartment and took myself home to pack for the next adventure down to the south island.