Sailing to Auckland for a day out in Devonport

(16th Feb)

Overnight the Columbus made her way down the coast of New Zealand to pick up her pilot at 7.30am, then dock at Berth 7 on the Queen’s Wharf, Auckland by 9am. The routine of disembarking is well known to all the passengers now and pretty soon Columbus was disgorging her human cargo into the city. Today however was going to be different for some as they were leaving this metal substitute for the home of the last six weeks for good and moving on to other destinations. This meant that we were to be joined by fresh faces and new stories, how exciting.

We were promised another warm and clear day and that is what we got. There was a fresh breeze keeping the fierce temperatures at bay, but the sun was as always deceptive, so creamed up and hatted we left the ship and soon found the ferry terminal just a few metres away from Columbus’s berth. We had decided to take the fast, 12-minute ferry to Devonport Village and spend the day exploring this popular resort.

Swiftly we crossed the choppy waters, navigating our way through the busy river traffic made up of many Saturday sailors taking their yachts for a spin and a myriad of other pleasure craft bobbing around enjoying the freedom of the sea. Devonport is a picturesque resort, similar to that of Russell but larger and I guess from our viewpoint on the water that it has already become a suburb of the spreading metropolis of Auckland. It is made up of three volcanic islands, Mount Victoria, Mount Cambria and North Head, we were to spend most of our time on North Head.

From Devonport Wharf we ambled along King Edward Parade passing by Windsor Reserve and Torpedo Bay to arrive at the Torpedo Bay Naval Museum. Here we enlisted the help of a personal guide and started our tour of the exhibits. Sue, however, had the start of a headache and retired to the restaurant for a drink and passed the time accessing the Museum’s WiFi while I continued with the tour. My guide was an ex-female naval officer and very knowledgeable making the exhibits come alive with personal accounts and reflections from a New Zealander’s point of view. Thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating, I felt sorry for those visitors not taking advantage of this personal attention, they were missing out on so much. Finding Sue, I was relieved that the tablets she had taken had kicked in and she was feeling much better and able to carry on rather than return to the ship.

We climbed North Head to discover the military tunnels, bunkers and gun emplacements. We were intrigued by the number of animal traps we found on the way up this steep grassy volcanic mound, we were to learn later that they were placed to catch rats, hedgehogs and possums devastating the protected bird species in the area. The views from the top were good for the surrounding island, beaches and pleasure craft but also afforded superb views of Auckland.

Afterwards, we made our way down the slope and through the village to Cheltenham Beach. A gentle sloping, whitish shell-strewn sandy stretch that just begged to be paddled in and that’s what I did, annoyed that I hadn’t packed my swimming trunks. Refreshed, we strolled its full length, stopping occasionally to take advantage of the shade of the trees as this beach was in the lee of North Head and therefore there was no cooling breeze. We also sat awhile and watched what we guessed was a Hindu wedding taking place in one of the restaurants.

Finding our way back through the village towards the ferry wharf we came across a bar and took advantage of refreshments, rest and the growing cool breeze. Devonport has a busy little shopping area near to the wharf and this was also given a visit, here we met quite a few fellow cruisers involved in the recreational pastime of splashing the cash.

Arriving at the wharf we were pleased to see the ferry arriving and it wasn’t long before we were back in Auckland. We rejected the idea of nipping aboard the Columbus for a snack, we thought the abstinence would do us good and is much needed! The Sky Tower beckoned, so up Queen Street we headed, joining the hordes of Saturday shoppers, like ants randomly casting from window to window, only to be stopped at the kerb’s edge of pedestrian crossings, here they wait impatiently until the ‘kerplink’ rips the air, then the count down starts and a straight line rush to safety begins. This was repeated all the way up Queen Street until we were parallel with the Tower, then we turned right and made our way along a less frenetic street to the base of the structure.

I wanted to show Sue the Sky Tower as Jamie and I had been up it on our previous visit and give her the same opportunity, but she wasn’t impressed, we have been up so many and this was no different. We did take the opportunity of the free WiFi and whilst doing so we spotted some members of the crew and entertainment team kitting up for a Sky Walk around the outside of the very top. Most looked quite nervous, I reminded them that they should be back on board the boat by 8pm sailing, from whichever hospital they ended up in. That calmed their nerves.

On arriving back on board it was straight to the burger bar for much-craved calories then footwear off in the cabin and relief to tired muscles.

Tomorrow we have to do it all again in another port. Will this torment never end?

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