Woke up this morning to…darkness. New Zealand is coming into fall and the time has not changed yet. They will fall back in a few days but now it is dark almost until 8. Having just left when everything was lighter with our time change, this is another body clock and mental adjustment. The good thing is that we get breakfast! We were greeted with a lovely array of melon, yogurt, cereal, coffee, and tea. Bread for toast and some lovely homemade marmalade. There was also a jar of Manuka honey. Whoo Hoo! I have wanted to try this honey for a while so I opened the jar, took a big whiff, and…ewwww. Smells a bit like…I am not really sure. Very earthy and wheat grassy and looks very creamy, almost like a darker yellow jar of butter. I spread some on my toast and it actually tasted better than it smelled. This honey is a big deal here as only those who have bees near Manuka trees can claim to have Manuka honey. Hopefully, we will see one of these magical trees as honey is claimed to be great healthy food.

We had not planned too much to do in Auckland deciding to play it by ear. Pat and Cheryl suggested we take the ferry ride to Waiheke Island and check it out. Mike had also suggested it so we decided to head out there today. Love those ferry rides! We zip across the bay and under the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which we were able to see from the apartment. It is a big bridge and a lot of commuters use it, and it is a pretty bridge, nicely lit up at night. Not far past the bridge is a funky lighthouse, just standing on stilts in the middle of nowhere. When we returned we could see that it is on a pile of rocks as the tide had gone out. A good place to put it!

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We just happened to be on the side of the ferry where there was a little sailboat race just beginning.   The boats looked so tiny!   Always loved the beginning of a race as it looks like total chaos.

As we landed on Waiheke, we learned that it means cascading or ebbing water in Maori. But the Maori call the island Te Motu-arai-ora-the long sheltering island. There is a great combination of wineries, art galleries, and olive groves making a daylong stay easy to do. As we looked around for a bus, we did not see any but we had been told that they were easy to get and took you all around the island. A nice man helped us figure out the routes but the hot tip of the day-buy an all-day pass for $10 and you can hop on and off as much as you want to. Best way to do it!

2016 03 29 Waiheke - Onetangi Bay-102

We took our first bus to Onetangi beach. The road winds around curves travels up and down hills and we pass many tourists as well as islanders on their way to and from work. We also noticed some people on bikes, an idea we had thought of but Mike told us it was hilly and they had to work harder than they thought. So, bussing it is as we already had a late start. When we arrived at our destination bus stop, we could see this great stretch of sand that curved around a bay of aquamarine water. Green trees and palm trees were in the background around the far ends of the beaches. The hills gently sloped upwards and there were colorful houses dotted here and there. As we walked down the road, there was a restaurant called Charley Farleys and we decided to stop in to get some lunch. Great views of the beach and good food.

The interesting thing about the drinking water in restaurants is they do not automatically serve you water at your table. You actually go up to the bar, pour yourself some from a bottle set out for that purpose, or ask for a bottle to take to the table. Great idea-saves them time and fewer dishes to wash. Reminded us a bit of going to a bar in Scotland. There is no one to wait tables at the bars, so if you want a drink, you cannot sit at the table waiting for service like a dumb tourist. You go to the bar and get your drinks, then you sit. We have not been to a proper bar here yet so not sure of the protocol but were are ready to act like a native!

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After lunch, we took some stairs across from the restaurant down to the beach and, wow. The sand was so soft and the water so blue it almost seemed to be fake. Many people were swimming and the water felt refreshing when we stepped into it, but I am sure that it was chillier than the summer water would get. We walked for a bit, people-watching and searching for sea glass, and decided it was time to take the bus to one of the wineries on the island. There are 20 wineries on this island! Amazing considering the size of the island, only 83 miles of shoreline. We went up to the bus stop and waited…and waited…..I think we are spoiled by city buses. These island buses only come around about once an hour. At least we had a great view of the water and people watching to keep us occupied.

Our first Winery was Wild Estate. We had a chardonnay and a merlot, but most of their tasting wines were sold out. We also ordered two beers that they make, their fall limited edition and a wheat beer. The Merlot was ok, the beers were marginal but the Chardonnay…wow. It was good. It was actually not from Wild but was a Fallen Angel wine from the Otago region. We will be visiting there in a few weeks. Can’t wait to get there if the wines are all as good as this one!  And they had archery set up in the vine rows.   Not sure why….

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2016 03 29 Winery Waiheke - Stonyridge-102

Adjoining Wild Estate was the Stoneyridge Vineyard. They present themselves as a bit of Tuscany on the island, and, even though I have yet to go to Italy, we did get that Mediterranean feel. The views from their deck showed the rolling hills of the vines and many trees. We were going to travel to the south end of the island to see the olive groves, but when I walked down towards the trees below us, I realized they were olive trees. Beautiful trees with olives hanging off the branches but the olives were not ready. Not sure when they harvest them.

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The grapes were all lush and ready for picking so I had hoped to get some really good grape pics.   Alas, they cover all the vines with netting so that the birds will not eat them.   Makes sense and so I did the best I could.   They do look yummy!

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Took the bus back to the ferry and the ferry back to Auckland. We get up early in the morning to take a 4-hour bus ride north to the marina where our boat awaits us.

2016 03 29 Waiheke to Auckland Ferry-1022016 03 29 Auckland to Waiheke Ferry-100

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