Today we were in Auckland, the capital of New Zealand, with a population over a million, and went on a tour to Devonport and the North Shore. This was primarily a scenic bus tour with about a half dozen stops for photos. Mac had a field day, constantly taking pictures and we hope to upload as many as the internet time permits.
We quickly noticed that this city is completely dominated by water activities of all sorts. There were large cruise ships in port, commercial cargo, commuter ferries, motor boats, and sailboats of all sizes. There were easily more boats registered than cars. The tour guide mentioned that there are no taxes nor fees for owning either a boat or trailer, so almost everyone has a boat. The waterfront is full of condos and marina after marina, mostly sail boats, which are the main attraction for residents who are preparing for the next America’s Cup in three years. This city has really matured since we were last here about ten years ago. There are many more business skyscrapers downtown and more under construction. You can sense the growth vibes and energy around you.
We left the pier and toured the Auckland waterfront area, while our guide explained local history and what we were looking at. Then we travelled around the bay and up several volcanic peaks for lovely vistas of the downtown area. Later, we switched to a smaller bus that could navigate the narrow roads up Mt. Victoria. This is a conservation park now, but held World War II bunkers and fortifications. We saw these remains and diagrams of what they looked like in war time. This was Waitangi Day, a national holiday as I explained yesterday, so many families were at the parks and beaches- there was no school and most businesses (except restaurants and souvenir shops) were closed. We drove down beautiful neighborhoods with expensive homes, many in the millions of dollars, and finished our tour in the cute little town of Devonport. Mac and I wandered around for about an hour, picked up a few souvenirs, and then took the ferry back to port and our ship.
A new group of almost 300 passengers had just boarded the Navigator, and we will try to meet a good portion of them. These folks will be on until Perth, Australia, only a 20-day segment.
We had another muster drill this afternoon. All must attend, even if we did it before. Attendance was taken, and after donning our lifejackets, this time we went to the lifeboat area. It was pouring in Los Angeles, so we didn’t do the lifeboat portion before.
While waiting to depart back in our suite, I saw something from our balcony that was unbelievable. I thought I was seeing things and asked Pat to check what I thought I saw. She confirmed that I was not crazy (this time). At the next pier was a high-rise construction crane with a gondola suspended from it near the top almost 200 feet above the ground. There were people strapped into bucket seats around a bar with waiters serving drinks. This is a commercial venture and people are up there for about 45 minutes at a time before returning to earth for the next group.
At 7PM our ship departed Auckland for Tauranga, and we went up on deck to see the city for the last time. We were also hoping to see humpback whales, which the captain mentioned was possible- no luck, but we did see a bright rainbow.
We had a lovely dinner with Trish and Jeff, our friends from California, and attended the evening show together. Tonight was the second show for classical guitarist, Tom Ward. He played some Hungarian folk tunes, and some classical Spanish and Russian melodies. He composed and arranged all his music basing it upon historic compositions of 19th century guitarists. The intensity of his performance and the range of sounds from one guitar was unbelievable.
Yours in travel,
Pat & Mac