Gales on Waiheke Island

Auckland, New Zealand

Exhausted from our travels and still adjusting to the time difference, we were in bed last night at 9 p.m. and didn’t wake until nearly 12 hours later. Feeling refreshed, we hit up the DeBrett’s continental breakfast, which included freshly baked cranberry muffins, fruit, yogurt, granola and Flat Whites — or, in American English, coffees with milk.

The weather outside looked ominous, with dark rain clouds on the horizon, but we didn’t let it deter us from our day’s plan: a trip to Waiheke Island, out in the Hauraki Gulf. A 35-minute Fullers ferry ride dropped us at the small island’s port of Matiatia Bay where we rented a car from Pauline at Waiheke Rental Cars and set out on our way.

After five weeks in Africa, driving on the left side of the road almost felt naturally as we arrived in the town of Oneroa. As a light rain fell, we stopped to walk along the small shops scattered amongst cafés and real estate agencies. There wasn’t much to see and the weather was crummy so we made our way for an early lunch at Te Whau, an award-winning vineyard.

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The fire inside warmed us up as we sipped a 2007 merlot and took in the spectacular views. Mom went with the John Dory with julienne vegetables, olive tapanade and a bouillabaisse sauce. My za’atar spiced loin of lamb was served over parsnip and goat’s cheese skordalia, with red pepper coulis and green beans.

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By the time we were back outside, the rain had largely stopped but the wind was roaring. “It’s a gale!” a Kiwi woman cried out on our way to the parking lot. Back in the Toyota, we drove to Onetangi, a quiet seaside village. Walking the largely deserted beach, we followed a set of stairs that meandered up past modest sized homes with stunning views of the Bay and rocky shoreline. Occasionally, signs of spring — like vivid purple flowers — emerged among the lush landscape.

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Returning to Auckland on the 5 p.m. ferry, the weather finally started to clear and the sun emerged, providing both a fitting welcome and an early farewell from this country’s largest city.

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Back at the DeBrett, we showered and, without dinner, promptly fell asleep.

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