15.05.2016 - 19.05.2016
RTW Day #153
May 15, 2016 Wellington, NZ
Sydney weather was nice but it was starting to get cold again so I was a little glad to cross to Wellington which is at the bottom of the North Island instead of going further south in Australia. The ship is docked in Lambton Quay so we took the shuttle bus into town then got on the Cable Car tram up to the top of Kelburn Hill. Construction of the system started in 1899 and was opened on Feb 22, 1902. In 1933 electricity replaced steam as the power source. In 1978 the original system was replaced by a Swiss design. At the top, there is a Cable Car Museum situated in the original Winding house and has 2 of the original cars and the winding gear used to hall them up the steep incline. The hill is so steep that a lot of private houses on the hill have installed their own mini cable car system instead of walking hundreds of steps to their homes.
There is also a back entrance to the Wellington Botanical Gardens. The back entrance being at the top of Kelburn Hill, but at least it was all downhill. We had visited this place 3 years ago and found it very nice and large. We were there a couple months earlier in the year so the flowers were more in bloom then but it was still a nice place to walk thru. The garden was established in 1868 and covers 25 hectares with protected forest, exotic trees, plant collections and seasonal displays of bulbs and annual plants. The Lady Norwood Rose Garden contains 300 varieties of roses that bloom from November to May. The Begonia House has a colorful display of the flowers plus bromeliads, air plants, orchids and many hanging baskets.
At the main gate, there was a group of folks doing a greyhound dog adoption event. The dogs looked very happy to be in the garden. Then we hiked back up to the top cable car station so we could ride back down and Roger could make a geocaching find near the half-way point.
May 17, 2016 Napier, NZ
We should have docked in Picton, NZ on 5/16 but the harbor pilot on board was concerned about an approaching storm and our chances of leaving the port later in the day. The captain chose to leave and head to Napier. We missed another chance for wine tasting in Picton. In Napier, we had the Hawke’s Bay Express tour. This road train was completely built by the owner and his father to be like an old-fashion steam train. The “steam” engine was built over a tractor chassis. The interior of the 2 passenger cars were very lovely with burgundy velvet seats and brass trim and naturally finished wood.
Napier was almost completely devastated by a 1931 earth quake taking the concrete buildings and the resulting fires taking the wood frame structures. As a result, Napier has the world’s largest concentration of Art Deco buildings. Of the 164 Art Deco style buildings, 140 remain in their original glory. Most of the shop owners participate in the 1930’s theme by dressing in costume. Napier boasts the 3rd largest vintage car club in New Zealand with 500 members and some members have multiple cars. They hold a festival once a year that thousands attend and some ship their vintage cars to Napier from all over the world to participate in the activities. All the residents get involved dressing in period clothing. We had a few of the cars and owners at the pier for display and some passengers hired them for touring the city and wineries.
The one thing you pick up on very quickly in all these New Zealand ports is that they export timber, lots of timber. In every port there is a section allocated for nothing but timber and other wood products. Monterey Pines were introduced into NZ in 1859 now they make up 89% of all the plantation grown timber. Turns out due to getting more rain here, the trees will grow to maturity in about half the time it takes in California. Raw timber, lumber, plywood and even sawdust are mostly shipped to Asian markets but some actually makes its way to the U.S.
May 18, 2016 Tauranga, NZ
The ship was docked in the town of Mt. Maunganui, a small quite village very close to the pier. We walked into town looking for some Pepsi and Chips but none to be had. There were a lot of possum and merino wool items made in NZ so I got a warm pair of socks. We got caught in a rain storm so ducked into a restaurant/bar called Latitude 37 for lunch and a beer. The area is known for its green-lip mussels so the chef had them on the buffet menu that night.
About 43 miles south of Tauranga is the resort town of Rotorua. This site is famous for the many Thermal Reserves. There are many hot springs, mud pools and geysers in this area and a major producer of Kiwifruit. Worth a visit if you are ever in the area as we did 3 years ago.
May 19, 2016 Auckland, NZ
Our tour was to the Waitomo Glowworm Cave. There was a 3 hour bus ride to the caves passing by lush dairy land and farms of the Waikato Valley. The caves were found in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau using a raft and candles to float into the cave entrance. Guided tours started in 1889. Once in the cave, we walked around limestone formations of stalagmites and stalactites forming pillars of beautiful proportions. We boarded a boat for a cave river ride in complete darkness and silence. On the ceiling of the cave were millions of bio-luminescent glow worms that stick to the cave. The worms extinguish their lights when disturbed by noise. The boatman pulled the boat through the river by using a series of ropes to keep from using an engine or oars. Sorry, no photos allowed inside cave.
Following the cave tour, we had lunch at Crosshills, a working dairy farm that had been in the family for 3 generations. The original part of the farmhouse has the old, homey, weathered look with moss on the concrete and over-grown shrubs. The lunch consisted of white wine, salad, lamb, meatloaf, vegetables, bread and home-made ice cream in an ice bowl and berry sauce on it. YUMMY!!!! Roger really enjoyed the meatloaf.
Next entry is French Polynesia and Samoa