Field Trip! Tuesday, 11/22/16
First thing after breakfast, we met our lecturer, Dr. John Walsby, a wiry human dynamo and walking encyclopedia of botany, geology, vulcanology, history, etc., but technically he has a doctorate in inshore marine biology. I believe he's about 70 years of age, but he hops around like a 20-year-old as he demonstrates a point he's trying to make! He has quite a wry sense of humor, too.
Distant Rangitoto Island, in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, is the most recent and the largest of the approximately 50 volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field.
This pair of endemic Variable oystercatchers was a good find for me.
We spied several small jellyfish on the incoming tide, but I disremember what kind John said they were. He picked one up, which means he was braver than the rest of us.
Along with five frigates out in the water, one or two SUP's were spotted near the shore.
Our first stop, and technically unscheduled, was Lake Pupuke. John wanted to stop at this location because the tide was low and he could show us this heart-shaped lake made from an explosion volcano. We continued on to Takapuna Beach to see the amazing fossilized trees -- not the trunks, mind you -- just where the trees had been snapped at the base by scorching hot lava. Rings of lava flows can still be seen around the "tree base," as you see above. Most trees had been on the small side, but we did see what was left of a few big dudes.
Fresh water, from Lake Pupuke was bubbling up where I'm pointing, and flowing into the sea.
Here we are all lined up as we listened to our esteemed lecturer tell us more about the area. Jimmy and I are somewhere toward the right of the lineup. The day was ideal -- look how sunny, with nary a cloud in the blue New Zealand sky. By gum, if you enlarge the photo, you can just see the Frigates; their presence was all part of New Zealand's Navy celebration week.
I was surprised, but I suppose I shouldn't have been, to see Myna birds way Downunder.
We spent quite some time wandering this beach, peeking into tide pools, watching sea birds, and really enjoying the warm sunshine. We piled in the bus (strike that word, it's a "coach" we travel in!) for a great buffet lunch overlooking the water at McHugh's of Cheltenham. Then? Back on the coach to continue our exploration.
And this was where we landed this afternoon.
Mary, one of our group, blown away by this size and beauty of this blossom.
John, telling the group about New Zealand Flax (above), known to the Māori as harakeke, a very important plant to the Māori. Using the leaf fibers, they made their clothes (textiles), as well as strings, lines, cordage, baskets, mats, and fishing nets. We've seen some of the work and it is exquisite. Southern Hemisphere Flax doesn't look a thing like our Northern Flax plant.
We trod across a few of these paths, all the while following agile John, who was always interested in the topic at hand, willing to answer any question with a worthwhile answer. Of course, one or two of us wandered off when we saw something off the beaten path, but we were always in view of the crew.
This North Head area -- an extinct volcano -- is Auckland's sentinel, and it was an important Māori "pa," or fortified settlement long before these canons appeared.
What a wonderful harbor to sail! Rangitoto Island in the distance again.
I liked this picture: Flax sandwiching the 100 ft+ sailboat.
Speaking of sandwiches, we were on our own for dinner this evening. BTW, we returned to our hotel sometime around 5 pm (whew, what a day!). For some of us, the consensus was The Occidental on Vulcan Street, and almost everyone ordered New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels, including yours truly. I ordered a half kilo, but a few of the men ordered a full kilo. Heck, I didn't even know what a kilo was ... but I found out!
I enjoyed a cup of seafood chowder, too. This is my dinner, above. Delicious!
Jimmy wanted the Fish 'n Chips, which he declared to be very good. See the small round dish with green stuff on his plate? Mushy Peas, that's what the menu said. He said, "Bleah!" and wouldn't touch 'em!
And this, truly, is The End of a fun, fascinating, full day. We walked back to our hotel tired, but happy as clams, er, well, let's just leave it as happy!