Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Coast to Coast Walkway

The city of Auckland stretches over an isthmus between the Waitemata Harbor of the Pacific Ocean and the Manukau Harbor of the Tasman Sea.

Last weekend we completed the 16km Coast to Coast Walkway which takes you from one harbor across the city to the other harbor by way of several beautiful parks and historical sites. This is a popular walk and all of the guides suggest setting aside 4-6 hours to complete the walk. It took us about 7 hours as we made many long stops to ruminate with the ungulates and photograph all the monuments, plaques and statues - this is part of our continuing fascination at the sheer number of plaques in Auckland. The plaque below can be found attached to a rock under a very nice tree in the middle of Auckland Domain (domain = park). I'd like to find out why this site was chosen for this plaque as it seems a bit random, and why it took eleven years to unveil this plaque.

You can begin the walk at either harbor, but we started from the Waitemata harbor since it is so close to us. From our apartment we walked up to the University of Auckland and Albert park, then down to Auckland Domain. The walk goes through the domain and on up to Mt Eden aka Maungawhau which is the tallest volcano in Auckland. The most charming part of Auckland's parks is that many are also farms so while overlooking the city from the peak of a volcano you can discuss the majesty of it all with a friendly cow or sheep.

I made several new friends on this walk.

This cow may have been the same cow that licked B on his last trip up Mt Eden.

Hunger finally drove us from the park and we took a detour from the walkway to eat at a bakery in Mt Eden (the suburb). It is here that we lost our map and B had to backtrack to find it. P and I picked flowers and climbed trees while waiting for him to return.

From there we walked to Cornwall park where we watched the Cornwall Cricket Club compete for the world record for the longest continuous cricket match. They won the record after playing for more than 53 hours straight.

The walk continued through Cornwall park to One Tree Hill aka Maungakiekie, another volcano/park/farm.

We visited the Stardome Observatory at the base of One Tree Hill where we met some more nice lassies before winding down to the Manukau harbor.

The walk was a fantastic way to see the city and the parks. When you visit us plan an extra day or two in Auckland to do this walk or one of the coastal walks!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

There you have it...


Your chances are good! Come visit!

(This is something to consider if you come this part of the world, where eating your friends and enemies has been practised since time immemorial, though not so much as of late.)

((This only applies to B, of course, AnP have yet to determine their cannibalistic probabilities. I imagine P would if we told her it was chicken and that she needed more protein. A? I sure hope not!))

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


For the first time in my adult life I am unemployed. I spent my first month in NZ finishing my application to work here, and now that is complete and I am free to spend my days however I please (for a little while at least!)

Last week I spent a day biking along the beaches in the harbor.

Public swimming pools are called "baths" here. This one, below, is right by our house. It is filled with filtered salt water, and P, who has been to it many times with her school, reports that the water tastes bad for a long time if you get some in your mouth.

On one of our first weekends here we took the ferry to Devonport on the north shore and explored the old tunnels at North Head (B can tell you more about that later). I really enjoyed walking along the beach that day. P and I looked at seashells and collected sea glass and I discovered that sea glass is like candy for my soul. Last week I got back on the ferry with hopes of spending my day at the beach wallowing in soul candy. Obviously I did not grow up near the ocean. Up to now I have entertained whimsical notions of the sea and how the tides work. Evidently we visited the beach at low tide. On my return trip I couldn't find the beach and it took me longer than it should have to realize the beach was completely submerged by the high tide. I decided to make the best of it and wandered over toward the Navy base (it seems the whole NZ Navy fleet consists of 3 boats), where I found this mine monument. Aucklanders really seem to enjoy installing fountains, monuments, statues and plaques. This mine, along with 400 others, was placed in a mine field by the HMAS Bungaree in 1942 between Tiri Tiri Matangi island and someplace called "the Noises" to protect Auckland from enemy submarines during WWII.

P and I walked out to watch B's final Wednesday night sailing race. The boats were too far away for us to really follow the action - not much of a spectator sport. Next time I'll have to bring my spyglass. (B was not on any of the boats below, I just thought they were pretty. You can see a Navy boat lit up in the background.)

This week it is raining which has lead to new adventures. Today I learned that jeans are the worst clothes to walk in when they are soaking wet, and that I either need to use less soap or a longer rinse cycle when washing clothes as my jeans were covered in bubbles by the time I got home!

The Market

Every Saturday and Wednesday we go to La Cigale, the local French farmers' market. I go for the produce which is consistently marvelous and far less expensive than our local grocery store, but B goes for the free fancy French cheese samples.

To go with the cheese there are sample cups of wine, and as you wander about you can sample all sorts of sausages, breads and spreads.

P goes for the lemon tartlets, but mostly she goes to pet the puppies.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Chardonnay Harvest at Waiheke Island

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Auckland is also home to the Wine Science program. Evidently people come from all over the world to study wine science here. We were lucky enough to get invited to join the chardonnay grape harvest from the University's Fossil Bay Vineyard on Waiheke Island this fall. The nets on the vines above are to keep the birds from eating the grapes - they sneak in regardless and clean out the first 3 or so plants on each end.

Before picking, we were given our instructions (if you would not eat it, don't put it in the wine), a basket, and some wimpy looking clippers. The leader predicted, based on previous years, that of the 20 or so pickers, 4 or 5 would end up with a nasty self-inflicted cut from the clippers. We were warned not to cut anything we couldn't see. We were also told not to worry too much, as they had a fully stocked first aid kit and plasters (bandaids). At the end of our training session I no longer thought of clippers as wimpy.

I sampled the grapes, and was surprised how sweet they were. We went down the rows clipping grape bunches, picking off any bad looking grapes and throwing the rest in the basket- stems, raisins, fruit flies and all. P was banned from using the dangerous clippers so she hand-picked grapes, read her book and brought us drinks, snacks, and news from the group. It wasn't long before B sheepishly admitted that he clipped his finger and was bleeding badly enough that he required a plaster. He said it happened just like they said it would- he was reaching behind a grape bunch to clip it and the next thing he knew he was bleeding. One victim had to be rushed off to the island medical center. Now I was actually afraid of my clippers! At the end of the day, as predicted, 5 people ended up with self-inflicted wounds from the clippers!

The grapes went straight from the vine to a press at a local winery (we were sad we didn't get to stomp them). The juice went into a temperature controlled holding tank until it could be transferred to the university and barreled. The wine science students pair up and each pair is responsible for turning one barrel of grape juice into wine. At the end it is bottled and sold at a fund raiser. This years grape harvest is the biggest yet for the wine science department. They estimate they will get 600 liters of wine at the end.

We celebrated our first wine harvest and first trip to Waiheke Island by spending the rest of the day at the beach at Oneroa on before catching the ferry for home.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lazy Day at Auckland Zoo

Naturally one of our first family outings was to Auckland Zoo. As a former zoo keeper, I find zoos thrilling on many levels. However, in my excitement to get to the zoo, I tend to forget that zoos are best experienced at dawn and dusk. Going to the zoo in the afternoon ensures that all the animals will be off having siestas in the bushes. Here are some exciting wild animal photos from our trip:

After we left the zoo we went to play in the park next door. It was then (dusk, naturally) the lions woke up and called out for several minutes. Gives me the shivers!

Under this blanket is an orangutan. At least I think it was an orangutan.

And as every good zoo warns us: here is the most dangerous animal on the planet. Wandering around the zoo looking at the animals had a soporific effect on us all.

They let you get very close to the animals in the walkabout exhibit. Here is P and her new emu friend.

There were some animals that were alive, awake, alert, and enthusiastic. The hippos put on quite a good show, complete with swimming and play fighting, and it is always pleasing to watch the elephants bathe and the rhinos munch their lunch. Also we were finally able to see a living kiwi bird, though it did stress my eyes as they are kept in a special night-time exhibit (pitch black with a few faint red lights) as these birds are noctural. Kiwi birds really are the cutest birds, even B agrees.