Auckland, New Zealand 2010 – Day 13 & 14

05/07/10

Rangitoto island was on our schedule for the day. We ran to the dock to purchase our ferry tickets (30NZD Auckland->Rangitoto Return) but missed the ferry we intended to catch. So as we waited for the next ferry to arrive, we walked over to Westfield mall to do a little souvenir shopping and grab lunch. Since I’ve been down under, I’ve been really intrigued with the aboriginal culture of the Maori. I love the symbols and the meaning and wanted to find myself a pendant. I had no luck finding one in Australia that I truly loved but I got a nice seal or whale bone fish hook (hei matau) necklace for myself. The fish hook’s meaning in Maori culture signifies abundance, strength and determination. It is believed to bring peace, prosperity and good health. It harbours good luck and energy, and is believed to provide safe journey over water. It’s a good luck charm by travellers, boaties, fishermen and surfers.

The ferry ride was nice but very chilly riding on top. We got to the island and began our hour hike to the summit. Basically, Rangitoto Island is an inactive volcano with black soil and loads of volcanic rock. The hike was long but not too long. The paths are uneven as you are stepping on jagged and odd shaped volcanic rocks. My feet and knees cried in pain for a bit afterwards. There are also lava caves that have formed and are great to explore however we didn’t bring a “torch” aka flashlight but luckily a nice family lent us a torch to explore it ourselves. After we finished the cave, it was a gruesome slope of a hike to reach the summit where we could look into the core of what use to be an active volcano. Mind you, we felt we were running out of time so we rushed back to the docks to catch the ferry and return the torch to the family. The rest of the evening was spent walking around town and we visited the Skytower. We were too late to see Toi O Tamaki (art gallery) so we found ourselves at Jimmy Wong’s for dinner and then headed back to the hostel.

 

05/08/10

We decided to skip Bay of Islands because it is far North from Auckland and for a pickup it would be an extra 100 on the tour price. Instead we decided to take the link bus over (1.70NZD a ride) to Newmarket (the south point) to do shopping. Breakfast at Massimo. We tried to shop for a bit then made out way to Auckland Museum (25NZD). It’s a nice museum with 3 floors and many exhibits to see. I purchased a beautiful jade fish hook necklace from the gift shop here and its one of the more appealing ones I’ve seen. We spent a good 2-3 hours here exploring. After that, we walked up to Parnell Rd; another shopping area but by the time we arrived it was roughly 430PM and stores were closing. We ate dinner at La Porchetta (167-171 Parnell Rd) and wanted to get Movenpick Ice Cream after but alas, we decided to order 2 medium pizzas, a jug of coke and garlic bread thinking with our eyes over our stomach.

Melbourne, Australia – Auckland, New Zealand 2010 – Day 12

05/06/10

Since we did 2 full day tours in Melbourne, we weren’t able to really get a chance to see the town. I for one wanted to see Flinders Station and Federation Square and Chinatown area. We decided to get a late flight to Auckland so that we could explore. We took the tram – it runs on a honour system. You purchase your tickets on the back of the bus from a coin machine as the driver is sitting in a box and doesn’t interact with you. The trams run quite frequently. We made our way to Queen Victoria Market which is very similar to Toronto’s St Lawrence Market including a similar looking building albeit white instead of our burgundy one outside. We had a quick bite before we scurried past Chinatown and took to the main touristy streets I suppose. Did you know Federation Square is Australia’s largest free wifi hotspot or that Flinders Station is their Union Station as the central hub for transport. As I was taking a panoramic, a group of school kids with bright orange hats were crossing by and this little boy made my day. He basically saw me and had walked along with his class but then he turned back and walked back towards me and said hello! than ran back to his classmates. We didn’t have enough time to go shopping nor go through the National Gallery of Victoria (180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC 3006) (mind you the gift shop was lovely) but we we’re able to stop by San Churro Chocolateria (Shop LTL 255, QV Centre/Swanston Street) – basically gourmet chocolate churros and other chocolate products. I got a raspberry rumba which is a white chocolate shake with raspberry topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

We noticed the time and were running a tad late in returning to our hostel to catch the shuttle. We hopped on a tram but apparently the wrong one, hopped off and got back to the hostel right on time. We got to the airport about 4-430PM and our flight was at 605PM. We got to the Qantas check-in counter for our flight from Melbourne to Auckland and the lady asked to see our boarding pass out of New Zealand; having only booked a one way to New Zealand, we had to go purchase another ticket before we could even check in. Our minds weren’t clicking before that we were flying internationally meaning to another country so we didn’t think we needed to book a flight out. Anyways, we wanted to fly from Rotorua back to Sydney and stay a day with uncle Ronald and auntie Maisie but apparently the visa we had trouble getting before departing toronto (the ETA) is only valid for a single entry only so once you leave the country, you cannot come back in unless you reapply off of Australian soil overseas.

So this put us in a predicament as our international flight home was in Sydney. There were 2 plans that we looked into with the helpful people at Flight Centre, the first being – fly home from Auckland (cost double the price of our existing flight home = no good), 2- book a ticket to Fiji and show that to get us approved for our Auckland flight (which was almost ready to depart) and once we get through, cancel the ticket and reapply for Australian visa once we landed and book a ticket back to Sydney. So for a split second we purchased a ticket to Fiji. As we purchased that ticket, we went back to the check-in desk and the manager of the check-in  desk with the Qantas team had told us since we have proof of our returning home flight that all we need to do is purchase a ticket back to Sydney but we would not be able to leave the international terminal as we would be “transiting” to our home of origin flight thus, no need for a new visa. Andrew ran back to change the ticket while I waited at the gate. We were indeed the last ones checked in but luckly not the last ones to board as we cleared security quickly. Apparently, Qantas and Air Canada have some sort of agreement where you can connect with one another allowing our checked baggage to transit through to our next flight although they are not connecting flights in one ticket purchase. We hopped on and flew roughly 3 and 1/2 hours and because of the time change (2+) we arrived at 11PM-12AM-ish.

We are staying Freemans Lodge which apparently is New Zealand’s #1 hostel and last year NZ’s cleaniest hostel. Once you enter, your shoes must be taken off. Did I mention free wifi the whole length of the stay. This hostel is apparently known as a B&B but there is only free tea and coffee and our twin private shared bathroom is actually a double bed in a smallish private room with a shared bathroom.