Early arrivals on the New Zealand member trip passed through Auckland airport and were met outside customs and immigration by Head Golf Professional Gus Jones and representatives of Mana Luxury Tours. Some joined Gus at Castaways Resort in Waiuku, enjoying a homemade New Zealand breakfast at the Varnam home overlooking Manakau Harbour and, among other things, a walk along Karioitahi Beach and golf at Clark’s Beach Golf Club.
Today is the celebration of Auckland’s 175th anniversary. A day to explore Auckland saw some members of the trip climb aboard an America’s Cup yacht. We took advantage of 14-knot winds as we sailed toward the now extinct volcano, Rangitoto Island, in the Waitemata Harbour. The group gathered for dinner in the Viaduct Marina area where the Americas Cup was defended from 1995-2003. A relatively early night was called for allowing everyone to adjust to the 21-hour time difference.
Day one saw all 18 members of the trip exercise varied options with some playing golf, some seeing the sights of Auckland (including the World of Wearable Art exhibit at the Auckland Museum) and some making directly for Kauri Cliffs to explore the property. Those playing golf played New Zealand’s only Alistair MacKenzie course, Titirangi Golf Club. Nick Hackstock showed how well his golf game travels and took the honors for the day. The first group dinner at Karui Cliffs tonight included wine pairings from a selection of New Zealand’s finest wineries that greatly enhanced the opening “get to know you” atmosphere.
All 18 members of the group played (some twice) what they all consider possibly the most scenic golf course they have ever played. Temperatures in the low 80s and beautiful sunshine, interrupted by a brief shower, made for a spectacular day. In the benign conditions scores were low with the team of Nick and Anne Hackstock and Dennis and Christine Walther narrowly coming out on top. After golf, some visited the spa while others hiked to the waterfalls on property or to Pink Beach. The highlight of the cocktail hour was a performance by a local Maori group that included a traditional “Haka” welcome, followed by an interactive “performance” by the Martis Camp group. Dinner centered around farm-to-table fare from within 50 miles of Kauri Cliffs. Paired with exceptional New Zealand wines, the meal was a fitting conclusion to a truly extraordinary day. Comment of the day: “We will be back (to Kauri Cliffs) but next time for a week!”
After a relaxing day at Kauri Cliffs, we checked out of what everyone described as a truly incredible experience. Today’s sightseeing in Kerikeri included the Kemp House and the Stone Store – the only survivors from the Church Missionary Society’s second Anglican mission to New Zealand, founded in 1819 on land granted to the missionaries by the powerful Nga Puhi Chief Hongi Hika. Kemp House is the oldest surviving European building in New Zealand. The Stone Store is the country’s oldest surviving stone building. Afterwards, the flight to Lake Taupo was pretty straightforward. Temperatures were in the upper 80s with little or no humidity on this volcanic plateau at 1,080 feet above sea level. A beautiful sunset visible from the dining room at the Hilton was followed by a brief evening shower. More sunshine in the forecast for tomorrow.