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December 27th, 2011 | Australasia

Festive Times in Auckland…

The more time I spent in Auckland, the more determined I was to come back here one day and travel the length and breadth of this beautiful country…

The local beach was all but deserted, I guess last minute Christmas shopping was in full swing...!!

The weather during my stay in Auckland was perfect for most of the time... Warm days and light winds....!!

The people I have met have been super friendly, and not one of them has mentioned the rugby…!!

My stay here has been short, but filled with laughter and good bonhomie…

I arrived at John and Zuzettes home at about 2.30am, and stayed up chatting until John left for work at 6.00 am…!! No sleep the first day…!!

We had a heck of a lot of ground to cover, as we had last seen each other in 1972/3…!!

Zuzette drove me around the neighborhood to show me the sights, and then later that afternoon we took a long walk along the estuary which is a short distance from their home…

A sumptuous spread awaited us on Christmas Eve...

That evening, I went out to the local pub with John and a few of his mates, and ended up playing pool until much later that night… By the time I finally got to bed, I was running on “empty”…!!

The following evening, a large group of family and friends were invited to their home to celebrate Christmas Eve… Zuzette had pulled out all the stops to ensure we had a huge spread of food and drinks to get us through to midnight…

Christmas presents were exchanged, and Santa even managed to find me…!! How he knew where to look is anybody’s guess…!!

It was a privilege to enjoy this special time with people who celebrated their love and friendship for each other…John’s son Gerald, who lives only yards away, was there with his wife Katherine and their granddaughter, and a group of fellow ex-South Africans made the occasion a very festive one indeed…!!

While I watched the presents being opened, and the looks of joy on both the children’s and adult’s faces, my thoughts flew off to faraway places, wondering what my own loved ones were doing on Christmas Eve… They would soon be celebrating in South Africa, London, the Caribbean and Australia… I silently wished them all a very happy day…

John makes his Christmas speech before the presents begin disappearing...!!

An 8 km walk around this large estuary was just what the doctor ordered to use up some of pent up energy I was feeling...

High tide brings kayakers out to play in the estuary...

During quieter moments of the day, I was able to catch up on some of the Australian posts I had been meaning to write, and also took a long walk around the estuary…

I was amazed at the difference in water levels between the tides that rolled in from the narrow entrance to the sea…

The first time I had walked along it’s banks, the exposed mud flats beyond the Mangroves stretched right across to the the far side… A trickle of water flowed down to the river mouth…

The next day, I was there at high tide, and people were kayaking out in the middle of the estuary…!! Kids were diving off the bridge into the water, where the previous day I had seen only mud…!! I estimated the range in tides to be between three and four metres…!!

Where only hours before, there was mostly mud to be seen...!!

This colourful length of material was left here after a ceremony conducted in honour of the Maori people...

The local council have built a concrete cycle track that surrounds the entire estuary, and it is frequented by young and old alike, all eager to keep fit while enjoying the natural beauty of this area…

Every person who either passed me or came jogging or cycling towards me, called out a greeting, and some even stopped to engage me in conversation… Once they heard my accent, the conversations usually took longer than I had hoped for…!!

From the many bridges that span the rivers which empty into this vast wetland, I could see large fish swimming below me, as well as spy many species of waders and other waterbirds going about their business among the Mangroves…

At various points along the way, there are either plaques commemorating the Maori people who once inhabited this region, or information explaining the many shellfish “middens” discovered here, which indicated that in ancient times, people lived off the sea, and used this estuary to launch their canoes into the sea from…

A large wooden totem pole describing the early traditions of the area stands guard on the edge of the estuary...

The table stands waiting...!! Soon it would be groaning under the weight of delicious food we were served...!!

"Are you sure twenty kilos of ham is going to be enough...??"

Christmas day was spent at the home of fellow South Africans who put on a magnificent lunch for us… The amount of food available could have fed a small army, and that’s just about what arrived for lunch…!!

We spent a wonderful afternoon, chatting, eating, drinking, and celebrating the day…

I had already met all the guests the previous evening at the Malan’s home, and although I was a bit self conscious about being the only “outsider” on this special occasion, so to speak, I was immediately made to feel at home, and joined in the fun as if we had all known each other for years…!!

Our hosts did themselves proud, and made Christmas Day 2011, a special day for all... Thanks guys, most appreciated...!!

This was only half the wonderful food prepared for us...!!

Cheers to all on this special day, from the Gypsy Biker in Auckland...!!

On Boxing Day, after another long walk, John decided that a spot of fishing would be in order, so we packed up the boat and together with Johan, who works at John’s Automotive company, we went down to Gulf Harbour, launched the boat, and speed across the bay to their favourite fishing grounds…

I warned them before hand, that when any fish sensed me in the vicinity, they usually made off for parts unknown… I told them they should not expect to catch anything on this fine day..!! John just laughed and said that he had never gone home empty-handed…

We had hardly dropped our lines overboard, when the fish started biting…!! We caught about twenty Red Snappers, many of which we tossed back due to their being undersized, but we did bring home ten fish, which John filleted the following day and BBQ’ed for us to enjoy for lunch… Melt in your mouth stuff…!!

Launching the Sea Nymph at Gulf Harbour...

They were a lot bigger than they look in the photo...!! Promise...!!

Catch of the day... John was disappointed... I was amazed that we had been able to catch a single fish...!!

John Malan's Pit-Stop... Long hours and a commitment to service has made his a successful enterprise...

It took us much longer than usual to get the boat back to the harbour, as our anchor was well and truly stuck fast on the sea bed…!! Eventually after half an hour of pulling in every direction, John decided to cut us free and sacrifice the anchor, so we could return with the rest of the boat intact…!!

All too soon, my time in New Zealand was up…!! After helping me sort out a new bank card, Gerald very kindly drove me first to say goodbye to John at his place of business, and then all the way to the airport to catch my flight to Santiago…

We rode the freeway through Auckland, past the harbour and the yacht basin where a few Mega-Yachts were anchored… Like Perth, Auckland has a huge percentage of it’s population who own boats of one kind or another…

Almost 35 % of New Zealanders live and work in this city, which is area-wise, one of the largest in the world apparently…!!

Saying goodbye to good friends... Katherine, Gerald and John Malan of Auckland... Thanks again for the wonderful hospitality...!!

Aucklands iconic tower, stands head and shoulders above every other building in the country...

Auckland’s International Airport is smaller than most, but was voted one of the worlds top five airports by international travelers… I checked in and was enjoying a coffee in the departure lounge barely half an hour after Gerald dropped me off…!!

Voted one of the top five airports in the world... Pleasure to travel through...!!

Even though I did not see much of the country, New Zealand teased me enough to want to come back and explore more of her…

Next time, I will hire a camper van and do the route I originally planned… All 5 500 km of it…!!

P. you game…??

©GBWT 2011

2 comments to Festive Times in Auckland…

  • Mark Behr

    Looks like a great time was had in Auckland. Glad that you could spend time with John and Zuzette.

  • Taryn Behr

    So pleased to read that you had a good Christmas and enjoyed your New Zealand stay. Thanks too for posting the pictures of our family – good to see them ! Pray that the rest of your trip sees many more miles of smiles. Go well xx

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