In Which We See Lots of Animals, or the Auckland Zoo and Sheep World

We got back from our trip to the south island, and still had a couple of days to kill before our survey. So we got on the internet, and found a culture festival happening down in Auckland! We weren’t sure whether we could bring the cat, so we took him on a morning walk and tried, in vain as always, to get him to notice the snapper that live around the dock.

We drove down to the city, where we found a big park full of small booths and food stalls. It turns out it was pet friendly, so we could have brought Captain, though he would maybe not have appreciated the dance performances. Notable highlights: finding shade in unlikely places, and security in a high-visibility safety kilt.

The food was nice, but we didn’t feel compelled to stay for more than an hour or so. So we looked at our Auckland to-do list, and decided that even though it was Sunday and therefore full of kids, we probably wouldn’t have a better chance to go to the zoo. So we went to the zoo, and despite the shrieks of feral children competing with the Tasmanian devils for volume and shrillness, we had an awesome time! The access to these animals is incredible, and we were disappointed that we hadn’t brought our big camera; all these photos were taken on our Pixel 6 & 7 phones. They organize the animals by region, roughly, and we entered through Africa and were greeted by giraffes and rhinos.

It was still early afternoon, so the big cats were doing the same thing our little cat does in the afternoon.

There were nyala antelopes, and flamingos.

And baboons! This guy in particular had an especially red butt.

Moving into the New Zealand natives section, we have the beautiful (and very loud) Kea parrot.

Obligatory picture of a kiwi, plus some blue-eyed eels and this tuatara, a lizard famous for having a third eye in the middle of its forehead. Like the kiwi, the locals are very proud of these, and they’re, you know, fine.

But if you have penguins, why are you excited about lizards? Out of the water, for once, a colony of little blue penguins.

They had a huge amount of hanging space for the bonobos, who were swinging through it like madmen.

Another huge hanging space housed the orangutans, who were much more interested in being fed than paying attention to the boring tourists. Right nearby, a greenhouse held tropical plants and fish, which we kind of laughed at since we’d spent so much time on the other side of the glass.

Moving into Australia, we found the curious and “photogenic” emu, and its pretty but demur cousin the brolga.

There were birds! Especially notable if badly photographed is the second picture, the gouldian finch, decked out in four bright and saturated colors.

It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between turtles and tortoises, so here’s a guide: [snake-headed] turtles have long snake-like necks, and [giant] tortoises are absolutely massive.

Probably the highlight of the zoo was visiting the monkey areas. The spider monkeys were in full form, doing big wild loops up and down their trees, and needed no encouragement from us. But as we got into the tamarin section, it started to rain, and we brought out our rented umbrella. And the tamarins were all SO CONFUSED, and had to come look! So we got especially good shots of, in order, the golden lion tamarin, the cotton-top tamarin, and the emperor tamarin. All very playful, all with very straightforward names.

As we neared closing time, the big cats were starting to come to life. This tiger was in absolutely top form, 100% ready to eat the next tourist who tapped on the glass. (The lions, however, were out of sight).

They shuffled us out past the meerkat and lovebird joint enclosure.

Since it was about dinner time, we stopped at a restaurant from Andrew’s to-visit list. It turned out that the recommendation and Google photos were both out of date, and the place had shifted to takeout-only after losing their larger space during COVID. But the proprietor took great care of us anyway, and we had some of the best pani puri we’ve ever had, out on the concrete in front of the shop.

And since no day out is complete without at least one beer tasting, we stopped for a tasting on the way home.

We were headed out to the car when we saw a parade of lights in the sky. Andrew was thrilled when his phone was actually able to capture a picture of this Starlink launch!

The next day was mostly a blur of cleaning and prepping for the survey. One weird thing about being on docks is that the wind isn’t always coming from the front of the boat, so Captain got a brush-down on the bow. There was actually quite a bit of wind blowing from stern to bow, which is likely why a monohull leaving their slip down the dock blew sideways into some other boats! This is the scary thing about marina living; some misfortunate idiot can come ruin your day at any moment. The damage seemed minor, and as they passed they told us they’d call the office to report the incident, but when we talked to the office later, they said they’d received no such call…

On the morning of the survey, we got word that our surveyor had a fever and wouldn’t be able to make it. (Of course.) We were still on for our sea trial and engine survey in the afternoon, though. Jazz went to her Pilates garage, and the snapper were out and about, excitedly waiting.

We took the prospective buyer out sailing, husband only, no wife or kids. The engine guy took some measurements, and we came back to the dock with only a minimum of fuss. We still had two more professionals to come the next day, a sail guy who seemed to know canvas but didn’t really want to be there, and a couple of riggers who we’re pretty sure had never been on a boat before and definitely were not going to take advice from a pretty young woman about petty things like how a snatch block works. (They also wore marking shoes and left garbage on the boat.) Anyway we got through all that nonsense and we were pretty well shot, so we got Captain all dressed up to come out to the local brewery.

We took some fun pictures. And, quite unexpectedly, we found that the food was fantastic. Unexpectedly because Paraoa Brewing (not actually a brewery?!) is a big event space, with darts and pool tables and a big stage for bands. What are they doing with a CIA-trained chef? Sponsoring her visa, apparently.

With the survey done, we had a day of logistics. Our trip to Kiwi Yachting to resolve our furler issue deserves its own whole write-up, but suffice it to say it was slightly less fun than the two days Jazz was sick after our fourth COVID shot which which we received that afternoon. Here’s jazz trying to get some food in her stomach the day after that vaccine having already thrown up once.

By the end of the second day she was feeling human enough to go back out for more of Paraoa’s fantastic food. We managed to snap a picture this time, because of the striking whole-head-of-broccoli presentation. Despite being one piece, this thing managed to be correctly cooked all the way through, and deliciously complemented by the sauce; it was, and this is high praise, nearly as good as the cauliflower. Of course Captain came along too, because he loves a good dive bar, though he has no appreciation for fine cuisine.

At this point we were released from surveyor-limbo, because the surveyor was feeling well enough to schedule us for the coming Wednesday, aka Andrew’s birthday. But for now, it was Easter Sunday, so we decided to go see some bunnies and sheep. So for our second animal-centric adventure, we drove an hour north to Sheep World to see a sheepdog show. We had asked our local friends if they wanted to join, and they laughed at us; if you grew up around farms, why would you pay to visit one? So we rolled in as a herd of two, with enough time to visit a couple of animals before the show.

The show was actually pretty fun. We learned that there are two roles for sheepdogs here. The first dog runs reallyreallyfast, and herds the sheep by nipping at them and chasing them around. It was high energy and eager to please, responding to whistled commands and keeping its charges in a tight ball.

The second dog role is much less athletic; instead, it barks reallyreallyloud. This is apparently good for moving large groups, and for getting sheep to go into the big scary dark barn, because that bork is just much much scarier. If you’re a sheep – to the humans it was just reallyreallycute.

Big-bork dog came into the barn and went straight to sleep, leaving Jazz and another volunteer to do the sheep-sorting. Why was it Jazz? Because our friends had told us about this activity, and that they would ask for only two volunteers, and so Jazz wore extra-shiny makeup to make sure she was visible in the crowd. And who says planning doesn’t pay off.

They also demonstrated sheering what we assume must have been a boneless breed of sheep, because it just sagged there on stage like a bag of wet noodles. They also brought in a couple of calves, and let all the little girls feed them.

At some point during the indoor portion of the show, it had started to rain, so we spent a few minutes hunting for an umbrella before taking a walk through the rest of the sort-of-petting-zoo. We were once again amused to run into a deer, and be reminded that, here, these are livestock.

The sky cleared a bit, bringing back the gray sky of a full New Zealand Summer day, and Jazz got to feed some skeptical alpacas.

And finally, for Easter, this one very nonplussed rabbit. Also for no farm-related reason we could understand, they had a cage with a couple of brightly colored birds.

On the way back, we had lunch in Matakana, where the local birds were having a good laugh at the deterrent sculptures. We were lucky enough to get a table during the lunch rush, with a great view over a river that we didn’t look at at all because the seagulls were being so cheeky.

On our way home, we stopped to taste wine that had been aged in clay, in an apparently ancient tradition. The result was not great, but that’s not necessarily the urn’s fault.

Status at this point: one more week down, survey scheduled for mid-week. Plane tickets purchased: 0.

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