Sunday, December 31, 2017

MOTAT and Rangitoto

As the van’s clearance dragged on, we continued to enjoy Auckland and the surrounding areas. Our next major stop was MOTAT, the Museum of Transportation and Technology.  Pictures don’t really do some of the displays justice.  Everything from huge steam engines to a hangar packed with aircraft.

Massive sea plane anyone?  I wouldn’t mind retiring to one of these.
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The two campuses are linked by a very classic tram (trolley) which was rescued from Melbourne's previous tram system and restored.
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The next day we took the ferry to Rangitoto.  We had originally wanted to go the day before, but our bus never showed up!  Apparently the rail worker union was on strike, so buses were diverted to cover the shortfall. 

Rangitoto is the newest island in NZ, and still shows plenty of signs of its violent volcanic birth.  Starting as a hot spot in the upper mantle, a blob of magma rose to the surface in a few hours, setting off an eruption that raised the seafloor, and formed a the nearly perfect cone of Rangitoto.
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Remains of a previous military outpost dot the island.  This is the toilet entry arch.  The toilets were just seats over the ocean.
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Plants have made huge steps towards transforming this once-barren island.  On high ground, the nearly bare lava flows remain, though not for long.  A triple threat combo of lichens, moss, and alpine plants break down the rock, and start forming topsoil.  In less than 800 years, the island has  become a forest haven.  Invasive pests such as rats and hedgehogs have been eliminated here, and it is a wildlife refuge.
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The view from the top was excellent.  Here is the crater, just starting to fill in.  Less than 50 years ago this was not much more than bare rock.
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We also spotted a family of quail wandering about on the trail.
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On the “back” side of the island, a partially-collapsed lava tube or cave is open to exploration.
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On the way back we spotted the van again, still waiting, with less company than before.
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Lots of boat and air traffic to be seen.  Several of the islands are inhabited.
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It was just a little windy!
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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Auckland on Foot

While we waited for the van to be released, we took some time to enjoy Auckland.  We opted for public transit, as Auckland's PT system is good, and prices are reasonable.  This still meant a good bit of walking, but that is a good thing.

The first major outing we made was to the Auckland Sky Tower.  At around 300 meters tall (the lookout is much lower), this tower is easily visible from most of Auckland.  It has an observation deck about 50 floors up, and a rotating restaurant above that.  Tickets to the tower are about $30 per person, but a reservation and $30 per person meal at the restaurant give you the same access.  So we opted for food and a view.  The main reason for visiting the tower, was that it overlooked the wharf where the van was supposed to be unloaded.

Here is our ship (viewed from the bridge), just about finished unloading its cargo. 
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Here is the Auckland Central Business District (CBD) from the harbor bridge. The Sky Tower is at the center.
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It is really a neck-cramping look from below.
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We thought the van was in the crowd of cars below, but we couldn’t seem to find it.
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There were quite a few interesting sights below, as our table completed its 360 degree loop.
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We finished with desert, and headed for the ferry terminal.
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Unable to find the van, we hopped on the Devonport Ferry to cross the harbor instead of the bus.  As we rounded the corner, something big and blue caught our eye.  Can you spot it?
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It was hiding behind a large container crane.  There it is, parked, waiting for the various government-mandated inspections to be completed.
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On our way back to the room, we took a detour to North Head. Lying at the entrance to the harbor, this hill was fortified to protect from attacks during WWI and WWII. Now all the remains is some tunnels, a few barracks, and concrete bunkers. Well, and excellent views, of course. Like most of the hills in this area, it is a long-extinct volcano. DSCN1952

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A little ways off shore is Rangitoto, Auckland’a newest island, about 800 years old.
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While were were visiting North Head, we got to see Trans Future 7 depart Auckland for its next port.
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