Thirty Seven Days On North Island 16
19 February 20
Posted at 8:55
Thursday the thirteenth of February was time to leave Puhoi and head for our final Bach which is on Waiheke Island. We started the day with a short drive to Orewa for breakfast, heading for Auckland via Orewa meant we could take the more picturesque route. So a traditional Kiwi breakfast of mince with poached eggs on top, yum yum, and an internet fix via the café’s free wifi and we were on our way.
Anyone who knows me is aware I can’t stand being late so I was anxious to ensure we made the ferry terminal in time. We were taking a ferry from the city centre, Hamer Street to Kennedy Point on Waiheke, there are only three car ferries a day from Hamer street and we were booked on the 2:15pm. Most visitors go to Waiheke as foot passengers and use buses and taxis on the island. So in my true tradition of not being late we rocked up at the ‘ferry terminal’ two and a half hours early. I put ‘ferry terminal’ in inverted commas as it consists of a sort of porta cabin office at the entrance to a fairly small car park in an industrial area and at the front a concrete ramp into the water. A very helpful Sealink lady took my name at the barrier then came back from the office proclaiming our return booking and suggested we park behind one of the two cars who had arrived there earlier than we had. The bonus of arriving early is that we had free parking in the city centre which was just a short walk away. The helpful Sealink lady said we had plenty of time for lunch or whatever just be back to the car by 2pm.Second in the queue
We exited the industrial area and walked along Wynyard Wharf passed the Wynyard Quarter of bars and restaurants and across a pedestrian bascule bridge and on to Quay Street which is in the city on the harbour. The nearer we got to Quay Street the more crowded and oppressive it felt. I found myself walking alongside what I suppose were office workers, strangely dressed in long sleeved collared shirts and formal long trousers and they exchanged ‘corporate speak, in loud and self important voices. How strange this seemed after over five weeks dressed only in tees and shorts mixing with laid back rural fishermen, farmers, hippies, Maoris and every sort of alternative lifestyle folk that North Island had thrown our way. Here there was bustle, city folk rushing past mega ocean going yachts, seemingly everyone rushing to upmarket luncheon venues and all this amongst the most horrendous noisy building works. The whole experience was a shock to the system, and not a pleasant one. We believe the building works may be for a Metro system – whatever it is a massive undertaking and for the present does not make this part of Auckland attractive. I’m sure though we will be back next week and will eventually get acclimatised to it. For now we spent some time wandering around the marinas and had a sherbert down Wynyard Wharf before returning to the car.
The car park was now full, less than 30 cars, waiting to board the ferry. Boarding was interesting. The ferry was simply a car deck with a small two storey passenger deck at the stern. The process of boarding was interesting, as it was a small ferry with entry/exit at one end each vehicle had to reverse on to the ferry individually. So boarding was even slower than Dover will be post Brexit. Once away it was an enjoyable crossing which took about 80 minutes. The views of Auckland as we sailed away were amazing.Arriving at Waiheke
Waiheke Island is just over 20km offshore from Auckland, it covers an area of less than 100 sqkm and has a resident population of round 10,000.this time of year the population swells especially at weekends as it is a holiday playground for Aucklanders and tourists from much further afield. I guess the biggest attraction is the plethora of vineyards and their wineries with exotic restaurants and wine tastings. The island is awash with wine tour mini buses and coaches, taxis and electric bicycles – all full of tourists who have no doubt tasted just a few too many. There are an amazing number of people walking from winery to winery, or unable to find the bus stop to get back to one of the main towns which are all small and holiday orientated.View from the Winemaker's Loft
We are staying in a Bach described as a winemakers loft, my romantic mind pictured something a little different to what we have. Although it is indeed a loft and belongs I suppose to a wine maker it could also be described as a small apartment above the rear of the wine estate owners large detached garage and office. Having said that it is bright and modern with magnificent views, its just not quite what my mind conjured up. It is well positioned though, a twenty minute walk or two minute drive to Oneroa one of the islands main towns and very close to three or four wineries. We won’t die of thirst!Oneroa
We’ve spent a couple of days here now and it has been fun. As ever we are meeting interesting folk as you do when you settle at a place for a few days. This morning in Solar Solar a sort of coffee shop cross pub cross eatery we met a couple, I’ll call them Gordon and Anne as I never got their names but the monikers seem to fit. Anne struck up conversation talking about muffins and from there we discovered that she hailed from the UK but came here 52 years ago not knowing why or even where New Zealand was. Never got to the bottom of that but again my romantic mind assumed she was just a child of the sixties who sort of drifted here. Anyway it was enjoyable to hear her and Gordon’s view of the world from their NZ with UK links (their son now lives in the UK). Having complimented Gordon on my impression how passionate Kiwis are about preserving their ecosystem. Eradicating imported species like possums, stoats, ships rats and Argentian ants – all of which heave few if any predators and are between them destroying New Zealands native plants and trees along with birdlife – including the endangered Kiwi. Alongside that there are massive initiatives to prevent the spread of diseases like Kauri dieback which threatens these massive ancient trees. There is tremendous pride and concern with people at all levels to preserve the flora and fauna and indeed the Maori culture and traditions. I have been struck by this and told Gordon so. My mistake was to comment how the Chinese appear to have a total disregard for these efforts and the rules and regulations in place to make them a reality. It was an off the and comment based on my disgust at what I have observed many times over recent weeks. Whereas Gordon wholeheartedly agreed Anne became incensed and began loudly berating the Chinese for everything and in particular how they were rude and arrogant, didn’t understand queuing be it in the supermarket of at a pedestrian crossing. She had a real issue and began relaying her experiences of them jumping queues, pushing with their utter rudeness. It took sometime to steer the conversation back to something more genteel.
On many occasions we became involved in quite deep conversations with long term Waiheke residents. There appears to be an island mentality there which we have not come across elsewhere. I found it enjoyable.
After four days on the island, mostly sampling wine and doing beach walks it was time to leave and commence the very last leg of our journey. We took the little car ferry back to Hamer Street and headed for the country near Drury, south of Auckland where our friends Andrew and Debbie live (the ones who spent time with us at Coopers Beach). I will tell of our time there in the next post which as today is actually day 37 I will have to make in the UK!