A long journey to Auckland, the City of Sails, but I made it safe and with all my bags!!
Fortunately the hostel were very kind and let me into my room at 0630 to get a few hours sleep before I get plans going for my stay in New Zealand....a flight direct to Queenstown, letting Nick know when I'm turning up, all important things!
Day 2, to kick the jet-lag, I took the ferry over the Waiheke Island and embarked on a 3 hour walk around the southern part of the island. Unfortunately the signs sort-of ran out and I ended up walking much further than expected but admired many plots of land which they are selling off for building. Couldn't definitely have chosen a few of them! That evening was drinks with Rory (worked with me at T5 if anyone didn't know!) and finally I got my glass of chilled white wine which I have been craving for weeks now! We went to a lovely restaurant overlooking Viaduct Basin where I was treated to a feast!
Day 3, and a sail on NZL41, built for the 1995 America's Cup and raced by the Japanese Nippon Challenge. This spectacular sailing vessel sailed in the Louis Vuitton semi-finals, competing against and loosing to Team New Zealand. This yacht has since been used by the British GBR Challenge as a training boat and raced the America's Cup Jubilee 2001. NZL41 is still regularly raced locally and took monohull line honours in the Coastal Classic 2002. The America's Cup was originally called the Guinea Cup and started by Queen Victoria to prove that GB were the best at sailing in the world. After a dispute that went through the courts, America laid claim to the Cup and since the competition has become more prestigious with a team now inputting approx 300M Euros to enter the race. The boat itself has been changed as little as possible to give the passengers an authentic experience - and it was a good experience! I took helm of the 78m long yacht, helped 'grind' and we even put up the spinnaker.
That evening Kiwi Rob picked me up and took me to his new house in Mount Wellington which is still mid-renovation but looking good. Some dinner, some wine and lots of chat and maybe a little more wine! I had the luxury the next day of a house to myself (something I have really missed while being away) so took it easy, listened to music, sunbathed and then walked to a lagoon and found a beautiful Olympic sized outdoor swimming pool. Later Rob, Erica and I drove about 1 hour south of Auckland to the coast (there is coast everywhere here - perfect!) to a house of their friend Carl. This house had the most incredible views of the massive sandy beach and was obviously a very popular surfing spot. We had a oven-cooked bar-b-q as our beach walk got us fairly late and it was a very early start the next morning to get the hard-workers to the office on time (forgetting that feeling!)
Another day by the pool and this evening Rory picked me up and we went for food and beers in his new local district - Botany Gardens. This is a slightly weird purpose-built village effect that looks more like an out-of-town shopping centre! A curry then an English-style pub. The pub was hilarious: there was a live band who were really good and most of the Kiwi girls arrived in trainers all ready for a night packed with dancing - and that they had! I was approached by a big bouncer and reminded that after 2100hrs there was a strict "pants only rule" - what he meant was that my shorts were not acceptable. We left at 0200 so don't think it really was much of a problem!
Saturday - Rory's second w/e in Auckland and we went off exploring north of Auckland and discovered vineyards and beaches. Ranson's vineyard very kindly allowed us to taste a variety of fine wines and advised us on where to spend the rest of the day which was much appreciated as we had little idea otherwise. So we found a beautiful sandy beach (see they are everywhere) and swam in the sea, tried to perfect body surfing, but maybe not as well as it could be done!
Saturday night was a quiet night...after food at Nando's (Rob - was thinking of you!) we retired back to the apartment for a little wine...4 bottles of wine later, 0400am and a lot of rubbish spoken we had our early night!