With 2 days in Auckland we planned for a day in the city and a day touring the countryside, so today was our Kiwi Countryside Tour. What a complete contrast to yesterday’s hustle and bustle, and traffic congestion of the city. We drove through pristine farm and grazing lands, watched sheep shearing and saw the spectacular vistas of the West Coast.
Read on for more details and photos of this great tour.
Another early start for today’s tour, so we headed up to the World Cafe, meeting friends Dave & Linda for a quick breakfast. Our report time in the Theatre was 08:15, fortunately we were early, as our tour was called at 08:10 and we departed the docks at 08:25. Yet another example of how well Viking manage their tours.
- Tour Type – Ship’s Optional Tour
- Tour Name – Kiwi Countryside
- Duration – 4.5 hrs
- Summary – a drive through countryside north of Auckland to a farm, for a sheep shearing and sheep dog herding demonstration, followed by a journey to the West Coast and a Gannet Colony.
Departing Auckland’s CBD, we headed North on the M 16 motorway, where it ended at a roundabout. We stayed on highway 16 N, which was now a 2 lane country road, passing through Kumeu, Waimaku and Helensville, where we turned left onto a lower level road. After passing through Parakai Springs we reached Haumoana Ranch, which is about 40 miles from Auckland. We passed through multiple vineyards, orchards and grazing lands.
The 4 coaches from the ship all navigated up the narrow farm road, where they fortunately had a large parking area.
Our bus was first to arrive, so we were directed to the sheep shearing station, while the others headed to the garage, which is set up as a cafe, for morning tea and cakes.
When employed as a full-time shearer, he mentioned he could shear about 200 sheep per day. Since he is bent over throughout most of the task, it must be tough on the back.
They are running short of sheep, so this was a 6-month old lamb that is also raised for meat and not wool, so it has a shorter coat. Sheep raised for wool have coats twice as thick and can be sheared twice per year.
Sheep Shearing in progress
In less than 5 minutes the lamb was bald.
The ranch hand mentioned that since the coat is so short, it is not good for making into wool, so is used for insulation. This type of use fetches less money. He estimated the above pile would be worth about NZ $2, but the cost to shear the sheep is > NZ $3, so it would actually cost the ranch to shear each of these lambs.
Next on the agenda was watching the sheep dogs in action.
The sheep were let into the large pen, then the dogs went in to bring them back.
On completion of the sheep shearing and dog trial, our group headed to the garage for tea and some home baked treats – sausage rolls, scones and a variety of cakes. They provided seating areas in the garage and on the outdoor patio. Very pleasant. We were also welcome to wander the grounds. The hosts were very welcoming, creating an exceptional atmosphere, when welcoming us to their home.
Behind the garage in a huge fenced grazing pasture were the kids herd of pet deer.
Before returning to the bus, I captured a few photos of the surrounding grazing lands and their well maintained gardens.
Returning to the bus, we retraced our route back about 16 miles, to Waimuku, before taking the road to Muriwai Beach. We stopped at the top of the cliff, which afforded excellent views of the West Coast.
Heading down the hill, the driver advised we didn’t have time to get out and walk to view the Gannet Colony, as had to return for a 13:00 tour. Therefore we returned 1/2 hr early back at the ship.
Prior to dinner Judi and I headed up to Explorers’ Lounge to watch the departure at 18:00.
We enjoyed dinner with Alison & Ron in our usual section of the MDR, then went to the Theatre for Liar’s Club, which was brilliant.