Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Week in Auckland, New Zealand

After Mark and I visited our boating friends further north, we brought Axel’s car back to Auckland. Our German friend was meeting a diving buddy in Muriwai that afternoon and we decided to join him on a sightseeing trip in the morning. Axel showed us the local Gannet colony, the extensive beaches and the wild coastline of this western region. Once back in Auckland, Mark and I resided in an expensive hostel for two nights. While happily being part of the more affordable backpacking scene, many years ago, I felt a bit out of place (and noticeably older) in the tiny room, shared bathroom and sticky, underequipped communal kitchen.

On Sunday, Axel and Liz handed us the keys to our very own temporary apartment on K-Road! That was a joyous moment, and for the last week, Mark and I have truly enjoyed the city life in our spacious and modern flat. The unlimited running water, the warm, pressurized showers, the decent wireless internet, the non-stop electricity, the comfortably equipped kitchen and the roomy walk-in closet (which barely has clothes in it) give us a true feeling of how the average human being in the western world lives. An enjoyable and welcome change, that’s for sure! Parks, public transportation and a Chinese grocery store are within walking distance, together with all the shops and (ethnic) restaurants you can think of. This is the life, indeed. For now…

One of those days, last week, I met up with my friend Lisa and she showed me around Auckland’s street art scene. Knowing all the artists and having been present at the annual 2015 All Fresco Street Art Festival, she proved to be an amazing guide. Her insights as a street art admirer and connoisseur added to her knowledge and navigational skills of the city. The photos underneath don’t do the murals justice, but it was a very interesting experience to learn and see a bit more of this increasingly popular art form.

Being in such comfort for five days allowed Mark to focus full time on the Wirie business and pending projects again, while I managed to plan our upcoming trip to the South Island… and write some blogs. :-) This weekend, we are heading down to Wellington (New Zealand's capital) and then our three week land adventure can begin!

One of the Muriwai beaches

The "wild" west coast

Gannet flying over local fishermen

Part of the Gannet colony

Axel and Mark on a cold and windy day

Cave dwelling in Muriwai

Photographer Axel in action!

Axel's hexacopter in action!

Mark trying to do some work in our tiny room (Auckland's BK Hostel)

This one and the photos underneath are some examples of Auckland's street art

Lisa taking one of her hundreds of street art shots!

Auckland's skyline

Lisa being goofy with wings -  a little angel!

Liesbet with wings

The reflections in the owl's eyes make this work special

Our favorite work of Auckland street art, by Owen Dippie

The details of this bigger than life master piece are amazing!

Mural of the Maori woman in context of her environment

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quick Visit to Whangarei in the North Island

Last week, Mark and I borrowed Axel’s spacious car to visit friends two hours north of Auckland. For the occasion, the car was turned into our closet, kitchen, lunch counter and internet cafĂ©, while we visited boating friends. Due to a cold front, the weather was very chilly and rainy, but the company of our fellow cruisers made up for the discomfort. After two nights on SV Amandla in Gulf Harbor, hanging out with Fabio and Lisa, we continued north to Whangarei, taking a somewhat scenic road, and stopping a few times along the way.

It was fantastic to see the SV Iona family again after a year! Cute Leili had grown a bit, Dylan more than a bit. For the next two nights, we stayed on their cozy boat, while Chris cooked for us and Katie was a gracious host. We combined some work in the local library (good WiFi), with being part of their lovely family, and enjoyed the warmth of their home and personalities. One afternoon, we all drove out to Whangarei Heads for a beach walk and picnic. The scenery was spectacular and the faint sun very welcome!

On the day we left, back south to appreciate the hospitality of our friends Fabio and Lisa once more, Mark and I tried to organize our imminent accommodation and transportation needs for a few hours and had just enough time left to check out Whangarei Falls. This was an easy and beautiful detour, so we decided to walk the trail to the Kauri forest, instead of driving there. Some fresh air was just what we needed and the exercise was very welcome. Along the boardwalk in the forest, we gazed at the tropical vegetation – I love those “fern trees” – and the ancient Kauri trees, which are hundreds of years old. Ah, to be in nature again…

After a last night on the Amandla boat in Gulf Harbor, it was back to Auckland, for a change of pace and lifestyle! :-)

Whangarei Marina lies along the river. The red boat is "Guppy", Laura Dekker's ketch she sailed around the world as youngest circumnavigator

Upon arrival in this boating mecca, we ran into Chris, who showed us the way to SV Iona

Mark and Leili, cute as ever...

It was so great to see mother and daughter again!

Tall teenager Dylan, 2 days before his cast came back off

Family outing to the beach at Whangarei Heads - just like in the "old" Marquesas days!

Tall and sturdy pine trees

The beach - Where shall we eat our picnic?

Trying to find a spot out of the wind - The sun feels good!

Climbing the sand dune - We will have lunch on the top

Picnic spot with a view (and "waves" of extra sand) - Crunchy sandwiches!

Looking left...

... and looking right.

Dylan, Katie, Liesbet, Leili and Mark on a NZ beach!

Choppy anchorage - We are glad to be on land

The longest food bridge in the Southern hemisphere

Whangarei Falls

Nice walk to the AH Reed Memorial Park

Crossing one of the rivers without getting our feet wet

Kauri forest

A majestic and ancient Kauri tree

Looking down onto a "fern tree" from the canopy walk in AH Reed Memorial Park