In the morning I took a 20-minute ferry ride to Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto unexpectedly emerged from the sea 600 years ago and now delights millions of people annually. (Of course the same can be said of Ernest Borgnine). Rangitoto reminds me of Heat Miser's volcanic lair, which makes sense because Auckland typically has a green Christmas.
Auckland skyline from ferry.
Same, but different.
Rangitoto summit and lava field.
Auckland skyline from Rangitoto.
Lava cave. These photos are the first I'm seeing of the caves. I had a flashlight with me but the darkness was overwhelming.
Lava cave. On the way back to the main path I warned some other hikers that "there's like 10,000 bats in those caves".
It took about 45 minutes to walk to the summit, excluding the 30-minute round trip to the lava caves.
Devonport and Auckland from Rangitoto summit.
Browns Island and Hauraki Gulf from Rangitoto summit.
Motutapu and Waiheke Islands from Rangitoto summit.
Hauraki Gulf and Auckland from Rangitoto wharf. The Auckland skyline is barely visible at right. It's not out of focus; it's obscured by a storm that I managed to avoid.
After the Rangitoto hike I discovered that the rubber on my sneakers was all chewed up from the lava. That's why I save my old sneakers--to sacrifice them to harsh conditions like rain and lava.
The last thing on my agenda was Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World. The web site recommends taking the Explorer bus for NZ$6 each way, but the cheapest fare is actually NZ$30 for a daily pass. Plus I was leaving downtown at 2pm and the last Explorer pickup from Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Revue was 4:15pm (although I ended up leaving there at 4pm anyway). So for the first time in 12 years I took a public autobus. The bus system (as Let's Go warns) is "challenging to negotiate" but at NZ$4.80 return a whole lot cheaper.
Penguins with babies.
Penguins. The one on the right looks like Horatio Sanz in the Boston Teens sketch.
A second smile-fish (known in the industry as "le poisson qui sourit").
Shark and stingray. I had to walk backwards on a moving walkway to take this.
Pre-dinner weight = 72 kg (158.5 lb).
Dinner (technically Thanksgiving dinner since it was Thursday in the US) was a chimichanga at the Mexican Cafe (the place I saw from the Sky Tower). This was one of those rare places that sounds cool in the travel guide (Let's Go), looks cool from the outside and is actually cool on the inside. The chimi was half the size of those at Acapulco, but then I remembered that Kiwis aren't obsessed with gaining weight like Americans are. The "pitcher" of margaritas held a disappointing 2 drinks, but the price worked out. I chased the margaritas with several Steinlagers (a classically generic name) and went back to the hotel.
Instead of a Thanksgiving parade, Auckland has a "Santa Parade" the Sunday following the US Thanksgiving. Now that I think about it, so does LA. At least New Zealand calls him Santa Claus--in Iraq they call him Mohammed the Greek God (see Kevin & Dave's Christmas Spectacular, 1990).
There appears to be no Tony Garea monument in downtown Auckland, just as there was no Rene Goulet monument in Nice. I was more disappointed that the Bushwhackers were not greeting arrivals at the airport.
I have to say that Auckland girls are a bit "off" compared to Sydney girls. Maybe they dress worse because of the cooler climate, or there's less competition because of the Asian and Polynesian population, or maybe it's just because a broad is running the country. When a man is in charge, he makes sure that the women are hot and the beers are cold.
The menu screen of the hotel TV said "We hope you have an enjoyable stay", and yet Rita Coolidge's "We're All Alone" was playing. I didn't understand the message.
Before bed I had two more Heinekens from the minibar and watched "Bridget Jones' Diary". Also, I was surprised that Letterman was on Prime TV, and it was that night's show (airing 6 hours after it aired in NY).