On December 1st the Noordam arrived in Auckland. When we were looking through the list of excursions for this port neither Josh nor myself were particularly excited about any of them. We chose the "Waitakere Wilderness Experience" and decided to just go with it.
When we got off the ship we were greeted by a large, bearded man with a 15 seater van. We hopped in the van and off we went. Our driver, Wayne (I think it was Wayne) told us about the history of Auckland and some of the things we would be seeing during our excursion. Not only was he super friendly and knowledgeable, he was hilarious!
Wayne told us that during our excursion we were going to drive all the way across the country, see various volcanos, and go bush walking in one of the largest calderas. Awesome!
We drove over some mountains (the edge of the caldera) and then stopped at the Arataki Center. Here we took scenic pictures and before going into the Visitor Center to learn more about the Maori.
[A huge frame was outside the Arataki Center]
[Manukau Harbour with the jungle (or "bush" as the locals call it)]
After spending a few minutes at the Visitor Center we all jumped back into the van and headed to an outlook where we could see the beautiful Piha, the Lion Rock, and the black sand beach!
Wayne told us we would be going to the beach later but for now we were on our way to the Bush to go bush walking inside the caldera! Super cool!
[Kereru (wood pigeon) - We spent WAY TOO LONG trying to get a photo of this bird. Everyone in our group was obsessed. I didn't understand it.]
They called this the fertility tree. Wayne told us that if you walk underneath it and turn to the right you would have a boy and if you turned right you would have a girl.
After our bush walk we went back to the van where Wayne served us cookies, Manuka honey, and juice. That honey is so amazing! It is the best honey I have ever had!
After our snack (or "afternoon tea") we went back to Piha where we walked on the black sand beach.
It was pretty cold but that didn't stop some of the locals from surfing!
Our last stop was to see the Kauri Tree. This massive tree was over 150 meters tall!! You can't even get the whole thing in one photo!
What a cool excursion! We had no expectations about this one and we were so happy with the out come! Wayne was so great and it's fun to tell people that we drove across New Zealand TWICE while we were down there!
[The star on the east coast is Auckland and the star on the west is Piha]
Wayne dropped us off in downtown Auckland where we wondered around for a few minutes before heading back to the ship.