Two very Māori names for you to start this post. Some of you may have heard of the first one as we found out after our visit that it has featured in the renowned Lonely Planet Guide. In some ways we have come to dread those three words. We haven’t used it ourselves. If you are regular readers of the blog you know we either go on recommendations of our local hosts, refer to the i-site (tourist information) or just stumble our way across things (the true jwalking/land-sailing way).
To get to this destination we had to trade our usual land-sailing for a trip on the Auckland-Waiheke ferry. Waiheke is a beautiful island in the Hauraki Gulf which lies to the East of Auckland. It is the second largest island in the Gulf and, due to it’s favourable climate and soil, has over 30 wineries (still not sure why they are not vineyards). This is not bad for an island that is only about 20kms long and 9kms wide and has earned it the nickname “Island of Wine”. With a population of around 9,000 permanent residents who mostly live to the western side of the island, the remainder of the island is beautiful coves, beaches, agricultural land or private. Some of the beaches are clothes optional which is a much more refined way of saying nudist, don’t you think?
The ferry trip took about 40 minutes to the port of Matiatia on the west of the island which is more like a small harbour really. We opted to sit on the very top deck which was a bit blowy to say the least but we had great views of the harbour and Gulf and it was worth the battering.
From the harbour a whole row of buses where waiting to take visitors to the wineries and further afield. Back on terra firma the land-sails kicked in and we set off to the nearest town of Oneroa which as a 20 minute walk. It may have been the humid temperature or the illusion that we were on a cruise but we felt we needed a beverage of some kind. Lo and behold the Solar Cafe with it’s stunning views of two harbours (one on the north side and one on the south side of the island) and right across to the Coromandel Peninsula. It was a done deal. I perched myself on a bar stool facing said stunning views and Jon headed in to order a couple of refreshing local brews. (Probably should have been wine but thirst over-ruled any fine wine options.)
Whilst Jon was doing the ordering, I spied an elderly lady sitting quite closely behind me and felt a bit guilty about blocking her view so I asked her if we would be in her way. This was how we met Bronwyn and Lulu (her 18 year old dog with a prosthetic leg). The lady used the table as her office. She had her diary open and was jotting sketches and notes in it. Lulu sat to her right on one stool and there was a picnic basket on the left hand stool with little snacks in for her and Lulu. A bottle of water stood on the table but we never managed to find out if she ever bought anything at the bar. She was obviously the local eccentric but so lovely with it. She told us tales of her adventures years ago in London and Australia and had lived on Waiheke for about 7 years and loved it. Her transport was a bicycle with a little basket for Lulu on the front. Lulu had evidently had a bit of a run in with two german shepherd dogs a few years ago so the vet made a block and strap, so she basically has a little ballet shoe permanently strapped to her leg. We chatted for around an hour and she was so interested in our travels and could not say enough positive things about our decision. I came away with the feeling that she had everything she wanted in life. Perhaps not possessions but where she wanted to be with who she wanted to be with. A contentment that some people strive to find but never do.
So far we had not managed to explore too much of the island but decided to head down a path to the beach. Well, four hours later we were still on the beach. It was a gorgeous little bay, shaded by a few trees, no shops or bars and just a few little boats anchored up. There were so few people there and the water was warm so despite having no costume, I just had to swim. It wasn’t a clothes optional beach so I just abandoned the shorts and got in quick. It was heaven to swim in the shallow clear water and Jon busied himself doing his customary sand sculpture. It wasn’t until about two hours later when we left that we saw a sign pinned to a lamp-post about the mini-jelly fish! These are microscopic cousins of the larger jelly fish and they get between your skin and your costume (or underwear!) and cause a very itchy nasty rash for a few days. The recommendation was to remove your swimwear immediately on leaving the water and shower. Too late for me then!
After a purely medicinal glass of wine from one of the local wineries at The Oyster Inn, we walked back to the ferry for our return to Auckland. The city looked eerily misty but we could see why arriving by sea has that certain something. What a perfect day. We are already planning the return visit to attempt to see more – although I have a feeling we may just end up on a different beach!
This is the Māori name for Mount Eden. The European name honours George Eden, the 1st Earl of Auckland. Mount Eden Village is quite local to us and is a suburb of Auckland with a charming row of little shops, cafes and independent food shops and deli’s. The Mount itself is next to the suburb and like all the hills around Auckland is a volcanic crater but is the highest natural point surrounding Auckland. So, what else do you do on a very hot day? Climb a dormant volcano of course – just ask our sons who trekked up a not so dormant Vesuvius with us many years ago in unreal heat! It only took us around 15 minutes to get to the top and the views of Auckland and the harbour were great. The crater was perfectly in tact but covered in grass and is a sacred place for the Māori which keeps it free from tourists who seek the must have photo everywhere they go.
As well as fantastic views of the city and harbours, Eden Park can be seen from the top. This has been the home of Auckland cricket since 1910. (No apology for dropping that in.) There is evidently a large historic prison in the locality but we could not spy that. We sat under a tree for a long while admiring the view before heading back down to the village and a trip to the bakers, Frasers, as our reward for reaching the summit of yet another volcano.
We walked back via Alexandra Park which is home to horse trotting. They have a free event later in the week so we are going! Another first! Jon will probably be doing a great blog about that trip so look out for it, no doubt with lots of puns about the trots. We may even place a bet for the first time in our lives.
A return to Waiheke is a must for us before leaving and, in case you are wondering, I am rash free! Those little jelly fish must just go for the clean, costume wearing locals but for now it is household chores and a reward.
23.2 – 25.2.2016