Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 8: Waiheke Island

Day 8: Auckland and Waiheke Island

NZ size: equivalent to Japan, United Kingdom, Colorado (we’ve been to all these places, recently, and THB would not put them in the same sentence with NZ for any other reason)

Pics: In and around or on the way to Waiheke Island: first two on/from the ferry, the next batch from the hike up to the pic of Stonyridge sign, and rest from the Headlands Sculpture on the Gulf project. Note the one where DB is pointing out to the bay, the young woman in front of her is using a pump to make the long yellow tube floating on the bay move, this goes with the Free Air sign. Very clever, and the yellow tube gorgeous as it floats on the clear turquoise water. Best of show!

Department of corrections: Metal Labs is really Metalabs; Waiheke is pronounced WHY-HEE-KEY; Island is pronounced Eeh-Lund; Idiot is pronounced ID-JIT

Pop Quiz #1: The kayaks resting against the building are in Salida, CO

Pop Quiz #2: Trains that run throughout the day and night

Up early, breakfast on the deck again (cereal and fruit), then head to the car ferry, the first driving on our own and the first time using NZ GPS instructions. GPS loves local routes on the way to somewhere rather than major roads that most people take which, when you are first driving with right hand drive in over 10 years, can be just a twee bit disconcerting.

We’re very early for the car ferry, which is about a half hour away and past the airport (most people take the people ferry to Waiheke, which happens to be a short walk from our condo). We are driving because it gives us a lot of flexibility on what to do when we’re moseying around Waiheke. The ferry ride is about 45 minutes. THB had booked a 7pm ferry return; since we’re early and have plenty of time to adjust, we decide to move up the return to 5pm.

Our first adventure of the day is a hike. The hike THB has selected is described thusly: Explores a more secluded part of the island. Discover panoramic views. Features serene excursions through mature coastal forest and vineyards, home to many artists and crafts people. Two hours.

And, here’s what happened: It only takes one stop at a local sports center to find the trailhead (a small parking lot with lots of wild chickens and ducks, see pic), and the first part of the walk on the verge of a fast paced road (fortunately without much traffic). Then we start slogging up and down, up and down, along roads, on the roads, down to beaches (first up: Dead Dog Bay), on narrow dirt paths, walking on paths above beaches, up and down, near a few vineyards (all covered with mesh netting), up and down, and at the 2 hour and 20 minute mark we actually get to a small seaside town where we stop for a moment to water up and rest, when up drives a local bus. An inquiry provides the answer: the driver is on break for a few moments, and then he is heading back to the spot where we parked the car.

Ahhhhhhhhhh, this is a miracle. We were within a few moments of heading up another path, and the driver is really 300 yards from the stop and is just resting with a view of the beach before his return trip. This fortuitous meeting saves us another 30 minutes or so of up and down. This was no 2 hour hike, they don’t give distances in the guide book, nor total altitude gain and loss. A welcome $1/pp spent to relax on the bus for a few minutes (cue Rafi: and the hikers on the bus went up and down, up and down, up and down).

Did we see crafts people? We only saw two people on the hike the entire time, and that was very close to the spot we caught the bus; we think they were just tourists out for a short jaunt since they were not wearing hiking clothes nor did they have food or water on them.

After the hike, we drive a very short distance to Stonyridge Winery and Café for lunch and tasting. We combine the two, tasting 5 reds (the island is known for reds, almost no white wine grapes grow here) and order the tasting appetizer plate. None of the reds up to even a middling Paso Robles rhone-style wine (THB is too cheap to even buy the tastes for the $140/btl wines), and the tasting platter most noteworthy for the quality of the locally grown olives, which were quite good, and the absence of oysters (under attack). Total: $55.

Then, the serendipitous moment of the day: in the ferry toilet (hey, where else can you get moments like these…THB delivers!), DB finds a poster announcing that there is a temporary installation of sculptures as part of an art walk, somewhere on the eehlund, After asking around, we find it is just near the ferry terminal for the walk-offs (not same as drive-off terminal). Fortunately, the ferry security guy tells us how to get up near the top to park, avoiding another up and down hike. As it is, the walk takes an hour, is only moderately up and down, and extremely good. Great vistas, interesting sculptures, many site specific. Damn, a ten on the art scale of serendipity.

We stop off to buy local cheese and popsicles. The cheese is made by one of DB’s former clients, they are planning to move to NZ and you need to show income or they boot you off the eehlund(s). Had some with dinner, very nice! Waiheke Island Cheese Company, look for it soon in fine cheeseries everywhere…

Back to the condo, bbq’d lamb roast, salad with great tomatoes (in season here now), potatoes, and Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red ($14, and you won’t be seeing this one in your local wine shops any time soon).


  1. After Dead Dog Bay, a glass of vino from a Gravel Pit would seem appropriate, esp if paired with a slice of Quarry Cheesecake. BY

  2. Careful, they may hear you and rename to desserts, if calling them after dead Russians isn't enough...