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In and Around Auckland
Just to clear things up, I'm actually here in New Zealand for work, but I'm taking time off after my job is done to visit more of this amazing place. I've got a friend flying in for that part of the trip, but this page contains some of the things I did the first 10 days (when I wasn't working).
I managed to get a little shuteye on the plane before we landed. After going through customs I picked up my rental car and spent a few minutes getting accustomed to sitting on the right side of the car. By the way, they don't mess around when it comes to food in your bags! It's an automatic $200 (NZ$) fine and they don't let you off.
I got to the hotel a little too early to check in so I left my rental car and bags there to walk around a bit and find something to eat. I also went to the local tourist office to get a feel for some of the cool stuff do do around here.

That's how I found Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and SailNZ. I decided to visit Kelly Tarlton's after checking into the hotel and also booked a sailing cruise with SailNZ (more on that later).
I headed up to the Sky Tower to catch the free shuttle that Kelly Tarlton's runs and was on my way. Kelly Tarlton's was pretty cool, and I met a family visiting from California,so we explored the Antarctic together.
The penguin enclosure covers over 6000 ft. The pool makes up about 2400 ft2 of that space and while it's only about 10 ft deep, it's enough for the penguins to have a good time. At 45-52 degrees, the water's a little too cold for me, though. the Snow Cat ride through the encounter gave us a good chance to see the King and Gentoo Penguins
up close. The bumpy ride made it hard to get a good picture, especially without the flash, but I got some pretty good video of the birds (1.7MB, 0:38).

  • Underwater World (1.0MB, 0:26)
  • I found Nemo!         (1.7MB, 0:21)
  • Shark Feeding       (1.0MB, 0:16)
  • Penguins                 (1.3MB, 0:43)
  • Piranha Crayfish Big Fish Videos

    After Kelly Tarlton's I went out for a drink at the Sky Tower with the family I mentioned earlier. At 328 meters (1075 ft) Sky Tower is the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere, and you can see more than 80 km (~50 miles) in every direction. It's a great view of the city, on a clear day, at least. We shared a glass of wine in the lounge near the top of the
    tower and agreed to meet the next night for dinner and to swap ideas of things we wanted to do during our stay. You can see my hotel in the photo on the right. It's the (relatively) short, red building near the botton of the shot. You can just barely see the pool on the roof. I've put a bunch of pictures facing different directions below. Pretty cool, eh? Towards the right side of the picture facing North you can just see Devonport.
    The last picture is Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto Island is the largest, youngest and one of the least modified of about 50 volcanic cones and craters in the Auckland volcanic field. It erupted from the sea in a series of dramatic explosions around 600 years ago, and is now extinct.

    The pictures on the left are of a fun little bonus on the tower. for about NZ$200 you can drop from near the top of the tower. You're only in free fall for part of the time, then they start slowing your fall and put you down nice and soft on the bullseye (second picture).

    NorthEast North Look Down! West East Rangitoto

    I got up the next morning rarin' (yes, I said rarin') to go sailing. We boarded the ship a little before 11.00 and got a little background on the NZL41 on the way out of the harbor. The link has most of the info about the ship. Basically, Britain had dominated the waves for centuries and in 1851, the British sought to test that supremacy by challenging the United States to a race.
    The challenge was accepted, and a 90-foot schooner was commissioned by the newly formed New York Yacht Club to be built for the sum of $45,000. In June of 1851, the schooner "America" was launched. "America" immediately broke the record for crossing the Atlantic with a passage in under 21 days. The English were fascinated by America's unusual appearance but were nevertheless confident that one of the 15 British boats would win the race. The race was barely a contest as the United States enjoyed an easy victory, but the British side accused the Americans of taking a shorter course, and there were even questions alluding to the use of a steam driven propeller.

    In the end, nothing was proved, and the United States were declared the victors. A trophy was commissioned and spent the next six years traveling around the United States. In 1857, it was given to the New York Yacht Club under the condition that it be awarded to a winning boat after a regatta between friendly countries.

    In honor of that original schooner "America," the cup was renamed the America's Cup.

    This was my first time on a sailboat and it was a blast! As you can see from the pictures, we didn't just sit around riding around. We were also part of the crew, although we mostly helped with the easy stuff. I got to drive for a short while, as did most of the others. We were also the grinders. No sail can be trimmed or hoisted without using a winch. The grinders supply the power to the winch.

    You'll notice in several of the pictures that we're leaned pretty far over. Well, all that wind is constantly trying to push the boat over. Thats why it has such a massive keel and ballast weight (see the NZL41 Details) page.
    Photos from my NZL41 cruise.

    More photos from my NZL41 cruise.

    Crewing the NZL41
    After the cruise I grabbed some lunch and explored the city on foot. That was my time to scope out a place for dinner. Later that evening, I met the Carltons at their hotel for a glass of wine. Based on some suggestions, we all headed out to a place called Soul in the Viaduct area. The food was very good, and we took the opportunity to try as much of the local seafood as possible.

    I said I was here for work, remember? Well I got the last of my software up and running on Friday, then the real work started. I got picked up Saturday morning to go test all my gear, and if it weren't raining I would have wandered around Devonport the rest of the day.
    From the 1st of October until the 9th Iwas working many hours and didn't have time to do much exploring. In fact the only pictures I had time to take were on Wednesday night. I took these two pictures while going over the Harbour Bridge and through the shuttle bus window. They came out pretty nice, don't you think?
    It's now Sunday night and Jen is scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning. That's when the rest of the adventure will start. I'll get those pictures posted as soon as I can after we get back.

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