Day 1 – This Time We Really Mean It!
A large part of this trip is specifically for the gathering of reference that cannot be attained elsewhere – texture and context. With that in mind, the trip was off to a magnificent start. The dawn skies shifted and glowed – and since we were fleeing the sun, we got far more minutes of dawn that we’d ever get otherwise. Fantastic.
Many UI experts, English Mavens, and Facebook Memes rightly sing the praises of the Oxford Comma. But after the long line at customs, renting a car, driving said car on the left side of the road into a busy Auckland, dealing with the perversity of locked telephones, and wandering through the old and new city, it was time for a little lie down. We nodded off at 4 pm and would not move again. It was the Auckland Coma.
Day 2 – IMing
We had traveled to Auckland with a terribly fit chap who carried a case large enough to fit two bicycles (though he only had the one.) Indeed our hotel, down in Auckland’s pier district, was chockablock with frighteningly fit people of all ages. I overheard one young Aussie use the phrase “IMing” and for the first time in my quiet normal life had cause to understand that the IM in question was not Instant Messaging but rather “IronMan-ing.” This was brought home to us even more powerfully early on the morning of Day 2 at 6:15 when the booming of a loud speaker drew us out of our comas to the window just in time to witness the first wave of swimmers heading out. See?
A quick survey of the streets surrounding the hotel revealed an intricate and well-laid plan for the running and/or cycling rounds of the IM. Even in our addled states, we recognized that the starting gun had been fired for us as well and it was important that we too be off like a shot. We dressed and packed with speed and managed to sneak our car onto the road ahead of the Iron Men and Women (IW?).
An hour later we were secure in a curious Bakehouse in Thames at the beginning of our circumnavigation of the Coromandel Peninsula. We chose the place based on the gathering of locals, also it was the only place open at 8am on a Sunday morning. Venetia had a sausage of meat wrapped in bacon. It tasted just like it sounds. I had a pie of sausage and mushrooms (and a loathsome little sauce best left unconsidered). We enjoyed the experience but will not be eating at the Bakehouse again. (Since that morning, we have seen them at least once per city, they appear to be a local chain.)
We followed the only real road around the scenic, if somewhat treacherous peninsula (we marvelled at the number of one-lane stretches and bridges). Because of our early rousting from Auckland, we arrived in Whitianga (pronounced Fittianga) hours before our scheduled glass-bottom-boat tour of Cathedral Cove (known to any fans of the Prince Caspian movie as the gateway to Narnia – the Inklings have all their books adapted down here you know). Handily, the boat company was flexible and after a quick snapper lunch and some delicious ice cream, we headed out.
Yes, seeing live snapper, billowing seaweed, and beautiful rays below the boat was nice. But the geology of sea caves, basalt and natural concretions was beyond anything we’ve ever seen! Because the water was a cold 12 degrees, there was a minimum of snorkeling, and a maximum of coastal gawking. I thought especially of Jim Mueller as we surveyed the small island that sits at the edge of the continental drop-off….