Auckland, with one third of the country’s population is the largest city in New Zealand. It sits atop a cluster of extinct volcanoes and its gorgeous landscape blends well with its metropolitan skyline. This was evident to us as we made our entry into port. Auckland has been and continues to be an important point of entry or departure for international travel. It has all the characteristics and benefits of a large cosmopolitan city but is close to the vineyards of a surprising number of award-winning wineries.
In Auckland, we had the opportunity to spend time with someone who lives in the city.
In high school, Wendy Ross was an AFS student in Minneapolis and became friends with Bobby Cohen. The two of them have kept in contact and Bobby made arrangements for us to visit Wendy and her husband Clive.
We met Wendy at her charming home and had morning tea on her patio. Wendy then took us on a
tour of the areas where her mother and children now live, as well as where she grew up. We went to Cornwall Park and made our way to the top of One Tree Hill where we had a panoramic view of the city, the surrounding areas and the Rangitoto Volcano, which is closely associated with the city of Auckland. True to anything decided by a group of people, Wendy explained that no tree sat atop the hill because a consensus could not be reached on the type of tree that should replace the one that died.
As we continued our drive, Wendy pointed out flora that is indigenous to this area. Because of the time of year we are visiting, we could see jacaranda trees with their purple blooms and pohutakawa trees with their large red flowers. The pohutakawa only grows within ten meters of the coast, and because of its red blooms is known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree. We saw the very large, old Morton Bay fig trees and beautiful hydrangea and wisteria bushes. In addition to the flora, we were surprised to see sheep roaming freely in the park.
From the park we headed for lunch at a beach in Takapuna, a coastal, northern suburb of the North Island. It was a sunny, warm day and perfect for spending time at a beach. It was also quite crowded and since we had such a hard time finding a place to park, Wendy “rang up” Clive and advised him not to try to join us. At lunch we talked about how Wendy was the chair of an interfaith council. We compared the health and education systems of our two countries. We even approached the normally taboo subject of politics and were surprised how well versed Wendy was on current events in America. We took a walk along the beach and we then returned to the ship. We were most appreciative of Wendy's warm hospitality and felt that we had made a new friend. We all agreed that we must return so that we could again visit and have the opportunity to meet Clive.
Being a “turn-around” day on the ship, there was a bit of “housekeeping” to which we had to attend. We reconfirmed our upcoming dinner reservations, Jon’s appointment schedule with the trainer and the newspapers we wanted to receive each day. We received the tickets for the tours we will be taking on this second segment of our journey, learned on which we had cleared the waiting list and made the necessary adjustments. Last, but certainly not least, we sent out our dry cleaning. Somehow it is impossible to escape one’s “errands”, even when traveling half way around the world.
We left Auckland on a beautiful, clear night. The lights of the city were behind us, the habor was to our right and the volcano was on our left. The orchestra was playing on the pool deck and the liquor was flowing freely. Many passengers were beginning their journey in Auckland and the mood onboard was quite festive. The captain must have made one left turn and then another because when we returned to our room we were looking directly at the other side of the volcano with the lights of the skyline beyond it. This unique skyline, by day and by night had been the bookends of a most unique day.