Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mom in Kiwiland: day 2

[click title for link to pictures]
My initial thought was to take mom out to Piha Beach, but Julie got to reading and noticed that there was a scenic drive through the Waitakere Ranges. Julie plotted us onto the Scenic Drive - that's the name of the road - that would take us from Titirangi (stopped for a coffee & bank machine) along the eastern fringe of the ranges through to Swanson. Mom has been quite entertaining in her search for regular drip coffee. Very few coffee shops serve the stuff as down here (Auz included) as they are all quite keen on the espresso stuff. So we keep telling her to get a "flat white" which is espresso with milk as far as I can tell. She finally found one shop on Waiheke Island but the result was such a strong coffee that she'd have been better off with the flat white. :^)

Upon entering the ranges via the narrow twisty road, we stopped at the visitor info centre which looks remarkable BC-ish with its totem pole in front. Not so BC-ish with its "well-hung" Maori carved figurines inside. Julie figures that if you're going to carve an image of yourself, you might as well make it complimentary.

The maps we got at the centre weren't all that condusive to precise navigation - buy a better map, where I don't know. [Later that night I finally downloaded all of the required software and got us set up with some flash NZ GPS maps courtesy of Sweet as]
First stop was a short little walk (Auckland City Walk - sponsored by) through a NZ rainforest. It's a nice short walk (just over an hour) nestled in a valley below a nice-looking golf course. We got to see the big kauri trees and palms and ferns and other pines. Pretty nice. Mom's getting her baptism by fire in terms of learning to walk up and down hills.

I made a bad call on trying to head for Bethels Beach for lunch instead of having it here. We hit construction on the one road in and got sent off on a gravel road that put us backwards a few km. Finally after driving up another hill only to find the trail was 7km long I declared that we were going to eat our lunch off of the car's bonnet. Julie wasn't impressed with the digs but mom and I thought it was a choice place to snack on jalapeno hummus and crackers and fruit.

We did make it to Bethels beach and mom was in awe of the wildness of the place: the crashing surf, the wind-whipped shoreline grasses and the towering hills above.

We ignorantly defaulted on our rental car's return time as we realized we wouldn't get back to Auckland in time to return it. Thus Julie reckoned we should take one more walk. The brochure says it's a nice little walk to a nice little lake tucked in amongst the sand dunes. Sounded good. But it didn't mention how long the "little" walk took nor that it was through a stream for 80% of the way. After what seemed like forever (realistically it took us almost exactly the suggested walk time of 30min) we finally happened upon a little lake nestled between a massive sand dune and the green hills. Julie jumped straight in to Lake Wainamu, while I climbed up the dunes.
So funny thing for the way back! I reckoned that since we walked AROUND the dunes to get here, it'd be closer to walk OVER them on the way back. Mom said she needed a head start so I point her off in the direction that I felt was correct. Julie said I was crazy sending my mom off across what looked like a desert with no confirmation that I was right. Turns out mom went off down a little trail that I hadn't anticipated being there and hit a dead end. Fortunately she popped back out while Julie & I were scanning the horizon wondering where she went. In the end we made it back to the car with no incident and my sense of direciton was correct.
Back in Auckland we treated mom to an outdoor movie. Auckland City's Movies in Parks is neat *free* event where they showcase Kiwi films on a big inflatable movie screen in one of the many parks in the city. Tres cool. Bring a lawnchair, grab a crepe and a hot chocolate and enjoy the show. Mom got a kick out of it even though we missed most of the insider kiwi jokes.

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