Having been away for nearly three weeks, there is a lot to share but I don’t intend to bore you with all the details. I’ll try to write a small summary each day for awhile There is an index that will be kept up to date. There will likely be some technology news and views interspersed along the way.
The first thing I can say about the trip is that Air New Zealand is an excellent airline in every respect. Auckland gave a very positive first impression about New Zealand. I have heard numerous people say over the years how great New Zealand is and I now see the reasons for that reputation — friendly people, beautiful and also quaint cities, spectacular topography, abundant wildlife, and many nice pubs!
We left home at 7:30 am on February 19 and arrived in Auckland at 5:30 am two days later — not only a very long flight but also crossing the International Dateline. We were able to spend two days in Auckland before the cruise departed and so we were able to see some sights and get acclimated to being eighteen hours ahead of home. The most memorable part of the Auckland visit was a forty-five minute ferry-boat ride to Waiheke Island. After arriving at the dock of the island of 7,000 people, there are buses and taxis to take you up the mountain to the town and various attractions, but we decided to hike instead. It was a workout but well worth it to get to The Mudbrick Vineyard. It must be one of the most picturesque wineries in the world. The winery itself is rustic and beautiful but the view of the rolling countryside down to the waters of the Hauraki Gulf, scattered with Islands, and out to the distant City of Auckland is spectacular. We sampled a number of their premium wines — not available in the States — and then had a delightful lunch just inside the terrace. If you ever get to Auckland, I highly recommend taking an extra half-day to visit Waiheke.
New Zealand is roughly 1,000 miles southeast of Australia and consists of two major islands known as the north island and the south island. The City of Auckland is located on the northern coast of the north island and has a population of approximately 400,000. It is historic in some sections and very modern in others. An interesting area to visit is called Sky City.
Sky Tower stands 1,076 feet above the ground — taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere. The main structure of Sky Tower was built using a special reinforced concrete to create a shaft measuring nearly forty feet diameter with a foundation that goes nearly fifty feet into the earth. Construction of the tower required nearly 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, 2,000 tons of reinforcing steel, and
660 tons of structural steel. During construction, daily real-time readings were taken of the structure using seven global positioning satellites to confirm the exact position of Sky Tower.
Three of us (not including me, the coward) took a "Vertigo Climb" — a two-hour guided tour up the inside of the Sky Tower mast, including a climb from the upper observation deck to the first crow’s nest. If you are a thrill seeker, you can also do a "Jumpstart" by leaping 630 feet from near the top of the tower. The "base-jump by wire" allows you to fall for 16 seconds at nearly fifty miles per hour. No thanks. I just enjoyed the view. We had dinner in the rotating restaurant atop the tower that evening. Sorry to say it was not as good as the view.
The Sapphire Princess departed Auckland at 6:15 PM on Wednesday, February 23, and headed for Wellington. This was the first of seven stops. Click here for a table showing all the stops.