War Memorials and Wineries
Today, I hop on good ol’ bus #20 to head to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. I’m not positive of the best route, but I know the general direction I want to go in and I just love leaving time to get lost as that’s when I tend to find the best adventures. As I board, I ask the driver if this is the best way to get to the museum and she and another gentleman instruct me to hop off at the next stop and take the Inner Link Bus. The Inner and Outer Link buses do a full-circle route which hits some of the most popular areas close by. At NZ$2.50, they cost the same as the regular public buses.
It takes a while but, eventually, I arrive at the museum. Here’s a hint, if you take the Inner Link bus, get off at the Museum stop or at the Hospital stop, whichever comes first, as the walk is about equidistant and there’s no need to do the whole ride around the loop if you’re already there. I walk into the museum and collect my ticket. I plan to wander around the museum on my own (tours are available), but first, take in the Māori cultural performance. As I arrive just fifteen-minutes before the next performance, I wait in the Special Exhibitions Hall and hang with the half-naked Māori men because, well, do I really need a reason to hang with the half-naked Maori men? After a few minutes, the ladies appear (damn) and invite us into the performance room.
The thirty-minute narrated show provides a taste of traditional Māori song and dance. There are traditional rhythmic instruments, songs and chants, and a traditional Haka (or warrior dance), which has become popular with some college sports teams. If you come to this museum, you might want to add this to your day. I leave the naked men behinds, uh, no wait, I leave the naked men behind and set off to explore the museum.
The museum is divided between three floors with the ground floor concentrating New Zealand living and settlement. The first floor (or second floor for us Americans) concentrates on the natural part of New Zealand including oceans, land and volcanoes, and the top floor contains wartime history and memorials.
I stroll through the bottom floor enjoying stories of sailors and settlers, and a look at fashion and furniture. New Zealand is a young country, so much of this concentrates on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I move on to the first floor where I see some great white sharks and enjoy a cool presentation on volcanoes. The volcano presentation has me taking a seat on the sofa of a living-room set. The door closes and the TV comes on. It’s a special report on a volcano eruption threat in Auckland Harbour. It’s all fake, of course, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for the four year-old sitting next to me. I whisper to the mom, “He knows this isn’t real, right?” She assures me that he does but I still expect him to be waking up mom screaming about volcanoes tonight. Soon the large screen in front of us shows rocks and water spurting out of the harbor and the floor begins shaking. The cloud of ash, soot and rocks fills the screen and even if the four-year old doesn’t, I’m sure I’ll have nightmares of erupting volcanoes tonight.
I head upstairs where I learn of New Zealand’s involvement in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War. (This one is surprising to me as I never really thought about New Zealand in Vietnam.) There are memorials to soldiers lost in battle, as well as individual stories of local heroes.
Finished with the museum, I step outside and catch the Inner Link bus back to Ponsonby, which is the area just next to where I’m staying. Ponsonby is a suburb of Auckland and Ponsonby Road has some great bars, restaurants and shops. I step off the bus and stop at Blue Breeze Inn for a drink and a bite to eat. I decide to skip dinner and go straight for drinks and dessert, so I order up a nice glass of red wine and the Choc Pot. I’m sitting in an enclosed porch area which has great views of the street for people-watching. Red wine, chocolate and people-watching, what could be better? While I enjoy the wine, the Choc Pot, it’s just a bit too chocolatey (I never knew there was such a thing), but now I’m set for chocolate for at least another week. I head back to the AirBnb and chat with Ruth, the owner, and her kids for a bit as it’s been a couple of days since we’ve caught up.
I wake up in the morning and catch the #20 bus down to the ferry terminal. I’m heading to Waiheke, an island filled with vineyards and wineries. There are a couple of ferries and I jump on the Fullers ferry for the half-hour ride to Waiheke. The ride lasts a bit long as the captain comes on the speaker and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed that we’ve come to a stop as another vessel has put out a distress call due to a medical emergency on board and we’re going to see if we can help (ooh, we’re like Mighty Mouse – “Here I come to save the day!”). The ferry turns around and, out the window we see a sailboat with a few people, one of whom is in obvious distress. While I got a late start and really just want to get to Waiheke, some things take precedence. We spend a few minutes wondering if we’ll be taking them in board and heading back to Auckland Harbour when a police boat appears and our engines are, once again, fired up as we make our way to Waiheke.
When we finally arrive and I step off and head over towards the right where I’ve been told there are some wineries within walking distance. I stop by a car/scooter rental to inquire as to scooter rental rates which, at NZ$50 (US$33.50) are too high for my blood (Toto, we’re not in Asia any more) and also, probably not a great idea to attempt while wine tasting.
There’s a hiking path lined with beautiful flora and fauna hiding just behind the car rental which takes me past hillside vineyards and, after fifteen-minutes, leads to Cable Bay Vineyards. I plunk my NZ$10 down and, in return, will get to try five varieties of wine. I begin with a Sauvignon Blanc, which I take out into the plastic-enclosed dining porch to enjoy the beautifully sunny, yet crisp, winter day. The porch sits on a hillside overlooking a lovely landscaped lawn with the sea in the distance. As I’ve chosen to sit outside instead of in the tasting room, I must walk up to the bar for each new taste. I think of this as my field sobriety test and, if I can walk the straight line inside, I get to have another taste (because there’s wine, I walk the line – thanks to Johnny Cash)). I do this four times and, after I’m sufficiently convinced that I’m still fairly sober, I take a quick tour of the rest of the place before heading out for another fifteen-minute walk up to Mudbrick Winery, where I throw another NZ$10 down on the counter and am served another five-tastes of some fine fermented beverages.
I sit outside here, once again, admiring the view, which means I do the sobriety walk four more times before deciding that some food might be in order. As the food at the winery can be a bit pricey, and I want to stop by Oneroa, the main town on Waiheke, I walk fifteen-minutes down the hill and grab a bite of ravioli at Fenice. The ravioli is good, but nothing special, but the wood-burning fireplace is just what I need as the sun begins to set and the air starts to chill.
I catch the bus out front down to the ferry terminal where I meet a lovely family from the U.S. We climb aboard the ferry and chat the entire way. They ask to take photos with me so they’ll have them when I’m famous (from their mouth to god’s ears) and, as we dock, we say our good-nights. I walk over to the downtown transportation depot and grab the #20 back to my AirBnB. Two buses and a ferry following wine tasting and I don’t get lost; a successful day.