By Steve MacNaull on January 4, 2020.
At first, the rain is barely a mist on my face.
Feather-soft and refreshing, the tiny droplets have somehow navigated their way through the thick canopy of trees, massive ferns and vines.
Before long, the precipitation is a steady drizzle, which quickly morphs into a savage downpour.
I pull up the hood on my rain jacket and count myself lucky.
After all, this is what I’ve come for – a deluge in the rainforest.
And this hike delivers big-time.
It’s through the Kitekite Rainforest in 18,000-hectare Waitakere Ranges Park 25 kilometres from downtown Auckland, New Zealand.
The region gets an astounding 2.2 metres of liquid sunshine a year, which means the heavens open on Kitekite at some point almost every day.
It’s helped create a landscape with prehistoric allure, an amped-up ecosystem of the massive black and silver ferns New Zealand is famous for; Nikau, the world’s southernmost palm tree; Kauri, the Southern Hemisphere’s version of the mammoth Redwood; and an array of vines and other sub-tropical plants.
It’s exactly the place that inspired director James Cameron’s otherworldly realm for the Oscar-winning movie Avatar.
My son, Alex, and I arrived in this surreal setting on Bush and Beach Tours’ Best of Both Worlds excursion.
The two worlds being a three-hour city tour of Auckland followed by five hours in the rainforest.
At the bottom of the steep La Trobe Trail, we’re rewarded with the eye candy of Teahuahu Waterfall.
Teahuahu translated from New Zealand’s Native Maori tongue means pendulums of silver threads, an apt description for the torrent of water tumbling down the mountain into a calm green pool.
The rainforest isn’t all forest.
It has a coastline on the Tasman Sea punctuated by beaches made up of the black iron ore sand from a long-ago volcanic eruption.
The most dramatic is Piha Beach, where just off shore Lion Rock looms, a reminder that two million years ago lava was thrust out of the ocean through volcanic vents.
This is where the tour group swims rain or shine.
Alex and I were drawn to Auckland for a big-city fix rife with adventure of both the urban and wilderness variety.
Air Canada makes such a jaunt easy with its new non-stop, four-times-a-week, 14-hour flights between Vancouver and the New Zealand metropolis.
The service is currently seasonal until March 2020 to get Canadians to Auckland to enjoy New Zealand summer and Kiwis to Canada for winter frolic.
The flights on the quick and comfortable Dreamliner 787-8 could very well become permanent.
In the city, Alex and I divided our time into four quadrants of fun.
On a two-hour outing on Explore Sailing’s America’s Cup Yacht NZL68 in Waitemata Harbour, we’re put to work grinding to put the sails up and down.
Apparently, we’re good at it because the boat settles into an exhilarating ride, skimming over the water at 12 knots in an upwind at a 30-degree lean.
We take the elevator up to the 53nd floor of Sky Tower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, to walk outside on the 1.2 metre-wide metal grate that rings the highrise.
This adrenalin rush is called Skywalk and we’re in harnesses attached to two security lines each, so we’re able to do tricks like leaning over the edge forward, backward and sideways.
The next day we meet Elle Armon-Jones of The Big Foody Tours for The Big Beer Tour, a sudsy romp that starts with a flight of craft brews and tater tots at Brothers Brewery and ends with Lowbrow Lager and highbrow whipped bone marrow on grainy bread at Culprit Dining Room.
In between, there are also tasting stops at The Brewers Cooperative for pilsners and Vulture’s Lane Craft Beer Bar for ales.
For some culture, we join guide Tui-kay Cole of Tamaki Hikoi, a Maori from the Ngati Whatua tribe, to see Auckland through Indigenous eyes on a hike to the top of Mt. Eden.
We stayed at the well-located Adina Apartment Hotel in downtown’s trendy Britomart neighbourhood.
Check out NewZealand.com and AirCanada.com.