Day 3 of our North Island holiday (April 2, 2012)
We awoke to a cloudy sky on Monday, April 2nd, and were hoping that it wasn’t going to rain for our plan that day to hike a volcano. Can’t say I’ve ever hiked through the remains of a dormant volcano; that’s not something I do every day. Our packs were ready to be carried and our feet were restless to walk new paths in the wild outdoors. Of course, we had to encounter some stress before our adventure; perhaps these moments arise just to keep us on our toes. We checked out of our hotel and climbed into our overcrowded car. I do believe I left behind only two articles of clothing in Wellington for our trip; one has to be prepared for all the weather elements. So I brought my whole wardrobe with me, even though my wardrobe is about one-fourth of what it used to be before we left the States.
We had a time limit as we had looked up the ferry departure times to go out to Rangitoto Island. The last one was leaving at 9:45. We only had about 20 minutes when we left the hotel before it would depart. Josh drove up to the ferry station, and after a confrontation with a security officer who thankfully let us park our car at the curb for a few minutes, Josh went inside to book our tickets and find out where to park. There was a massive parking lot beside the ferry terminal, which would have been extremely convenient, and logical, for us to park at. But no, that wasn’t for us, the people at the ferry station told my husband, and they pointed to a parking garage a couple blocks down the road where we would have to hightail it back in order to make our ferry. Josh was freaking out and saying there was no way we were going to make it back; I hate seeing him stressed out like that…why couldn’t this just be easy; a calm and peaceful experience? I hate rushing and being rushed. The parking wasn’t going to be cheap either, and he had asked me what I wanted to do before he bought the tickets; a split second decision, but we didn’t want to miss out on this hike. So we screeched the tires and zoomed down the road to the parking garage and Josh frantically searched for an open space. Nothing on ground one, nor the second level. He was freaking out. It was quite funny, especially in retrospect we laugh at ourselves and how we react in certain situations. I was going crazy in my head too, though, because for one thing I was hoping I wouldn’t get sick on the ferry or when we were on the Island and stranded, and also I hadn’t packed all I needed to yet into my day pack. We only had like 10 minutes left before our ferry was to leave. We at last found a spot, threw our daypacks together, slung them on our shoulders and ran through the garage looking for the elevator. We went into the elevator and I could swear I heard the song playing in the background, “It’s like rain, on your wedding day, a green light when you’re already late, isn’t it ironic,”; you know, that song by Alanis Morrissette. Except for the fact that we were getting no green lights when we were already late; things weren’t cooperating. They were out to get us, as I like to say. We walked into this elevator that seemed very futuristic, and waited for the doors to close and take us to the ground floor. It wouldn’t close. The elevator started talking to us. Josh pushed the door close button and to take us to ground floor, and the doors did finally close but the elevator just sat there and did not move. He was definitely about to have a melt down, and this time I was being the one to tell him to calm down (it’s usually me getting all bent out of shape). Don’t you love when things like that happen? It’s like the elevator was laughing at us, and knew we were late, and was playing games with us. We were like, “forget this!” And opened the doors and ran out and scurried down the stairs.
We walked super fast and were basically running down the street to get back to the ferry terminal and I was really hoping we were going to make it. I was already feeling so tired, though, and knew this wouldn’t be good for us, especially if this hike we were about to go on was difficult. My body doesn’t seem to handle stress too well, and it can really make it feel hard to breathe and my muscles tense up and stuff; kind of hard to explain. So anyways, it was still kind of comical though, and I was seeing the movie “One Fine Day” play in my head; Josh was George Clooney and I was the cool Michelle Pfeiffer, rushing around the big city, thriving on stress and deadlines and hoping to get the kids to the ferry on time for their field trip, all while holding a bowl with a goldfish in it and running in high heels. I slowed us down when we got to the terminal because we didn’t have a chance to get a water bottle and I thought it might be our last time to get one. Despite his stress and hurriedness, Josh pulled out some coins from his pocket to get me a water bottle. Sold out. Then it wouldn’t give him his money back. He pushed a coke button, and so we got a canned coke to take with us on a grueling hike; very healthy. We hurried over to our ferry, and thankfully it was still there. We walked inside the small Fuller’s ferry, and onto the bottom floor cabin area and took our seats. I was worried about not having a water bottle for our hike, plus water bottles our like my comfort “blankie”, and, fortunately, there was a little shop and I at last got my confounded water bottle that was causing so much trouble to obtain. I wasn’t used to being in this kind of boat, the ferry from the North to South Island was huge, this was just a small vessel, and the sea was pretty choppy and we could really feel the boat just a rocking. I am not up for this kind of stuff after all, I was thinking to myself, and thinking our fun was going to have to be ruined by me, with me afraid I was going to get sick or just backing out completely. Funny how fear and anxiety can really hinder you sometimes, if you let it. Thankfully we learned they had an upper deck, so we climbed up the stairs out onto the open aired platform. All the people turned their heads to look as we climbed up and they all seemed to smile at us. These were our kind of people; out here to get an authentic, non-sheltered experience. They weren’t afraid to get wet. It also helped me not feel motion sickness at all, and I felt calm again. I had nothing to be afraid of, I realized, once the boat started going. In fact, it was quite fun, and Josh and I felt like kids as we jumped up and down as it hit bigger waves and we almost fell down a couple times. It was a little disappointing that it was cloudy, but we didn’t mind that much; we were ready to go explore this volcano. We even had a tour guide over the loud speaker, so that was a bonus, and provided interesting information. It was awesome watching the boat slowly leave Auckland, and beholding the skyline with the Sky Tower, and taking in, once again, where we were and what we were doing. I felt pretty lucky. We watched the city get smaller, then, turned our heads to watch a deserted island get closer and closer to us. The spray of the water on our faces was invigorating and made us feel alive, along with the strong wind hitting us, whipping my air all about me. Watching the gulls fly around us, peacefully drifting on their own journey, and knowing we were about to have a remote island to discover and explore, it was truly a breath of fresh air.
“And forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
~ Kahlil Gibran
We at last reached the pier and the boat dropped us off at Rangitoto Island. The island was ours to explore. We were warned to be back at 3:45, the last ferry of the day, otherwise we would be left behind on the isolated island. Oooh, that would be scary, but kind of fun, and I was imagining if that happened to us, what would we do? There were a couple dozen of people and different tracks to go on; we, of course, were aiming to get to the summit, and see the crater of the volcano. We at last abandoned the groups of people, and were alone to walk along the rocky path and stare in wonder at the black volcanic rocks covering the ground all around us. It was so quiet, except for the few birds we’d hear along the way in the trees. It was pretty sweet, and we got to use our imaginations and pretend we were marooned on an island and trying to survive (at least that’s what was going on in my head, not sure about Josh, haha). It wasn’t too difficult of a trek, though when we saw the top of the summit through the trees, it did look pretty far still and high up. It really did expend our energy, though, and we stopped at a bench area to eat our, yes, sandwiches. We were giving each other funny looks and trying not to laugh as we were eating our bread, and every body and their mother (literally, families with children were there as well) wanted to read the fact marker in that moment by our bench as we sat there. It was awkward. We took our time, and loved to be outdoors, doing something. Every now and again we would catch a glimpse of the city through an opening.
The closer we reached the summit, we approached the heavily wooded area, and it felt like we were in a rainforest; the green moss covered the trees and the air smelled of wet, rich earth. I love that smell. We finally reached one of the viewing areas that overlooked the cone of the volcano. That was so weird to see. Instead of a mountain having a peak at the top and rising up towards the sky, it was pointed inward down into the earth. Life had regrown since the explosion green plants and thriving trees with birds flying across from tree to tree. Listening to the silence was quite eerie and I was hoping it wasn’t planning on becoming un-dormant anytime soon. We continued on, further up to the very top of the island, up wooden stairs that they had built for easier access. The view was amazing. I can imagine what it would look like on a sunny day; for we were captivated by the panoramic views from this island in the middle of the sea, and I wondered what all the places were I was seeing. I know we saw and actually passed Waiheke Island on our way there, and perhaps I saw Australia from up there, too. Haha. Josh carved our initials with a heart on the wooden railing, which made me happy. We got to the top just in time to have a good view, and we got a rush when we saw the rain coming across and falling down on the Sky Tower and other high rises far in the distance in front of us. It looked so small from here. To our left, we saw another wall of rain heading straight our way, and we were already feeling the mist hitting us. We were about to get drenched! That gets your blood pumping and filled us with an even more sense of daring and adventure. We stayed up there a few moments getting videos and pictures while we could. There was a building up there that we walked into, and was pretty cool; it had something to do with a war shelter. I pretended for a few moments if we had been stranded, that we could stay here and it would protect us from the elements. I have an active imagination, and I like to use it any chance I can get.
We headed off the summit and back into the trees to protect us from the rain, which was lightly falling now. We still had plenty of time before the last ferry, and so we went down another path this time to the lava caves. That sounded thrilling and mysterious; there was no way we could miss that. Along our way up the summit, a girl around our age and her grandmother talked to us for a moment about the lava caves and how cool they were. They were really nice and friendly. So, Josh and I went exploring some more, in search of these caves. We hadn’t passed by any people in quite a while, and I just followed behind Josh, lost in my thoughts and imagination. I love doing that, feeling in one with nature, and talking to God too, in different moments. It was fun, and very bonding for Josh and I, without having to talk. The path was packed down, wet earth, with tree roots and stones scattered across, feeling very natural and rustic . . . so much better than a man made path with gravel rocks or cement. We came across one little cavern, which I thought was what the lava caves were, and I was quite impressed. Josh saw a silver light coming from the pitch-black tunnel, and got his camera out and started taking pictures so the flash would reveal what creature it was. It was so scary; I had no idea what it was; what kind of wild or mythical animal we had encountered and what might leap out at us. We finally realized what it was; a candy wrapper. Haha. I was filming one of the caves and then Josh, of course, scared me by throwing a rock close by me. I nearly jumped out of my skin! The tree roots were growing up out of the split earth and above our heads as we ducked in looking at the small caves. Well, I thought that’s what all the fuss was about, which was cool enough for me, but we walked further on and finally found the real lava caves. We had found that girl and her grandma along the way again, who told us that you can actually walk through the caves, just be sure you have a flashlight. The cave you had to walk down into and you could barely see through to the other side. I wasn’t too sure about this; but then again, I had to do this! We had no flashlight, only the beam of light that was a “flashlight” on our little ghetto Vodafone cell. I got the video camera out and started rolling. That was definitely scary; walking into pitch darkness, having to duck your head, and not knowing what you are walking on and what is sticking out of the earth on either side of you. It was cold. I had the feeling a million eyes were watching me; that I had just walked into the Mines of Moria and was about to be grabbed by an Orc. Or, that I would see the pale lights of Gollum’s eyes staring at me, asking to give him his precious. Josh was in front of me, holding the nearly worthless hint of light in the blackness, and holding my hand, helping me crawl over the rocks. As we were halfway through, I felt a bit panicky, and was ready to get out. I slipped a couple times and was praying to God to forgive me my sins and for going in there, and asking if He would please not cause the volcano to erupt again or there to be an earthquake. I was so jumpy, I screamed when another couple had found the cave and the young man called down making a scary noise from behind as we were walking through. I don’t think he knew we were there but was trying to scare his wife, haha. At last, we approached the light at the end of the tunnel, and we were out into the safe daylight again. That was fun, and I felt brave and accomplished after that escapade.
The rest of our trek back down the volcano we passed through the dark, rainforest-like trees again, and I felt in tune with nature. Josh laughed at me as I started singing, “Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest, come taste the sun sweet berries of the earth, come roll in all the riches all around you, and for once never wonder what they’re worth . . .”. That song gets stuck in my head a lot, especially if I’m out in the wild. Oh, how I wanted to be Pocahontas so bad growing up!
We had about thirty minutes left until our departing ferry was to arrive, and it was taking a long while to get back down. The closer we got to the bottom, then it started raining more heavily and once we were out of the shade of the trees it started pouring. Thankfully we had our rain jackets, which didn’t seem to do much good when my hood kept flying off with the wind, but it felt thrilling nonetheless and exciting to be daring the natural elements. We could hear the sea again, and the waves were really crashing against the shore. What if we got stranded here, in a tropical cyclone? It was not hard to pretend again, as I watched the waves leaping in the air and my eyes were squinting through the cold, sticky, salty rain. We gathered underneath a shelter with a few other people and we were so starving and ate another sandwich as we waited. At last, our ferry arrived, so we all braved the cold, pelting rain and stood out on the pier, feeling the boards underneath us sway with the waves; I knew this was going to be a rough ride going back, and was hoping we would make it.
The ride back was actually pretty relaxing (minus the part of sitting across from strangers, both not knowing where to look and just feeling awkward) and we sat inside this time, obviously, right behind the captain’s quarters. That was cool to peek in the window at all the computers and feel like we were somehow manning the boat ourselves. Everyone in the ferry looked weary from the day’s hike. Josh and I were tired, wet and cold with our soggy clothes clinging to our bodies, but I still felt extremely invigorated.
When we pulled into the terminal and were waiting to dock, I nudged Josh and said, “Look!” We both laughed. We saw where we had been the night before, looking for that restaurant. We saw the Mexican sign again, and the café/bar we had mistaken it for . . . and right beside it? The Mexican Restaurant. Yep, RIGHT beside it. Haha. We felt so dumb.
We were quite weary after that adventure and were ready to go check into our new hotel. Oh yes, and by the way, I forgot to mention this earlier, but while we were hiking up the volcano, our cell phone rang. It was the manager of the Copthorne. She talked to Josh for several minutes about the overbooking situation and apologized profusely to us, and asked us how long we were staying in Auckland. We said this was our last night, and that for our final night we were staying at the Copthorne Harbour City Hotel. We had a regular room, which when I had read reviews, I was a bit skeptical of this hotel because the reviews said the bathrooms were really old and in need of serious renovation and to make it more modern. Well, lucky for us after all, because the manager then upgraded us to a suite! We heard that before, obviously with the Kingsgate, but we knew for this hotel that would be quite a treat! I couldn’t wait to see our room. So we walked back, slowly this time, to our car in the parking garage, and after many confusing and frustrating moments of not being able to find what level we had parked, and after successfully going up and down the elevator that fully cooperated this time, we finally found our car and drove to the Copthorne just a couple blocks down the road. Josh checked us in and we even got free parking which was nice after the hefty price we had to pay in the previous parking garage. Our suite was on the top floor, the seventh! We went up to our room, and I was quite happy! It was a sigh of relief to see a squeaky clean and modern bedroom with a luxurious King bed and a view overlooking the harbor. It was so wonderful. I guess the suite bathrooms had been upgraded, because there were no complaints from me on that . . . it was just beautiful! Glass shower with marble stone walls and a spa bath. Woo Hoo! We had made a booking to eat at The Orbit in the Sky Tower that night, which I had been looking forward to going into the tower for ages.
I felt like a girly girl again as I spent the next three hours getting ready for our fancy date night; a unique dining experience to celebrate our anniversary, in the Auckland Sky Tower of all places! Haha. I got all dressed up for my hubby, and then we opened our door and out in the hallway we said, “Woah!” when we saw the Sky Tower from the hall window glowing brilliantly white against the night sky. Since it was just a few blocks away, we’d figure we would just have ourselves a nice stroll downtown instead of paying for parking or getting a taxi. It was quite romantic and we took our time and took several pictures and videos as we approached and kept craning our heads to look up at its incredible height.
Josh and I walked into the lobby that was filled with people, lights, casinos, restaurants, and a contagious livelihood. “We should have stayed here!” we both said to each other. It felt like we were in Vegas or something, but it was still very classy as we walked into the atrium and to the hostess station. We had to give our name and we were allowed to be up taken up to the viewing deck 45 minutes before our restaurant experience to give us time to take in the sights. Our elevator bell person called for the elevator and we waited patiently for it to come all the way back down to earth. Then she sent us on our merry way. The viewing deck was on the 51st floor! What was even better, or perhaps worse, was that, on the way up, there was a large portion of the floor of the elevator being completely see-through glass! Our stomachs definitely dropped to the floor as the elevator zipped up in the air and I instantly felt my legs get shaky as I looked down and saw the world get smaller and I prayed I wouldn’t fall through. It didn’t help my equilibrium balance or psychological peace of mind that I was wearing high stiletto heels, either. We’d already been slowly determining that Josh believes he has a fear of heights, and this experience definitely confirmed that theory. I can handle climbing mountains and stand on the edge and it not bother me that much, but this was maybe going to be a little too much for me.
We got to the very top, quickly, I might add, and walked slowly out into the enclosed viewing deck. Our reservation was at 8:00 and we got there around 7:15, so the city lights were glowing bright which you could see for miles as it had stopped raining and the sky was clear. It really took your breath away, literally, being up there. I walked slowly around in my heels and was trying to get a hold of my psyche and convince myself that this wasn’t so bad. It helped to look at Josh’s wide eyes and at him nervously chewing his gum so that I could laugh, uneasily of course, but it helped me relax. There was another platform area that had the see-through glass for you to walk across, which after much probing, I did as Josh videotaped me. I couldn’t believe that some people have the nerve to do the walk on the balcony outside, and that some bungee jump off the tower! This was enough for me, behind this glass. It’s amazing how knowing you are up that high and your mind getting away from you and how it can make you feel so nervous. Obviously this thing was quite sturdy, but I had to wonder when it was just a narrow tower, and to imagine if there was an earthquake or even a whisper of wind, it had to just collapse! Josh and I were feeling super anxious by now, and feeling the effects of a long, tiring day and somewhat fairly stressful experience since we’d arrived in this big city with all the little miss haps. We still had a while to go before dinner, and I was thinking about us actually eating; would I be able to do this? Could Josh handle it? We sat down for a while on the benches and were groaning and making a big deal to each other about how weird we both felt and super anxious, and just kind of laughing at ourselves. I was feeling dizzy. We tried to take our minds off it by looking at all the interesting facts which I learned quite a few things:
-At 328 metres (1,076 ft) tall Sky Tower is the 12th tallest tower in the world (taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris).
-The tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere.
-The elevators travel at 18km per hour and the ride takes only 40 seconds.
-On a clear day you can see approximately 82 kilometres (51 miles) from Sky Tower.
-It has been designed to remain essentially undamaged during storms with winds gusting to 200 km/hr (125 mph), which can result in sway at the top of the concrete shaft of approximately one metre
-In the extreme event of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake occurring within 20 kilometres of the tower, analysis shows that Sky Tower would remain standing.
Some of those facts were quite reassuring. We finally went up to The Orbit restaurant, and felt even more nervous and skeptical that we could handle this when we saw the outside floor where the tables were was slowly rotating! We already knew it would do this, but being up close and personal and really experiencing it, now that didn’t seem like a good idea. On the 52nd floor, spinning around while eating food?! That is definitely enough to make you lose your lunch. The hostess took us to our table and I felt scared I was gonna fall as we walked off the stable “landlocked” part of the restaurant and out onto the rotating platform and to our table. We weren’t right beside the window, which was fine with Josh, but almost felt worse as from the corner of your eye you could see that you were moving. Of course it doesn’t go very fast at all, but Josh and I were ready to order and get ‘er done! I ordered steak and he got fish, which was pretty good but definitely overpriced…guess it was all for the experience. I looked up one time and was like, “where are we?” Because we had started off by the hostess stand and now we were looking into the kitchen. When we had a few moments that we felt somewhat calm we talked about how cool this was and we never would have imagined we’d be sitting up here, in the Southern Hemisphere, in New Zealand, on our one year anniversary. We laughed at each other still for we could tell how anxious we were, but Josh most especially. We didn’t tarry too long after our meal, we practically dashed out, and felt so relieved when our feet were back on solid ground.
I felt like I could breathe again and we stopped by the Weta Cave shop where I was able to see more Lord of the Rings gifts and memorabilia. I saw Frodo’s cloak for $1,300.00, and was very tempted to buy it.
We enjoyed our walk back to our hotel, and felt giddy after that tense dinner. Auckland had been an experience, but we were glad this was our last night, and couldn’t wait to hit the road on to the Bay of Islands the next morning!