A Travellerspoint blog

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Auckland "City of Sails"

Volcanoes, yachts, NZ bush and black sand beaches

overcast 22 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

Auckland is built on a narrow istmus where you can walk from the east to west coast in about 4 hours. It is also pitted with about 50 volcanic cones and craters and half the city seems to spend their free time jogging up and down them trying to keep fit. The most famous of these are Mount Eden (Auckland's highest volcanic cone) and One Tree Hill of U2 Joshua Tree fame and whose tree was chopped down by a maori activist in 2000.

One Tree Hill - minus the famous tree on its summit chopped down in 2000

One Tree Hill - minus the famous tree on its summit chopped down in 2000

One Tree Hill from Mount Eden

One Tree Hill from Mount Eden


Auckland including the Harbour Bridge and Skytower from Mount Eden

Auckland including the Harbour Bridge and Skytower from Mount Eden


The summit of Mount Eden at sunset

The summit of Mount Eden at sunset

In my opinion however the cone with the best view of Auckland is Mount Victoria on the North Shore of the harbour above the naval base at Devonport. On top of it is Fort Victoria and its disappearing gun built in 1899 in response to the threat of Russian expansionism in the Pacific. Offshore and dominating the view out to sea is Rangitoto, the largest and youngest of Auckland's volcanoes which last erupted about 600 years ago.

The disappearing gun at Fort Victoria overlooking Auckland Harbour

The disappearing gun at Fort Victoria overlooking Auckland Harbour


The spectacular view of Auckland Harbour from Mount Victoria

The spectacular view of Auckland Harbour from Mount Victoria

The Fossil Forest exposed on Takupuna Beach in front of Rangitoto, Auckland's largest and youngest volcano

The Fossil Forest exposed on Takupuna Beach in front of Rangitoto, Auckland's largest and youngest volcano

Just like Freemantle when Australia won the America's Cup in 1984, Auckland's harbour side attracted a lot of investment and got a major revamp after New Zealand won the Cup in 1995 and 2000. Several multi-millionaires have their luxury yachts in the Viaduct Harbour (one 5 star hotel even offers them berths!) and the New Zealand and Italian America's Cup Teams are still based here.

New Zealand's 1995 America's Cup winning yacht NZL32 "Black Magic" in the NZ Maritime Museum

New Zealand's 1995 America's Cup winning yacht NZL32 "Black Magic" in the NZ Maritime Museum


The luxury yacht Ulysses moored in Auckland's Viaduct Basin

The luxury yacht Ulysses moored in Auckland's Viaduct Basin


The Headquarters of the New Zealand America's Cup Team

The Headquarters of the New Zealand America's Cup Team


The Italian America's Cup Team are also based in Auckland

The Italian America's Cup Team are also based in Auckland

Thousands of yachts are moored in the Marina and demand for berths is so high that one company even offers multi-storey berths promising to have a customer's boat in the water within an hour of receiving a phone call. Across the mouth of the Viaduct Basin is the $3.7 million Wynyard Footbridge which opens to let boats through and is popular with tourists and cyclists.

The Skytower viewed behind a forest of yacht masts in Westhaven Marina

The Skytower viewed behind a forest of yacht masts in Westhaven Marina


Whatever next? A Multi Storey Boat Park down on the waterside in Auckland

Whatever next? A Multi Storey Boat Park down on the waterside in Auckland


The Wynyard Footbridge across the Viaduct Harbour

The Wynyard Footbridge across the Viaduct Harbour

The Wynyard Footbridge is raised to let a private yacht out to sea

The Wynyard Footbridge is raised to let a private yacht out to sea

Also by the Viaduct Harbour is New Zealand's Maritime Museum which in addition to galleries on the arrival of the Polynesians, early pioneers, immigrants and the America's Cup also has twice daily sailings around the harbour in the Ted Ashby, a modern reconstruction of ketch-rigged deck scow typical of those used to transport cargo around New Zealand's coasts 1870-1920.

Hoisting the Sail aboard the Ted Ashby in Waitemata Harbour off Auckland

Hoisting the Sail aboard the Ted Ashby in Waitemata Harbour off Auckland


View of Auckland from the Waitemata Harbour

View of Auckland from the Waitemata Harbour

While sailing on the Ted Ashby we sailed under the Auckland Harbour Bridge completed in 1959. Originally it only had 4 lanes which was very quickly found to be inadequate and by 1969 a Japanese construction company had been engaged to add a further 4 lanes which ever since have been affectionately known as the Nippon Clip-ons. It is also possible to do a bungy jump from a bungy pod close to the southern pier of the bridge; we narrowly missed catching someone jumping as we passed underneath!

Me approaching Auckland Harbour Bridge aboard the Ted Ashby

Me approaching Auckland Harbour Bridge aboard the Ted Ashby


The bungy pod close to the south pier that they jump from underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge

The bungy pod close to the south pier that they jump from underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge


Returning to port aboard the Ted Ashby off Auckland

Returning to port aboard the Ted Ashby off Auckland

Not far to the west of Auckland is the 70 square miles of the Waitakere Regional Park with its visitor centre at Arakati with views of Manukau Harbour, Auckland's second harbour facing west connected to the Tasman Sea.

The Arataki Visitor's Centre in the Waitakere Regional Park

The Arataki Visitor's Centre in the Waitakere Regional Park


View across to the West Coast and Manukau Harbour from Arataki

View across to the West Coast and Manukau Harbour from Arataki


Me in a picture frame of the view of Manukau Harbour from Arataki

Me in a picture frame of the view of Manukau Harbour from Arataki

The Park was formed in 1940 to protect the remaining local NZ bush and allow what had already been lost to regenerate. This includes the Kauri Tree (which can live for 2000+ years), Rata Tree (which start as vines growing up other trees) and New Zealand's national emblem the Silver Fern. At Karekare there is a waterfall in a glade that was used for scenes in the Oscar winning film "The Piano".

Rata Tree near Piha in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

Rata Tree near Piha in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park


Karekare Waterfall in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

Karekare Waterfall in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park


Close up of the Karekare Waterfall and the beach used in the film "The Piano"

Close up of the Karekare Waterfall and the beach used in the film "The Piano"

Our final stop was Piha, famous for its iconic vista over the beach and Lion Rock. Beaches on New Zealand's west coast facing the Tasman Sea have iron rich black sand originating from volcanic dust while those on the east coast facing the Pacific are a more usual sand colour.

Me sat at the Lookout overlooking Piha Beach and Lion's Rock

Me sat at the Lookout overlooking Piha Beach and Lion's Rock

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls beaches bridges trees volcanos museums boat forts harbours city sunsets tour videos outdoor_pursuits americas_cup nz_north_island Comments (0)

Auckland Museum and Domain

Introduction to Maori Culture and Memorial to the Fallen

sunny 19 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

The big park near the centre of Auckland is called "The Domain" and is the site of yet another currently inactive volcano (called Pukekaroa) whose crater is now used for sports fields (there's got to be a cliche there somewhere!). Dominating it all is the Auckland Museum, an iconic building that looks like a Greek Temple that also serves as the Auckland War Memorial, an approach I have seen adopted in several other New Zealand towns as well.

The volcano's crater at the Domain is now used as a sports ground!

The volcano's crater at the Domain is now used as a sports ground!


Me stood outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum

Me stood outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum


Looking down on the Grand Foyer of the Auckland Museum

Looking down on the Grand Foyer of the Auckland Museum

The ground floor of the Museum is dedicated to Maori Culture with the impressive Maori Court containing amongst other things a Maori Meeting Room, Store House and a large War Canoe. The Maori arrived in New Zealand (called Aotearoa in Maori) about 1000 years ago from Polynesia. Meeting Houses are at the heart of every Maori marae (village) and are full of symbolism of the ancestors. There are protocols that need to be followed before a stranger is allowed to enter a marae (non Maori are called pakeha).

The Maori Court at the Auckland Museum

The Maori Court at the Auckland Museum


Maori Meeting House - complete with posing Maori warrior!

Maori Meeting House - complete with posing Maori warrior!


Inside the Maori Meeting House

Inside the Maori Meeting House


Large Maori Pataka (Storehouse)

Large Maori Pataka (Storehouse)


Maori War Canoe

Maori War Canoe

The highlight of the Maori Court was the Cultural Performance, after being greeted and taken into a small theatre we were given an explanation and display of traditional Maori dances. The most famous Maori dances for women are with tethered weights known a Poi. There is also the Ti Raku where a stick is thrown from dancer to dancer, this is the basis of many children's games and it is considered bad luck to drop the stick! However the most famous Maori dance of all is the Haka War Dance and this was used to close the performance.

The Ladies of the Maori Dance Troupe prepare to do the Poi

The Ladies of the Maori Dance Troupe prepare to do the Poi


Maori Poi Dance

Maori Poi Dance


Maori Ti Raku Stick Dance

Maori Ti Raku Stick Dance


Haka War Dance

Haka War Dance

The next floor of the museum was devoted to nature and as the Kiwi bird that symbolises the country is nocturnal I (as it turned out wrongly) assumed the stuffed specimen I saw here would be the only one I would see in New Zealand. Also covered on this floor were the volcanoes and earthquakes that have moulded the country's landscape. This included a room that looked like a normal Auckland suburban lounge with a patio door looking out onto the bay and a news channel being broadcast on the TV in the corner. The news follows the emergence of a new volcano in the harbour that can be seen through the patio door and then as it erupts the cloud moves towards you and the floor of the room shakes mimicking an eruption and earthquake - definitely one for the kids (including older kids!).

A stuffed Kiwi on the Natural History Floor of the Auckland Museum

A stuffed Kiwi on the Natural History Floor of the Auckland Museum


The Earthquake Lounge in the Auckland Museum

The Earthquake Lounge in the Auckland Museum

The top floor of the museum is devoted to New Zealand's military history and emergence as a nation through the loss and suffering of war. There were galleries covering every conflict New Zealand has been involved in since the Maori Wars of the 19th Century with particular reverance to WWI and WWII including a WWII Hall of Memories where the names of the fallen of Auckland are inscribed on the wall.

World War I Field Gun at the Auckland Museum

World War I Field Gun at the Auckland Museum


World War II Hall of Memories at the Auckland Museum

World War II Hall of Memories at the Auckland Museum


World War II Field Gun from the Italian Campaign in the Auckland Museum

World War II Field Gun from the Italian Campaign in the Auckland Museum


Spitfire in the Auckland Museum

Spitfire in the Auckland Museum

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged buildings birds volcanos museums concerts maori videos solo earthquakes war_memorials nz_north_island Comments (0)

Waitomo Caves

Home of mystical blue glowworms and Black Water Rafting

sunny 19 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

On the advice of nearly every New Zealand guidebook I have seen, I still had Waitomo Caves near the top of my "To Do List" despite it being just 10 days since I visited the impressive Lake Cave near Margaret River in Western Australia. What makes them special and different from other caves are their glowworms; which also makes this particular blog entry a bit of challenge as they are almost impossible to photograph!

Waitomo is 125 miles (202 km) south of Auckland and there over 300 caves mapped in the area. I visited the two most popular, starting with a 2 hour tour of Ruakuri Cave, the longest guided cave tour in Australasia. As seems to be the way in New Zealand there was a dispute over ownership of the original entrance and it was also a Maori burial ground so the cave is now accessed via a spectacular new 49 feet (15 metre) spiral staircase that felt like something out an old Doctor Who set.

Me stood at the entrance to Ruakuri Cave

Me stood at the entrance to Ruakuri Cave


The spiral staircase entrance down to Ruakuri Cave

The spiral staircase entrance down to Ruakuri Cave


The rock at the entrance into Ruakuri Cave at the bottom of the spiral staircase

The rock at the entrance into Ruakuri Cave at the bottom of the spiral staircase

Like all show caves Ruakuri has easily damaged cave formations and there is monitoring equipment by the entrance to ensure CO2 brought into the cave by tree roots or the breathing of visitors is kept within manageable levels. The path then meanders around cave formations and through fissures in the limestone deeper and deeper into the cave.

Cave formations and CO2 monitoring equipment inside the entrance to Ruakuri Cave

Cave formations and CO2 monitoring equipment inside the entrance to Ruakuri Cave


Flash photo in the darkness of the walkway ahead

Flash photo in the darkness of the walkway ahead


A wafer shaped stalactite by the walkway in Ruakuri Cave

A wafer shaped stalactite by the walkway in Ruakuri Cave


A delicate rusty coloured stalactite inside Ruakuri Cave

A delicate rusty coloured stalactite inside Ruakuri Cave

So far so good, Ruakuri Cave although extensive has been very similar to any other show cave this far. Then comes the mystical bit when we reach the glowworms and the lights are turned out to see them - photos aren't allowed (even if my camera was up to it!) so I have provided a link. Each glowworm is a the larvae of small mosquito like fly that has attached itself to top of the cave with 3-5 inch (10-20 cm) silk fishing lines dangling beneath it with a blue almost light at the end to attract larvae prey from the underground river flowing below.

The underground river is also where you can go Black Water Rafting and can get up close to the glowworms and this is suppose to be the ultimate cave experience and something I am sure I might have been tempted to have a go at if I had more time in New Zealand.

Watch out below! The darkness of the gorge beneath us where you can go Black Water Rafting

Watch out below! The darkness of the gorge beneath us where you can go Black Water Rafting


A cavern full of stalactites deep inside Ruakuri Cave

A cavern full of stalactites deep inside Ruakuri Cave

We then returned to the Waitomo Caves Visitor Centre and went on the more commercial feeling 45 minute tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Cave itself. Again we passed impressive stalactites and stalagmites as we made our way down to a large cavern known as The Cathedral which has such good natural acoustics that it has been used for concerts Dame Kiri Te Kanaawa and the Vienna Boys Choir amongst others.

However again it was the glowworms who stloe the show except this time we boarded a boat and floated down the underground river in the pitch black admiring the milky way of blue glowworm lights that adorned the cave's ceiling. Eventually we emerged from the cave and exited using a jetty.

Daylight as our boat emerges from Waitomo Cave

Daylight as our boat emerges from Waitomo Cave


View back into the Cave from our exit jetty

View back into the Cave from our exit jetty


Our guide goes back into the Cave to pick up the next group of tourists

Our guide goes back into the Cave to pick up the next group of tourists


A large trout loitering by the cave exit - apparently he'd been there for days!

A large trout loitering by the cave exit - apparently he'd been there for days!

Posted by FrancisRTW 03:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animals caves nz_north_island external_links Comments (0)

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