Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington & Picton

Trip Start Jan 04, 2013
Trip End May 01, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We arrived in Auckland, New Zealand and tried to use the WiFi system at a local restaurant but it only worked for a short time, probably because so many other people from the ship were trying to use it. We walked around town a little , but it was becoming chilly so we headed back to the ship for the night. Auckland is kown as the Queen city or City of Sails. It is rich in local history and home to a people who love the outdoors. It is the largest and most modern city in New Zealand. Located on the North Island, it is home to one quarter of the nations population. Surrounded by water, makes it perfect for all water loving people. Within an hour's drive of the city are 102 beaches for swimming, surfing, waterskiing, or sail boarding. There are one watercraft for one of every four household in the city, and one of the tours was to sail one of the America cup boats with a crew in a race down the bay. I thought about doing it but decided since I’m selling my sailboat it probably wasn’t such a good idea.

The next day we walked to Albert Park and visited the New Art Gallery were we spent the better part of the day. On the way back we had lunch at a Mc Donalds and tried to use their WiFi but no one there could get on. Along the way back we came upon a computer store an picked up a card reader for the Ipad. Which allows us to upload and download from the PC to the IPad. We walked  and saw a park with a large Maori arch at the entrance and many entertainment areas boardering the park.their National Maritime Museum contains a replica of the Maori outriggers that were used to travel the Pacific. Jim Siers with his 13 man crew carried them from Kiribati to Fuji in 1976, and a documentary proved the journey was possible.
Noted explorer Kelly Tarlton invested his fortune into a natural marine park in Auckland harbor. The main attraction is a100 foot plexiglass tube beneath the harbor. You don't have to be a child to appreciate the chance to see the world through a divers eyes without ever getting your feet wet. There is a slow moving tread to allow visitors to observe creatures in their natural habit in full 360 degree panorama without getting wet. Graceful rays and sharks glide past octopus,eels and a variety of other fish. And we were told that this is the first attractions of its kind in the world. On our way to the ship we passed by the Sky Tower that we saw down a street and took a few photos, one included a bungee jumper doing his thing. Queen street was a shoppers heaven with many upscale shops along both sides of the street.
Back on the ship we showered and went to a vigil mass before eating another sumptuous diner and headed to the nights entertainment.

Next day we took a bus to Parnell a upscale suburb to see some of the sights which included a visit to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. It consist of a cluster of parts the 100 year old wooden St.Mary's, the brick-clad chancel into which we entered a spacious nave. Here we could see the beautiful stained glass windows which are said to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The artist is Nigel Brown, and the windows were made in his studios in Auckland. The cathedral organ was built by Harrison& Harrison has many pipes and the console is located on a bridge above where the organist plays. We walked back to the ship mostly downhill to Auckland and passed the many unusual buildings along the way.

The following day we went with the Thornton's to Devonport by a 12 minute ferry ride across the bay. Here we walked along the coast and had great views of Auckland and Sky Tower. The Devonport Peninsula has beautiful colonial architecture with a peaceful and tranquil village setting. In fact most of New Zealand is the most livable country we have experienced, walking we passed the yacht club and went to the marine museum. Here we spent about 2 hours exploring the exhibits from the European expansion all the way to the Second World War. We slowly walked back to the ferry for our return trip,for which we bought round trip tickets. We wanted to visit Waitombo a Maori cave about two hours from Auckland but were unable to get a good deal from any of the tour agencies and forget the ship which is always two hundred percent above the tour agents on shore. So I noticed we could visit the caves from our next port and decided to try there. That evening the entertainer was a ventriloquist, not usually my favorite performers, but we decided to go and sit in the back so if we didn't like it sneaking out would be easy. He turned out to be fine and we stayed for the whole show.

The next port was Tauranga, New Zealand on the Western part of the Bay of Plenty. Captain Cook sailed into the bay on the Endeavor in October 1769, and called it the Bay of Plenty because there were so many thriving and friendly communities around the bay that gave him many supplies he needed. Tauranga is the principal city, which enjoys one of the highest proportions of sunny days in New Zealand. We were surprised at the great amount of lumber exported from this area, they replace every tree cut down so there resource is renewable . Many retirees are attracted to the temperate climate and modern facilities including beaches and the headland scenery of the volcano Mount Maunganui across the Tauranga Harbor. Tauranga is a Maori name meaning the "resting place for canoes", for this was where some of the first Maori to arrive in New Zealand landed.
Well we went ashore and tried to get a tour to see the glow worms in a cave over two hours away in Waitomo. Their were many tour guides, but only one was going to the Waitomo caves. While negotiating with Terry the driver another passenger came up looking for the same tour her name was Elsa and she was from California. This helped our negotiations because now we had three going instead of two. We settled on $160 per person and headed to the caves, this was a little high but we had a private car and a good speaker. He told us about the areas as we traveled through the countryside,he was a retired Air Force Captain and has been a travel agent for nine years. Our first stop was to see the national bird a nocturnal bird called a kiwi , it has brown feathers a long beak to dig for worms and lays very large eggs. It was very dark in the area keep that way to fool the bird, who are nocturnal, and would ordinarily be sleeping durning the day,we saw two of the birds but it was difficult to get a good photo.
From there we drove to the caves were he told us were to stand to be in the best spot for the tour. The guides name was Mark and he led us through a dimly lite cave to see the usual stalagmite and stalactites in the limestone cave. The cave is owned by the Maori chief and one of his granddaughters was married in the cave. Mark lead us to a boat and we all squeezed in and floated down the river into the glow worms. Where they hang from the roof of the cave and in their larval form they spin a sticky thread that hangs down and traps flying insects in the cave. There whole life cycle is only eleven months while spending nine months in this larval stage. The roof of the cave was aglow with the light coming from the worms. And Mark explained that the glow is a chemical reaction that makes the light the same as the glow sticks. After leaving the cave we took a few pictures,but we're unable to take any pictures or make any sound in the caves. The trip back to the port was long, but our guide took us to a store that sells a medicinal honey that Elsa was interested in buying. We went in and there were actual tubs of honey selling for big bucks, they also had bee pollen in capsule form. From there we headed to the ship and our next port.

Napier, New Zealand in Hawke's Bay, is a popular tourist destination for its Art Deco buildings and the statue of Pania of the reef,which is regarded in the same way as the little mermaid statue in Copenhagen. Napier has a rich Maori history and the local tribes were some of the first to have European contacts. Captain Cook sailed down the East coast in October 1769 made first contact with these people on his voyage around the world. Napier was named after Sir Charles Napier, a British war hero. There was a devastating earthquake in 1931 that destroyed almost one half of the city and killed 258 people. Also the quake added 40 square km by raising the land above sea level , this is what started the Art Deco period . They were able to rebuild quickly with poured concrete and produced architecturally unique buildings. Napier and South Beach in Miami, Florida are considered the two best preserved Art Deco towns in the world. Mary Ann and I took the shuttle to town and first visited the Marine Aquarium to see penguins and many turtles and fish. We walked back to the town and took pictures of many groups of bagpipe bands competing. There were also many old cars to ride in and take pictures.

Sheep outnumber people in New Zealand with a human population of 4.3 million and a sheep population of 45 million. In the 1850's, the first large scale wool producing operation was established in the Wairarapa Valley on the Southern part of the North Island. With the advent of refrigeration the meat industry started with a ship called the Dunedin that sailed to England in 1882 bringing mutton. The sheep dogs are highly trained and manage the flocks in an amazing way.

Next stop is Wellington the Capitol of New Zealand and the second largest city and replacing Auckland where William Hobson had established his Capitol in 1841. Even though the Capitol moved in 1863 the city did not become the official Capitol for some time. it was only the move for the South Island to form a separate colony that forced them to make Wellington the official Capitol, since it was close to Cook strait, where they were closer. Wellington is the Southernmost Capitol city in the world with a latitude of 41 degrees South. Because it is located in the roaring forties latitudes, and the omnipresent winds, it is known as "Windy Wellington".

We left the ship after breakfast with the Thornton's and took the shuttle to town. The first stop was the tram to the hilltop for an impressive view of the city and waterfront. We could not see the Parliament building or the famous Beehive from there, but we took some pictures when we came down. We walked around quiet a bit and saw the botanical gardens, and a small planetarium. Mary Ann and I were going to walk down, but the Thornton's wanted to take the tram since we all bought round trip tickets. After getting down we walked to the library but were unable to use their free network, so we went to the Parliament buildings. Here we took a number of pictures before returning to the pickup spot for the ships shuttle. We didn't remember the street name,because there was a large crane there when we arrived, but now it was gone. After walking for fifteen minutes we noticed some people waiting on the corner and we reconized them to be passengers. Back on board we watched the ship sail away from the very beautiful harbor. There was a group of what looked like optimist sailing in a race close to the shore. Had another good evening except for a movie we saw called "Golf in the Kingdom" it was based on a novel by Michael Murphy. I was very disappointed.

The next day we arrived in Picton, New Zealand across the Cook Strait on the South Island at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. The inter island ferry was docked next to our ship and a number of people on the Waitomo cave tour had taken the ferry that day from the South Island to make that tour. This is a very busy port in the summer with all the people using the ferry to go from the North to the South Island and vice versa. The rest of the time this is a very sleepy town. There were a number of kiosks set up for wood workers and other crafty people. We walked about and went to the museum housing the hull of the Edwin Fox an old sailing vessel that is scheduled for refurbishing. It is said to be the ninth oldest ship in the world. Built of teak in the Bengal region of India, the 157 foot, 760 ton vessel was launched in 1853. This vessel carried convicts to Perth, troops to the Crimean War and immigrants to New Zealand in its long and varied career. We got a chance to climb aboard and explore the inside of the hull which needs a lot of work. It must have been very difficult to travel long distances on sailing vessels with lack of cleanliness and close quarters especially during heavy seas. They must have been either very brave or really wanted to escape their environment, the museum had a 45 minute movie describing the story of how they were able to buy the ship for one shilling about ten cents. We bought needles for Mary Ann's needle point and headed back to the ship.
Valentines day is coming up and the crew are busily making preparations decorating making all kinds of food and drinks. Our table mate John is a 4 or 5 star traveler and he gets the wine packages for half of what I pay, so he offered to buy the package for me, and I would repay him. Tomorrow we arrive in Sidney, but we are not docking at the dock across from the Opera House so we wil have to be shuttled to the city center. This should work fine, since it is only a few miles from downtown.

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Hi....just read your latest update and noticed you are having trouble with wifi coverage. Am I correct that you are sending from an iPad? I HAVE A BRAND NE MINI and also have had problems just this week at LAX airport. Dick had complete coverage with his iPhone. We plan a trip to Greece and Ireland this June and wonder if you have any suggestions. Did you plan this current trip yourself. Or is it with a cruise line? New Zealand and Australia are also on my bucket list!!! Happy traveling!



John & Maria on

Glad to heara freom you. It all sounds wonderful. Stay healthy

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