Friday, January 13th, 2023

Distance travelled 18 kilometres

Despite our late, post-midnight, arrival, we were greeted cheerfully and dealt with efficiently. Nevertheless, by the time we had unpacked and taken (much needed) showers, it was already nearly two in the morning, so we were not about to get much sleep.

At eight o’clock in the morning, we were already at breakfast. In Lucie’s travel diary/itinerary, the date was marked “supposed to be a rest day”. That was not how it turned out.

Although the pickup for our rental Harley had been originally agreed for Saturday morning, I had agreed with Ali, from Bulrangi Motorcycles, that we would collect it on the Friday evening at 17:30. That left the day clear to do a few necessary things. Immediately after breakfast, we got organized and went on foot to the city.

We had a rather vague route plan and three clear assignments – to get a local SIM card, to exchange cash money because we had been told that was the cheapest way and to buy manicure scissors because you cannot bring any when you only have hand luggage.

It was about a 20-minute walk to the city centre (just like in Australia, it is called “CBD“, Central Business District). It was a little bit drizzly, but it was warm. During those 20 minutes, the sun came out and it started to get very warm and, naturally, humid.

We got a SIM card, quite easily, from the SPARK network. The staff in the shop were very helpful and it appeared to be going fine. After the fiasco in Australia, when trying the same thing, we made them prove it all worked – and it did. As soon as we went on-line, the first thing I got was an iMessage from Ali asking if we could make it at 15:00 or even earlier, so that Baz, her husband, could leave the city before the rush hour. There seemed no reason why not, so we eventually agreed that she would send an Uber to our hotel at 13:00.

Next, we found a money exchange, strangely, most banks no longer operate this service. If nothing else, this proves that listening to other people is not always sensible. We changed our Euros, but the rate was simply terrible ! We live, we learn. Luckily, Lucie got her scissors easily !

On the walk back out of town, my bumped knee hurt a lot, so Lucie, always prepared (for me injuring myself), produced some prednisone tablets that she just happened to have with her and, I have to say, the soothing effects were immediate.

We had just enough time to change into our motorbike clothes before the Uber arrived. He drove us to a residential area and a house that did not look like a rental place at all. It was the garage of a family house, but Baz and Ali, who rented us the motorbike, do not live there full-time. They have a farm near the east coast and were keen to get there for the weekend. As Baz filled out the paperwork with us, it turned out that he was renting us his very own bike. It was a Heritage Softail, the same as the one we had in Australia, just a little older. It had already done 400,000 kilometres and Baz has plans to make that a million. He obviously loved it as it gleamed like new and although to someone who knows, its age is obvious, the man in the street would never guess from just looking. It was beautifully maintained by someone who really knows what he is doing and, I assure you, it rode like new.

Completing the formalities took a while because it was done the “old-fashioned” way, with paper (I liked that) – and I liked Baz. He may look a bit like a member of ZZ Topp, but I know a ”real” biker when I meet one !

Oddly, exchanging contacts took the most time, because even with a local SIM card we cannot call from the iPAD and we (Lucie) needed WhatsApp. In the end it worked. I do not know how and I do not really care – I like my iMessage !!

As I mentioned above, Baz’s wife Ali had been extremely helpful in making it all happen. The whole thing was slick but with a nice, laid back, Kiwi vibe. If you ever plan on doing what we did, or even an “organised” tour, you should contact them. I am sure you would not regret it.

Finally, everything was done and we could leave. Rather alarmingly, for our credibility, Lucie started to get on while I was still putting the stand up and we very nearly destroyed Baz’s beloved bike right in front of his eyes.

Luckily, I caught it and all was OK. In truth “luckily” scarcely sums it up because although we had bought insurance to cover our excess in the event of a calamity, my stupid UK bank had rejected the payment (Yes, Lloyds Bank, that means YOU !). Luckily, we did manage to sort things out back at the hotel.

On the way home, I suggested that we should take advantage of being mobile and visit one of the two attractions that I had chosen in Auckland (and Lucie agreed). This was Mount Eden, the cupola of an extinct volcano and the highest point in Auckland at 196 metres above sea level. The SatNav was, fortunately exactly the same as ours at home, so we had no difficulty in getting it to take us there.

Being able-bodied, we had to trudge uphill from the parking lot to a little way below the summit. The actual top was closed, for renovations. How you “renovate” an extinct volcano is beyond me – hopefully NOT by fixing the part that spews out molten lava !

In the heat and with a still dicky knee, the hike up was not the fun it could have been. The view over the city did make it worthwhile, though. The third item on my list, another hill (“One Tree” Hill) was visible in the distance to the south.

I suggested heading there next, but Lucie put her little foot down on that one claiming, probably quite rightly, that she thought it was better to gather strength for the journey than to climb another hill with the essentially same view.

On the way back down, we had a view of the other, northern side, of the city, this time the CBD.

The SatNav then whisked us home, where we rested for a while before heading to the CBD for dinner and the second attraction on my list – the Auckland Sky Tower. The normally reliable “Loonie” (Lonely Planet) said that a “thing to do” is to be up there at sunset which Apple ™ told us was at 20:42. We had it perfectly planned. We decided that we would have dinner nearby and take the lift up to the viewpoint just before sunset. We managed to park right next to the Sky Tower without paying, because there is no parking fee after 18:00 on weekdays. Like in most cities, there is a chronic shortage of parking and, in general, even to park on a piece of waste ground during working hours costs a fortune !

We set out on foot to find something to eat. Surprisingly, despite there being lots of people milling about, this was not so easy. Almost every place with food was either a rowdy pub or a fast food café. We eventually found a grill bar, the Chancery Bistro (Chancery Court, CBD, Auckland) where a wild party was slowly getting going because it was, of course, a Friday night. We sat inside, which was still way too loud for our tastes – but at least it was BEHIND the speakers which were probably vibrating windows in Invercargill.

Lucie had seafood chowder (a very thick creamy soup with seafood and whatever else was on hand) and I had a leg of lamb.

A request for an alcohol free beer and a “virgin” Mojito raised eyebrows (in Auckland ? on FRIDAY night ??). The beer I got, a Heineken 0%, was not really cold and Lucie’s Mojito seemed to be a couple of mint leaves in sparkling water …..

Tap water, as in all restaurants in Australia, was provided free. In all, it was not a culinary experience, but we ate and then had just enough time to get to the tower.

Of course, when we got to the Sky Tower, they were just closing and not the ticket office, the whole place.

I do not know where the Loonie got its information, but it is not very correct ! There IS a revolving restaurant, near the top, where you CAN watch the sunset as you dine, but we would have needed to have booked it in about 2017 to have got a place. The SkyDeck, for us plebs, closes at 20:00 – so peasants cannot watch the sunset at that time of year !

We retrieved the Harley and rode home. It was a balmy evening and despite the seaside location of the city, I was warm in my shirt and HOG vest. We got home quickly and spent a bit of time planning the following day. The change of pickup time had given us a bit of a time bonus, so we decided to use it by visiting the Coromandel Peninsular earlier on our tour than scheduled. This would mean getting up at 06:00 !

We were both pretty tired but we recorded a few facts for all this blab in our respective journals and sent a few messages to our friends back home (where it was late morning !). Inevitably, we were soon both asleep and, for once, Lucie beat me to the snooze.