Saturday, March 27, 2010

City of Sails - back in Auckland

We're back in Auckland! Alot of people including Lonely Planet, give Auckland a bad rap. Everyone advised us to get out of Auckland asap and start exploring the rest of NZ. Well we're hear to say Auckland is a great city that we'd happily live in. The neighborhood of Ponsonby rocks and despite the true lack of a city center, the many neighborhoods that make up Auckland all have something to offer.

We rang up Roger who had advertised a two day/one night sailing trip on a flyer at the hostel we stayed at the first night. We got lucky to have a really cool French couple named Severine and Laurant along board with us for the trip.

Mao felt right at home parked at the Yacht Club.
Roger's sailboat was a 26ft 1984ish racing yacht. It wasn't the most luxurious but it was nice.

After getting all the gear on board we set sail. The weather was a bit foul at first but it cleared up quickly.

We wanted to learn how to sail on this trip as much as we could. I took sailing one semester in college but other than knowing which side was port and which was starboard, I have mostly forgotten everything. Roger was barking orders at us in sailor's speak from the get go and it came back to me a bit. He let me steer early on and it felt good to be sailing again.
Roger started steering again and the wind picked up a bit out of nowhere I suppose and the next thing we knew the boat was completely keeled over on its side and water was coming over the edge soaking Roger and I's pants. This was actually the least of my concerns as Gemma (who was sitting on the other side of the boat from me) was now directly above me, Roger's knees the only thing keeping her from falling overboard as she clung to them. She realized that she was simulantously pushing him backwards off the boat and into the ocean and moved her weight over to me. I saw Roger was panicked and asked which way we were supposed to be pulling or pushing the rudder. I grabbed on and pushed it with him to right the ship. Whew! Shit! Did we almost just capsize? Yes, Yes we did.

We sailed for a couple hours to a little bay and threw down the anchor all a bit relieved to be alive. I went down into the cabin and changed my shorts in the privacy of the cabin. Roger on the other hand changed his pants in the cabin but right at the door while the four of us were sitting out back. He told us he was going down to change but we didn't expect him to just drop his shorts and underwear right inside the cabin in full view. His 75 year old rear was now bent over just three feet away from our faces!

Gemma and I could not stop laughing and were crying trying to hold back our giggles fighting for every breath. Then he took a towel and started wiping his butt shimminging back and forth. Good Lord what a start to our trip.

The four of us escaped by piling into the dinghy while Roger stayed back doing God knows what. Checkout Laurant's beard! He's been growing that thing for six years and only trims it twice a year. That's beard dedication.

We were sailing in the Hauraki Gulf just outside Auckland and put the anchor down in a bay near Rangitoto Island. There were several gun shelters used by the NZ army which were interesting.

Probably the coolest thing about our two day trip was talking with Laurant and Sev. They work on a farm in the Swiss Alps. She makes cheese and he's a shepherd taking care of the cattle and goats. They work every summer for three months and take the rest of the year to travel. We shared similar outlooks on life and had some of the same travel goals.

The island was beautiful and we walked around it for a couple hours before going back to the boat.

Here Roger was showing Laurant and I some charts of the Gulf. Made me feel like a sailor looking at maps and charts.

Then Roger busted out a 3liter box of red wine and we got the party started. We all shared travel stories and had a great time. Roger had some really interesting stories about his youth including working as a driver for a mafioso guy in Monte Carlo who taught him how to cheat at roulette. He said there would be rich guys who would play several roulette tables at a time and they couldn't possibly watch every table finish its spin. He would pretend to be one of these guys moving from table to table and simply point to a stack of winning chips and say "Are these mine?" and most of the time they would push them his way!

We woke up the next morning feeling hungover. The cabin we slept in was like a coffin and I felt claustrophobic for the first time in my life. It was Gemma's turn to give steering a go. The pics below show her wide range of emotions. The wind was really strong that day and simply holding onto the rudder to go straight was quite a chore.

Old Rog and his best student.

It took us about five hours to sail around the island and back into the Auckland harbour. There were tons and tons of sailboats out that day. The second pic below is the type we'd like to sail on someday.
While we were back in Auckland we hit some of the sites we'd missed the first time around including the Auckland Museum. There was a lot of interesting exhibits on Maori tradition, volcanoes and the usual natural history dinosaur and animal exhibits. I used to be obsessed with dinosaurs when I was young but I don't remember seeing anything like the one below. Its a giant Emu I think.

Below are pics of a Maori meeting house and an old war canoe that could fit about 100 warriors.

We went to a cultural performance showcasing Maori song and dance. They also performed the Huku War dance that the All Blacks Rugby club has made famous.

The women twirling some traditional string with a poof on the end. Can't remember what its called but we went on stage and gave it a go.

Ignore the guidebooks and give Auckland a couple of days at least on your trip to New Zealand.

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