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Monday, June 22, 2009

Auckland in a Weekend

It was a necessary escape.


If arriving very late at the Auckland Airport, the required mode of transport to go downtown would be a cab. There are plenty available, so no issues there, expect to pay around NZ$60. If it had been some time between 5am to 10pm, the way to go would have be to take the Auckland Airbus Express, departing every 15 minutes at $22 (adult return). Definitely of good value, as it drops off passengers on the main bus stops within the city (a stone's throw to most accommodations).

There is a free City Circuit bus that goes around the city (did you guess that?!) but if you got your runners on then best to walk around town to see the sights. As any sane tourist would, do drop by at the Skytower, (because it is mandatory!) and if you would like to see the city from up there. If not, then just take a picture for the archives - whatever suits! Stroll up the harbour side, have lunch at any of the restaurants that entice you at the Viaduct. There is a good selection of cuisine to suit everyone's personal taste. There is also a Maritime Museum, if museums are your thing.

the SkyTower

Take the Fuller's ferry from the Ferry Terminal at Quay St Pier 1 and in 10 minutes time you'd be in Devonport, a quirky historical maritime town North of Auckland. Walk up (or drive up) Mt. Victoria and take in the magnificent views, looking back at Auckland and beyond the North Shore views. This would probably inspire further walking around to discover the shops and quaint stalls around.

looking back at downtown Auckland from the ferry
that's the Skytower jutting out of the skyline, and the Auckland Harbor Bridge

view from Mt. Victoria

If the walk proves to be a bit weary, stop for a pint or two at The Patriot, featuring British, Welsh, Scottish and Irish grub and booze. Sit by the fire and enjoy the ambience and the beer.

For a nightcap, take the ferry back downtown and head to Vulcan Lane to sample a Belgian beer or two at the Occidental Belgian Beer Cafe - Flemish food, giant mussels, or just for that sexy strong dark ale Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit. There is an Irish Pub beside it but hope you don't get across she-who-does-not-know-how-to-pour-a-proper-pint.

On the next day, if you're tired with walking then won't be a bad idea to rent a car and drive west to the Waitekere Ranges Regional Park and make sure to stop at the Arataki ("Pathway to Learning") Visitor Center for a sneak preview of the beautiful (and windy and very cold) views from its decks including the Lower Nihotupu Dam and the Manukau Harbor.

from a viewing deck at the visitor center

In front of the building there is a carved pou (post), what appears to be a totem pole of sorts, and whakairo (carvings) inside the center are the main highlights of the center. According to the guide they were "carved out of two kauri trees taken from the great forest of Tiriwa (Waitekere Ranges) by Te Kawerau a Maki, and depict their illustrious ancestors". Better see for yourself.

the pou

There are heaps of picnic spots and walking trails, but if just venturing for the day then Karekare beach could be a good first jump off point. Then head up north to Piha Beach, Anawhata then Te Henga (Bethels) to complete a 'west coast' drive. There are several stops along the way - being on the 'scenic drive' there are plenty of options to snap for a photo or just go for a short walk like Pukematekeo or Rose Hellaby House (an English cottage style house with a view). Make sure you bring your windbreaker.

this way to Karekare beach

this way to Piha Beach

this way to Anawhata beach

There is even some time to go to Murawai, a rugged coastline home to the wide range of birds particularly the gannets (takapu). You have an option to stop over at the Matua Winery to sample their really nice Waiwauku Pinot Noir (a bit pricey but hey you're on a holiday so might as well take the best picks!).

At Murawai, there are two viewing platforms that give an up close and personal experience with these birds. However this time of the year they are off to Australia, and will come back on July and October to mate have a family.

Takapu Refuge - the scene in a spur of a gray moment - and the rocks clawed away by the birds so that their eggs can be lodged!

All being well during the day, the drive could definitely make you hungry. Dinner would be worth the wait (or book in advance to avoid the wait) at Angus Steak House. When they said they serve the biggest and best steak in town, you better believe them and go try it yourself. At NZ$31 per steak (inclusive of an eat-all-you-can side dishes of good variety), it is money worth spending. Pick your own cut and let them know how you want it cooked - and it will be cooked to perfection. Definitely scores ten out of ten.

pick your cut - option of beef, pork, lamb and veal as well.

best partner of the evening - Mac's dark beer.

rare is the way. selection for the evening was a t-bone steak. absolutely yummy.

Now if that it is not to call it a day, don't know what else would!


Those Who Stopped By

Scribe's Notes

This pitstop is where incoherent ramblings seem to have meaning, where things or events are thought of and assessed, where great things are documented and perhaps any not-so-good happenings are written down in attempt to be forgotten!

So from the diversely abstract to the intensely specific, it's off to making tracks, and it is here where it stops for a thought or two.

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