|New Zealand Part 4: The Wedding|
Auckland and Waiheke Island, NZ (Map)
There was only enough time for one pint on the hotel's terrace, as Aaron and I needed to acquire hair and beard cuts. We raced up Queen Street and into some marble laden mall, where an Asian hairdresser then took care of us.
After walking across boardwalks to a Mediterranean spot near the harbour, the dinner was all very fine and good. Afterwards, Aaron, Jeff & I hit the town, but since it was Easter, we could only get a beer before midnight if we bought a pot pie as well. So after eating an incredible amount of food at the Mediterranean spot, we turned right around and bought pot pies with heavy pints. Of course I couldn't help myself as I subsequently ate my seafood pot pie in its entirety.
We then went to nearby Danny Doolans, thinking it was the best bet for a happening Auckland night. It eventually filled up, but with a horrible guy ratio.
So Aaron and I drank a bunch of whiskey and that was that.
The next morning it was time to board the ferry and leave Auckland behind.
Ryan's wedding would be held on the largest island in Auckland's harbour, Waiheke Island, a place renowned for its vineyards and beauty. Ryan's dad had taken care of beach house reservations for our group, so finally I would have a stable base for longer than one night's time.
The forty minute ferry ride out to Waiheke couldn't have been more pleasant. We grabbed some beers and made our way to the top deck, where sure there were a lot of people, but it was still a day of exquisite weather.
The boys would have a good laugh as we passed Bean Rock Lighthouse and I snapped about 9000 pictures0.
Landing at the ferry terminal on Waiheke Island, there was more sweating as I stressed my shoulder joints pulling my bicycle bag and luggage inundated with tied-on clothes. Thankfully the car rental place was only a couple hundred meters away.
Finally not driving for once, I was overly amused with sitting back and experiencing the wrong side of the road from the passenger seat, as Ryan's dad led us through the streets to the island's main village.
Picking up some supplies, we were now ready for our deep sea fishing trip bachelor party!
Ryan organized this fishing, maybe seeing how there wouldn't be much nightlife on this relaxed island, or maybe because he figured we'd simply enjoy it.
I tell you what though, catching a hammerhead shark might have been the most noteworthy thing of this whole trip. That was all worth it!
(Sadly I was the only one with my camera out and took a very mediocre picture since I was hurried with the ship captain wanting to get the shark off his boat. If only Andy had his camera out.)
I hadn't set out to fish in a very long time, but I soon realized what fun I would have...photographing the seabirds!
These are the Australasian Gannets that I would have seen if I decided on Cape Kidnappers instead of Danny Doolans.
Ryan was unimpressed with me, but more importantly, a Flesh-footed Shearwater waits for us to catch yet another Red Snapper.
In addition to the birds in the above picture, you can also see the beauty of some of the offshore islands of the Hauraki Gulf.
I was kicking myself while on the boat, wishing that I brought my GPS along to know exactly where we were and what islands we were seeing (after photographing birds, this wouldn't have added to my nerdiness at all).
A Buller's Shearwater.
And here I thought all of these grey birds were Sooty Shearwaters...a bird which I can see back home!
I have to admit though, I only knew that these were shearwaters because of Suzie's family friend, a man who I quite enjoyed learning New Zealand bird knowledge from. He didn't seem like a birder, yet he somehow knew about shearwaters and Australasian Gannets. The type of man who conveys that he simply knows enough about any topic to carry on a worthwhile conversation. At the end of the wedding he said that he hopes our paths crossed again & I couldn't have agreed more.
As for the actual fishing, I know at one point I grabbed a fishing rod and committed to holding it until I caught a fish, but I can't remember if once it started tugging and I handed it off, whether there was actually a fish or not.
So I may have went deep sea fishing and caught pictures of 3 lifers (birds) instead of red snappers or yellowtail amberbacks (fish).
Thankfully the boys caught more than we could ever need for tonight. Included in the fishing charter was the fact that the shiphand prepared all of the fish for us, so that we could bring it back to the beach house and have a nice fish barbecue tonight.
Much fish would be consumed, along with plenty of Speights. I attained amusement by inciting that Adrian Peterson could play rugby for one year and dominate thereafter. Which Ryan agreed with & argued to no end as the Kiwis/Aussies vehemently dismissed this notion with fiery annoyance.
The next day was a quiet one with no plans but to enjoy each other's company and relax on Waiheke.
I decided to go for a walk after a while; trying to find a high point to take a picture which conveyed the scenery of the island. The houses weren't 'North American ridiculous', but they were plenty fine and brought about jealous pangs in my heart (although I could never live on such a small island (I live on Earth's 16th largest island and it bothers me)).
I walked around our neighbourhood until I finally came down to our local convenience store, the Little Oneroa Beach Store. Buying some ice cream and petting the elderly store cat, I strolled over to the beach and noticed a trail leading through the rocky shoreline off to my right.
The trail cut up into the trees and then down into a back harbour with one of those foreign trees, where the thick branches spread out so low that they appear as an ideal seat. Alas, some female had claimed this back cove before I, so I simply took a few pictures and returned up the path, photographing this Silvereye along the way.
Knowing that I had to return east, I dove into the forest on some path instead of taking the same road back. Whereas I thought I had figured out this Waiheke Island, now I was suddenly in a dense forest, where I couldn't see anything but the surrounding trees. This wasn't worrying though, knowing that I was between the ocean and the path which brought me here.
Sure enough, I soon found more of a walkway which led me between two houses and up to the road. I had been seeing lots of these walkways during our drives & it was pleasing to get more of a feel for them as you would by foot instead of by Mazda Van. It would be hard to call these areas parks really, but they're more of preserved greenspace amongst the road network.
Almost back at our crib, I came to the abandoned house I discovered as we took a hairpin turn within hours of being on Waiheke.
Nowadays, my non-building friends have come to the point where they'll point out abandoned stuff to me whenever they see them, so it was funny to be the only person in the van to notice this dilapidated house up in the tall stuff.
Baby spiders be damned, I had already bushwhacked through the sharp reeds to get up here, I had to climb inside.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Waiheke Island living was attractive to people looking to live a cheaper lifestyle. The fast ferry would come in 1987 though, which predictably brought about housing improvements and income escalations.
One would have to imagine this house is a holdover from that previous time, one which hadn't seen any upgrades to bring it into the same class as its neighbours.
Indeed this abandoned house could best be described as what the Kiwis call a bach. Quoting the Auckland Library in regards to Waiheke Island history, "Architecturally, (Waiheke) island houses now range from older, simple wooden baches to huge, modern architect designed wonders (or monstrosities depending on your opinion)."
A bach would be your cabin or cottage to us North Americans, but seemingly a bit more modest in a lot of cases.
The entry into the house was waist-high and I obviously managed to cut myself on the broken floor glass, but back at the beach house they were none the wiser.
The sunset wasn't spectacular this night, but pleasant enough.
The next day was Ryan's & Suzie's big day, and since everyone but Phoenix and I were in the wedding party, they were busy and we had allotted time to go see the Stony Batter defense installation, all the way on the other side of the island.
Whereas the area around the harbour and our beach house was continuous forest and winding roads, driving to Stony Batter on the far northeast side of the island would quickly bring us through olive groves, vineyards and grasslands only broken by intermittent chunks of rock.
It is with this abundant rock and the isolation of Stony Batter back in the 1940s, that this coastal WWII defense was built of nearby rock instead of the standard reinforced concrete.
Already planned by the late 1930s, with the discovery of Germans off the coast of New Zealand and Japan's entrance into WWII by late 1941, protecting Auckland's harbour suddenly became a priority.
Worker shortages, isolation and inflating costs all worked to delay the project even further & it was only completed in 1944. Three guns were originally planned for the site, but with the Allies starting to dominate the war by that time, only one gun was installed at first & another in 1948 (the third was never installed). The guns were only fired once in 1951 and the coastal defense sector of the army was eliminated in 1957, with the guns being cut for scrap in 1960-61.
Phoenix & I slacked off back at the beach house for a good while this day, as most war ruins I'd ever been to were easily seen in a short amount of time.
This was a pretty big mistake on my part, as the underground portions of Stony Batter were immense. The two of us rushed up & down the numerous stairs, while I occasionally dropped the tripod to try and quickly lightpaint.
We even had to skip the surface ruins as there just wasn't enough time. Even with pushing it to the point where people were waiting on us for a few minutes, I only had about 20% of the time I would have liked to have at Stony Batter.
I'm such an unprepared boob sometimes.
The wedding itself was lovely. It was set at a vineyard with the ceremony & reception at the top of a knoll, with the land sloping down towards a view of Auckland off in the distance.
(I found it quite funny once I was back home and discussing how much I liked weddings & my friend quipped that of course I'd like weddings, when the only one I've been to in 10 years was at a vineyard outside Auckland.)
The ceremony itself was outside in an elevated brick square, allowing photo opportunities with the city off in the distance. We'd move inside for dinner and wine was consumed, while everyone listened to Ryan talk of how much I use to carry on about his sister (which is no more than any guy carries on about his friend's attractive sister when he works with her, but whatever, haha).
The dinner was good as well, humourosly coming to a third course of either duck, steak or ravioli; and everyone at our table was baffled with who would pick the third option (I, of course, did). Later it came up again when my close friends couldn't remember the third option for that course, with the subsequent question of who in their right mind would get ravioli (I just had to laugh).
Then there was a bit of dancing, with Ryan & Aaron having the dance off to end all dance offs. I maybe have the total of the Dougie, Harlem Shake & Elaine Benes in my repetoir, while they had upwards of 40 moves? I was baffled with the display.
I even danced a bit after being so vehemently opposed to it whenever someone suggested the notion back in Canada.
Wishing off the newlyweds after breakfast in nearby Onetangi, I'm not quite sure what we did with the rest of the day. The only pictures I have are from Enclosure Bay, where Andy, Phoenix & I walked to at sunset.
Phoenix & Andy followed the shoreline to the right and I decided to leave them to cuddling with the pretty colours or whatever couply nonsense was on that side...
...and boy was I happy I did, as there was a White-faced Heron on my side!
They say these aren't the hardest birds to see in New Zealand, but that you usually scare them off once you see them. So I'm definitely grateful that this guy hung around as I tried to steel my hands steady enough to take a crisp picture with the fading light.
This was the last sunset I had in New Zealand and it ended up being an explosion of red across the sky, flashing navigation lights off in the distance and seabirds swimming in the just offshore shallows. I reclined in a smooth rock depression with a large Speights and took it all in, sad that it was all ending.
Our last night ended up being maybe the quietest, as everyone was pretty beat and hungover from the preceding days.
Throughout our time at the beach hose, either I or someone else, would see this small bird with a giant tail, fly along and land very close to us. Of course, by the time I'd get my camera it would be off in a distant tree or hiding deeper within close-by ones which I couldn't photograph properly.
Sure enough, the last morning at the beach house, we're walking up the steps and one lands not 10 feet away, bobbing its tail and mocking me to Andy's amusement.
This ended up being the best picture I could manage of said New Zealand Fantail.
Returning the rental and waiting at the ferry terminal as we just missed the departing boat, someone hollered about a stingray in the water below!
The best part had to be watching the seagulls get out of Dodge as the stingray approached their fish.
Aaron, Jeff, Andy & Phoenix were embarking on their personal, post-wedding journey, something I wasn't partaking in as I didn't touch base with anyone before making my plans to come to Ryan's wedding.
This left me with them for only an hour or so, as I grabbed more of that delicious wood-fired foldover pizza and we went to an internet cafe to watch Jaromir Jagr's first goal for the Boston Bruins (they could have been checking something different on the internet, but I doubt it).
Bidding them adieu, I had the afternoon to myself as they were off to reserve campervans and attack the Bay of Plenty.
Having felt like I always cover the same area of various downtowns by making turns and only exploring a tiny enclosure, I simply stayed on Queen Street and continued moving south for a few kilometers (until I came to a freeway which I felt might mark the end of downtown).
The poorly composed picture you see above is the Auckland Town Hall. Reading up on the building, I see that there's a concert hall and New Zealand's largest musical instrument (an organ) inside as well, as the New Zealanders believe in a place of political and cultural meeting.
Turning east, I just so happened upon Symonds Street Cemetery, Auckland's first organized cemetery, established in 1842.
There are very few photos of this cemetery in a city where there are millions of pictures, as I'd later learn that people fear this place because of vagrants, beer-drinking teens and muggings.
There was a group of teens hanging out, but other than that, I had a pleasant walkabout.
I had a bit of time still to go, but I was tired and now a fair distance away from my departing bus stop. I returned downtown via Symonds St, walking through the bustling University of Auckland and its adjacent park, before exiting very close to downtown, picking up a few last minute gifts where my credit card still didn't work, then waiting patiently at my stop.
The bus took about half an hour and I was starting to slightly worry. I had still left myself a healthy chunk of time, so I told myself to relax.
The bus ride took longer than I remember, but thankfully we did make it and I rushed off the bus into the airport, still with a bit of time.
"Gate closing for San Francisco."
As a check-in agent asked about any last people for Fiji or some other place, I dove under the portable railing and ran up informing her that I was going to San Fran. She didn't look impressed & I then found out that they actually moved up my departure time. I never worry about giving the airline my phone number, because really, why do I need to know if my plane is going to be an hour late?
The woman at the counter then weighed my actual carry-ons, telling me that they needed to lose weight as they were above "7 kilos" - my gate was closing and she's really going to make a big deal about this?
So I started putting on various items of clothing I had in my carry-on, until she grew tired of me and told me to go. The problem now was that all of my carry-ons and items were strewn about as I tried to bear hug the collection of items and race towards security. Thankfully there was very few people being screened, but airport security still took their sweet time looking at my bicycle pegs and measuring my ratchet to make sure it was short enough to go on the plane.
After they finally got the manager to come over and look at my allen keys, they finally let me go and I broke into a full sprint through the Auckland airport, dropping sandals along the way (which fantastic kiwis scooped up and passed them to me as I tried to collect them, thanks).
I swear I had the furthest gate possible, as my lungs burned from running so far. I would come to the end of the airport after about 3 minutes, finding only a dozen people left in the line-up to board the plane. I guzzled water from a fountain while watching the last few people board, before hustling over and handing in my boarding pass while profusely sweating.
Country #5 was in the books.
Epilogue: As for the credit card, after all of the confusion with whatever-the-f EFTPOS meant all over New Zealand, it ended up only being that I apparently entered my PIN wrong somewhere along the way. So my bank reset my PIN without me knowing, so that the PIN I was using, didn't work anywhere; but if I went to pay for something like KFC where I didn't need to enter my PIN, it would work.
I stopped in Calfornia for 2 days on the way back. To check that out, click here.
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1 - Waiheke Local History - Auckland Council Libraries
2 - Stony Batter Historic Reserve - Department of Conservation
3 - Symonds Street Cemetery - Wikipedia
4 - Auckland Town Hall - The Edge