A couple of key points up front: the train service we used back in 2004 to travel from Auckland to Tongariro (National Park Village) has since been discontinued. While the day rides are still available, the night run we took both there and back has been discontinued. Also, our planned tramp along Tongariro Crossing got rained out - so we spent the day wandering around the very small village of National Park, wandering twice back to Eivens to drown our sorrows in wine. Almost enough to make up for the rain! Well, not quite.
4 Jan 2004:
The flight from Sydney is longer than we expected - but certainly shorter (by orders of magnitude, I might add) than the flight from Seoul to Sydney. We arrive in the early afternoon at Auckland's airport and hop the Airbus Shuttle
into town. It swings by nearly all of the bigger hotels AND hostels so we get service that very nearly qualifies as 'door to door.' After checking into our hostel (Queenstreet Backpackers
- decent accomodations at a great price...and a fantastic location), we dump our bags and begin walking along the main street toward the harbor, stopping off to grab a quick lunch at a small Turkish take-out place along the main strip. Refueled and ready to go, we proceed down to the harbor and wander around the wharf before settling in to a small restaurant/bar for a glass or two of wine and some polite conversation with the bartender.
Having finished our wine, we plot our movement from the Harbor to the Skytower
where we hope to catch the sunset over the harbor. Okay...it isn't exactly the toughest route. I'll admit to that. We hoof on over, pay our fees, and shoot to the top. The views are decent...but our camera is strained to its limits to capture all that we see. Inbetween snapping pictures, Mel engages in small talk with a group of younger American girls on vacation.
By the time we get back down to the base of the tower, darkness has fallen. We wander around the harbor area a bit more before stepping into the fantastic Cin Cin
for dinner, dessert, and great views of the harbor area. A wonderful, if pricey experience.
By the time dinner is done - and we're through wandering around downtown taking pics, it's getting late. We head back to the hostel and call it a night, stopping to check the weather report for tomorrow as we struggle to finalize our plans for the next few days. Will it rain in Auckland? Tongariro? When should we head down to attempt the Tongariro Crossing? So many questions! So few answers! Sigh....