Albatross!

This morning, we docked in Port Chalmers, the gateway to Dunedin – it was chilly! Diane and I put on all of our layers to brave the weather for the Albatross Express tour.

The first part of the tour was a cruise on the Albatross Express to give us a chance to enjoy the harbour, the weather, the air, the coast, and even see a few birds. Clamming is one of the big contributors to the local economy.

We saw albatross, lots of gulls, old gun emplacements, and the Taiaroa Head Lighthouse on our bumpy, speedy, and chilly cruise.

We then boarded a bus to take us to Natures Wonders for the second part of our tour. Natures Wonders is a privately-owned nature preserve; Perry, one of the owners, was our driver and guide. The scenery was great.

They have lots of New Zealand fur seals on the property.

We stopped at Penguin Beach, which Perry told us had been human-free for more than two decades. We didn’t see any penguins on the beach, but we did see some baby penguins behind a barrier (we weren’t allowed to photograph them, though).

Then it was back to the cafe and visitor center for afternoon tea before returning to the ship. We spent a few minutes unloading before going ashore again for a very brief exploration of Port Chalmers (we didn’t have enough time to go to Dunedin and return before “all aboard” at 4:30).

We hiked up a couple of the hills surrounding the business district. First we walked up to Iona Church, which we’d seen as soon as we arrived in town; the church is being renovated but they hope to be using it again soon.

We had just enough time to go back down and then climb up to the Flagstaff Lookout and Time Ball.

Port Chalmers was our last scheduled landfall in New Zealand, so I spent my New Zealand cash like a drunken sailor (mostly on chocolate), ending up with $1.10 in New Zealand change in my pocket, along with a fifty-cent Cook Islands coin I’d acquired somehow that no one would accept when I tried to spend it.

Left at Christchurch

Last night during a lovely dinner with friends, we were startled by a voice from the ceiling – it was the Captain, telling us that the weather in Christchurch looked bad for docking this morning and that we would probably have to bypass the city. He held out a little hope, but when we got up this morning, the overnight track made it obvious that we were going to enjoy a surprise Day at Sea.

I got in touch with our tour provider, Christchurch Attractions and they graciously gave me a full refund for the day’s activities.

Diane and I spent a lot of time on the ship’s jogging/walking track – so far today, we’ve logged 20 laps (about 8 km), plus lots of trips up and down stairs. We took a quick peek inside the Magic Carpet and enjoyed some of the ship’s 4,000 pieces of art.

What we mostly saw was the ocean and occasional glimpses of New Zealand.

The ship didn’t have a lot of activities planned for the day, so they shuffled the calendar and brought some lectures forward. I really enjoyed Celia Garland‘s “Whales of the World” – lots of great photos, plenty of information, and she’s a great storyteller. We went to another lecture about AI, Art, and Music; it paled in comparison.

Tonight, we’re having an early dinner so we can make the first seating for A Hot Summer Night’s Dream, which is supposed to have a lot of music and acrobatics and a little Shakespeare. The weather is supposed to get rougher as the evening goes on, so there’s a small chance that the second show will be cancelled.

Conditions are supposed to improve for tomorrow’s port call in Dunedin…we’ll see.

Marlbourough

We sailed through the Queen Charlotte Sound (actually a ria, a drowned river valley) this morning en route to our berth in Picton on the South Island of New Zealand.

We left the ship about 10am; Picton had sent greeters armed with flowers, which they presented to the ladies (I assume they’d have given them to men, but I didn’t ask for one).

We took the “Wines of Marlborough” tour with stops at three wineries, each of which offered a slightly different selection of wines. Our first stop was Forrest Winery, where we got to visit their Sauvignon Blanc grapes, almost ready for harvest.

They offered us four wines to taste: Doctor’s Rose (low alcohol), Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and a Petit Manseng (I’d call it a dessert wine). The last two were the best, but neither of them is available through their US distributor, so we’ll have to save them for our next trip to New Zealand.

Our next stop was Spy Valley Winery, a smaller operation a few minutes’ drive away. They also offered four wines: Sauvignon Blanc (more typical of Marlborough than Forrest’s wine), a very drinkable Rose, a Pinot Gris, and a Pinot Noir, which was my favorite.

Our final winery for the day was Fromm Winery, a small boutique winery which specializes in red wines. We had a Rose, a Pinot Noir, and a Syrah – all were good.

On our way back to the ship, our driver told us about the willow trees that settlers had planted to dry out the wetlands – only to find that they worked too well and really messed up the local ecology. In the 1960s, the government used helicopers to spray defoliant on the trees to kill them; it seems to be working, and the wetlands are slowly returning.

After a snack, we joined our friends to explore Picton. It’s a rather small town, so it didn’t take a long time to see, but I’m glad we went. We had to take a bus from the ship to town; it dropped us near the Marina.

Picton has two War Memorials – one for the Maōri who died in wars, and one for the settlers.

We made a brief stop at Oxley’s Hotel, which was the first property in Picton to be electrified (they had their own generator).

We crossed the Coathanger Bridge to see more of the area around the marina, including this sting ray who was just wandring around, minding its own business.

We came back to the ship about 30 minutes before “all aboard”; we’re now en route to Christchurch, though the weather may prevent us from docking there. We had another nice view of the Queen Charlotte Sound on our way out of town.

Picton is a small town, but it’s got plenty to do!

Art Deco in Napier

The city of Napier was nearly destroyed by a huge earthquake on February 3, 1931. Naturally, they rebuilt much of it in the prevailing style of the day: Art Deco. And in 1985, they created an Art Deco Trust, which helps to preserve, protect, and promote Napier’s Art Deco heritage.

Every year, they hold an Art Deco Festival, complete with vintage cars, air shows, music of the 1930s, and thousands of visitors, quite a few of whom cosplay the weekend – and our visit today coincided with the festival.

We saw part of the airshow while we were waiting for our shuttle bus into town.

Our bus dropped us at the War Memorial Centre; we went across the street for a delicious lunch at the Portside Bar, then walked over to the Marine Parade Gardens to look at the festival. Our first stop was the Tom Parker Fountain, done up in proper Art Deco style.

Diane and I wandered around the town taking in the scene.

Clyde Square was used as a temporary shopping area after the earthquake; today, it’s a popular gathering place just outside the main shopping area. It boasts a fountain with impressive water lillies.

We returned to Marine Parade Gardens by way of Emerson Street.

There were many vintage cars and trucks in town for the festival. Some had been imported from countries where people drive on the right side of the road, like this vintage Texaco fuel truck with South Carolina plates.

You could make a small donation to ride up and down the street in one of the vintage cars…or in this steam-driven people mover.

There were a couple of biplanes chasing each other above the coastline; I don’t think they were carrying passengers.

We walked out to the Viewing Platform to enjoy the beach and ocean views, then took a bus back to the ship.

Ralph Harris was the headliner for the evening’s entertainment; he was very, very funny; his show ended just in time for us to enjoy the last of the sunset.

Maōri Culture Day

We sailed into Tauranga this morning and took off on our first ship’s excursion of this trip, a few hours at Te Pa Tu near Rotorua. The drive took us past new suburbs, logging areas, and lots of kiwifruit fields – this one grows golden kiwifruit (you can tell by the way the plants are trained to grow in a triangular pattern).

Te Pa Tu is owned and operated by the Tauhara North No. 2 Trust, which is an extended Maōri family operation; they help preserve the Maōri culture and teach visitors about it.

Each bus had to elect a chief to exchange greetings with the chief of the family; one of the women of the tribe briefed our chief on the protocol to be followed.

The warriors came out and showed their weapons, and then the whole family shouted a challenge to our chiefs.

But peace held, and the chiefs exchanged gestures of mutual respect, including handshakes and the touching of noses.

We visited four houses of learning, where they taught us about the meaning and history of their body markings, some games, and even how to perform a haka.

The family performed some traditional songs (and even a little Elvis) and then we shared lunch.

It was interesting to see some of the traditional buildings fitted out with power, plumbing, and the like. I don’t know if the family actually lives at Te-Pa-Tu or if it’s strictly used for shows and education.

One of the hazards of living near Rotorua is the high sulfur content of the air and the occasional hot mud pond that appears out of nowhere.

Our ship was docked near Mount Maunganui; Diane and I took a walk along the beach and went up a short distance on one of the mountain tracks.

New Zealand takes tsunami preparation seriously.

We walked back to the ship along the main Maunganui beach before returning by way of the commercial district.

We sailed away from Tauranga a bit before 7pm; I’m glad we got a chance to see a few aspects of the area, but I know we missed a lot!