Even though our day began around 3:30, when the airplane woke up for breakfast, and didn’t end until 9:30, when we toddled off to bed, it was a great day without too much jet lag. We were able to check into the hotel right away, so we could shower and unpack and look around.
Beautiful palms along Queen Street
Enormous tree (what kind?) in Albert Park
Strange flower fungi under a tree in Albert Park
The view from our hotel room featuring a huge cruise ship, which tooted its horn, turned around and left while we were dozing in the late afternoon
But the best thing was the Bush and Beach Tour arranged by our travel agent, who assured me that we would not be too jetlagged to handle it. Amazingly, she was right.
There were about eight of us in a minibus driven by Warren, our guide. He took us through the suburbs of Auckland to an area west of the city, the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, that, as promised, included a black sand beach, a waterfall, spectacular views, twisty roads, rainforest, and on and on. Warren was filled with just the right amount of information on a wide range of topics: Maori creation myths, the early industrial history of Auckland, the ecology of the piripiri tree (maybe?) and the moth that kills it over many decades, and much more.
Our first stop at the Arataki Visitor Center featured such a spectacular view that the park people built a big frame for it. This overlooks Manukau Harbour (I think) in the distance. This was our first glimpse of the mostly evergreen forest that clothes the hills in a tapestry of color and texture.
Alert: many clichés ahead; there are only so many ways to describe this spectacular scenery.
My favorite spot in the world so far is this pillowed platform in front of a huge picture window in the visitor center. I would sit here forever, looking up occasionally from my book to drink in the view…
From here Warren drove the twisty, steep downhill road to Karekare. As we drove through the tiny village, he pointed out the house where Dorothy Butler lives. I was the only one who was excited about this, so he kindly pointed it out again on our way out, but my only picture was a blur of foliage.
There’s so little land suitable for building or available to locals now that the park is in place, that houses tend to grow like Topsy, like this one.
Just beyond the village we stopped by the side of the road to see a waterfall splashing down a steep hill. The scenery reminded me of Glencoe, it was so steep and rugged (though with more palm trees). We walked down a gravel path to a pool where local kids were splashing and carrying on. The waterfall sparkled above them, cascading down the rocks and making the trees at the top glisten in the sunlight.
The beach nearby was used for the opening scenes of “The Piano,” which Warren told us provided an interesting look at the results of the Industrial Revolution in England and the resulting emigration to places like this. Note to self: watch again.
To be continued...