Thursday, May 20, 2010

The City of Sails

As you can see from the photo here, the weather has gone south (no pun intended) in Auckland. Rainy and windy and "chilly" by Auckland standards (upper 50s). But that didn't deter me from another day of explorations.

I started my day with an urban hike from Auckland City to the nearby suburbs. As a city built on top of volcanic craters, Auckland is extremely hilly, maybe even more so than San Francisco. So I got quite the workout!

My quest was to find the Burger Wisconsin place I saw on the 6AM bus into the city on my first day. This was in the scenic Mt Eden suburb of Auckland, named after one of the many volcanoes in the area. After a 55 minute walk, almost entirely uphill, I finally reached my destination and took a photo for all you Sconnies out there. They even got the state colors right! Unfortunately this restaurant doesn't open for business until 5PM, but this is a New Zealand chain with 24 locations! So I was able to walk to another branch in the hip and fashionable Ponsonby suburb which was open for lunch. I ordered a "petite" bacon/avocado burger served on a big sourdough bun. Pretty tasty...the meat seemed leaner than your typical burger.
After lunch I strolled back into the city and visited the National Maritime Museum. Neat place with exhibits showcasing New Zealand's sailing heritage, from the first Polynesian settlers (NZ was the last major landmass settled on Earth) to European explorers to present day racing yachts. The museum included NZL 32, also known as "Black Magic", winner of the 1995 America's Cup. Was the second non-American yacht to win.
A trip to Auckland couldn't be complete without a sail on the high seas, so I had booked in advance an afternoon "Coffee Cruise" in the harbor. Unfortunately the rain had started at that point and boy was it a wet ride! We were given big rain ponchos to shield us from the elements while on deck, and we were far from the only action in the harbor. Even on a Thursday there was a race going on.
The 50-foot yacht, aptly named "Defiance" for sailing in such dreadful weather, had a 2-member Kiwi crew and a whole group of incomprehensible Chinese tourists on board. Extreme language barriers for the crew to overcome in explaining the safety precautions but we made it just fine. Winds of around 15 knots meant we had a speedy but not dangerous journey, and all in all I actually found the whole thing rather enjoyable. Though after being soaked like that, once we docked I bolted for refuge in the nearest pub!

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