Auckland – January 28th

Landed around 9am, breezed through immigration (fancy electronic passport scanning meant I didn’t get a stamp, though!), and through customs (my declared snacks and hiking boots were fortunately acceptable). A quick stop at an ATM, then to Vodafone to pick up a local SIM card, and over to catch the (prebooked) Skybus into town. My hotel was conveniently just across the street from a stop, but of course my room wasn’t ready at 10:20am! No problem, just a quick re-organization of bags and I’d be off. What time is check-in? 2pm, okay. Oh, and how late can I check in? Reception is only open until 4pm? Argh…well that puts some constraints on my day! Ah, well, off to get some coffee while I consider an appropriate order of operations.

Swung back by the hotel afterwards and although my room still wasn’t ready, another one was. Glad I asked! Lovely shower and fresh clothes and an entire day ahead of me.

Since it was a beautiful day, I decided to take a ferry out to Waiheke island, where I then got a day pass for the public buses rather than the 4x-priced hop on/hop off bus.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to see, so I enjoyed the views from the bus for awhile, and then realized I’d really need to get more water before venturing far on foot, as it was getting quite hot. Used my phone to figure out where there was a grocery store, got off there, and picked up an enormous bottle of water. Asked around about food options, and called a couple of wineries before deciding to go to Stonyridge Vineyard.

After waiting a while, a bus finally came by and I made it to the vineyard, only to find out that the “snack menu” that had been described to me on the phone was really designed to be shared and that they couldn’t make any smaller portions. A meat and cheese plate to accompany some wine sounded fantastic, but $65 NZ just seemed absurd. I was quite “hangry” by this point, but managed to keep the temper tantrum inside my head, and “settled” for some fancy toast with pancetta and goat cheese. The waitress helped me find a great place to sit, on a big cushion under a shade tree, looking out at the vineyards.

Refreshed and in better spirits, I walked back to the road. I had been trying to decide whether to start heading back toward the ferry, or continue on to the other side of the island. A bus pulled up right as I was getting close to the road, and since there were a lot of people waiting to get on, I was able to make it, in time. So, back towards the ferry I went.

As we passed through town, I saw a mass of people lined up at an ice cream shop, so when the bus stopped just a block past it, I hopped off. They had some great flavors, including mandarin chocolate coconut, and roast strawberry nougatine with pomegranate jelly. A good stop! Then, another long wait for a bus back the rest of the way to the ferry.

Back in the city, I walked over to the Sky Tower, and found out that if I went to The Sugar Club (one of the bar/restaurants at the top), I didn’t need to pay the $29 fee to ride up — I just had to spend at least that much, up there. So, I ordered my “free” fancy cocktail and appetizer while enjoying the view in a comfy seat. As sunset was approaching, I rode to the observation deck and on up to the topmost viewing area.

I didn’t do even half of the things on my list of ideas, but I enjoyed my leisurely day in a nice city.

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