Day 12, Friday, Feb 11, Arrive Auckland, Casual

Trip Start Jan 26, 2011
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Where I stayed
Crystal Serenity

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, February 11, 2011

My alarm did not wake me up this morning (operator error), and it was almost 6 when I woke up.  When I dropped by the fitness center 10 minutes later, Keith had already completed his workout and returned to his room for breakfast.  I did just get my 5 miies in on the Promenade deck, finishing my walk as we pulled with the ferry building in front of us and the Sun Princess to our port.  Auckland is the largest city of New Zealand, with a population of 1.4 million while the capitol is to the South in Wellington.

My tour today was "West Cost Wilderness Eco Experience.  Kiwi authorities are quite serious about protecting their country, we passed food-sniffing dogs on the way to our waiting mini-busses.  We were divided into groups of about 10 each and drove to 3 stops.  At the Arataki Center we got a beautiful overlook at layout of the area with the Indian Ocean and rough surf on the West Coast and the Pacific Ocean and calmer shores and harbor to the East.  We toured the visitor center there and saw a few examples of New Zealand's plant life, including a fern that looks much a very flat rounded umbrella from above.

We continued to Karakare on the extreme west coast and took a pair of hikes.  The first was a waterfall about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot.  This rain-fed waterfall was about 100 feet high and ended with a small scenic clearing often used for weddings.  To the other side of the parking lot we walked to a black sand beach.  The beach sand had a very high iron content as our guides by picking up rather large quantities of very soft, pliable sand with their magnets.  The beach, about a quarter mile walk from the parking lot drew a number of surfers and was the site of the 1993 movie "The Piano".

Our final stop was in a park where we took a short walk in the woods.  We saw Nikau, looking like a tree but actually a fern with a heavily developed top structure sitting on a stem that looks like a tree trunk but has very little strength and will topple in about a hundred years and start a new growth process.  We also saw several Kauri trees, very large tall trees reaching 1000 years of age and a close second to California Redwoods in grandeur, but threatened now bu a disease.   We returned to the ship just after 1 for my final lunch at the Trident Grill (I succumbed today to the french fries),  After a bit of a walk around Auckland I returned for the final afternoon tea, packing, and the final dinner in the Crystal Dining room.  With the ship docked right in the center of Auckland and many of us packing to leave in the morning, there was no actual show this evening.

Today's parting shot will be about the strength of symbols.  Our guides were telling us about the birds, their docile nature, and their lovely character but susceptibility to preditors.  They are really a lovely symbol for New Zealand with all their great characteristics, but rather strange for the New Zealand Air Force to adopt as it's symbol a bird that cannot fly.

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