A Travellerspoint blog

Week Two

16th December
Located on the North Island's eastern coast, New Zealand's oldest wine-growing region boasts a superb Mediterranean climate and golden sand beaches. In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake leveled Napier. The town rebuilt itself, and today Napier is hailed as the "Art Deco City" for its superb collection of Deco, Spanish Mission and Classical Revival buildings.
We love our wildlife so today we enjoyed a scenic drive along the coast as we made our way to Te Awanga and Cape Kidnappers Station. The story of how Cape Kidnappers got its name is as dramatic as the landscape itself. Named by the famous English explorer Captain Cook, the area was the site of a crime committed aboard his ship, the HMS Endeavour.
We arrived at Cape Kidnappers Station, a privately owned country farm, and were driven over the rich farmland to within a few feet of the gannet sanctuary at Cape Kidnappers. As we traversed river beds, broad rolling pastures, steep gullies and breath-taking inclines, our guide provided us with a full commentary about the area and life on this 4,500 acre farm which stocks over 8,000 sheep and breeding cattle, as well as encompassing an 18-hole international golf course.
Cape Kidnappers itself is a dramatic promontory at the southern end of the sweep of Hawke's Bay and is the largest and most accessible mainland nesting place of gannets in the world. The 15,000 gannets who make their home here are members of the Booby family, with distinctive black eye markings and a pale gold crown. We had the opportunity to view the gannets in their natural habitat, swooping and diving as they bring back fish from the sea, or in pairs preening and performing the "dance of the gannets" recognition ritual.
One of the nesting places is remote a point.
As the gannets came into sight we were in awe as we were to get so close to them.
We were able to see their babies of all sizes. Some has hardly any other feathers and others were fluffy big white things.
We watched them fly off and land very gracefully.
We also saw them conduct their mating ritual.
We also enjoyed a spectacular view of the rugged coastline from Hawke's Bay all the way north to Mahia Peninsula, from the brink of a cliff that rises 328 feet above the beach.
After returning to base and a lovely coffee and snack we headed back to Napier. We had a drive through Napier so we could get a glimpse of some of the Art Deco buildings.
There were lovely touches around town such as the sculpture of the little boy climbing a pole and his mother and pet dog in the mall watching him.

17th December.
New Zealand's natural bounty is always on display at the Bay of Plenty. It was Captain James Cook who in 1769 aptly named this bay, thanks to the prosperous Maori villages of the region. Tauranga, the chief city, is a bustling port, an agricultural and timber center and a popular seaside resort. Tauranga is also the gateway to Rotorua - a geothermal wonderland that is the heart of Maori culture. A 90-minute drive from Tauranga, Rotorua is New Zealand's primary tourist attraction.
Our ship docked near the foot of Mt. Maunganui, which rises 761 feet above the bay.
Wai-O-Tapu, Maori for "Sacred Waters", is an active geothermal area found in New Zealand's Taupo volcanic zone, so this is where we decided to go for the day. After an hour and a half drive we arrive at Wai-O-Tapu, where we enjoy a mile and a half walk to the heart of the 'thermal wonderland'. We had two awe-inspiring hours, where we viewed the mud pools, mineral terraces and steaming volcanic lakes. There was the smell of hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere, a natural byproduct of this geothermal region, but we were used to this after our visit to Iceland. We enjoyed the striking colors of the hot and cold pools, and the unique landscape.
The champagne pool was the best part and the colours were amazing. Very different from the thermal sights we had seen in Iceland.
After a brief 30 minute drive to Rotorua we had a look around the Government Gardens. The museum is in a beautiful building.
There were also sculptures in the park.
We then went to Lake Rotorua where we boarded the Lakeland Queen for a delicious buffet lunch cruise on Lake Rotorua. The Lakeland Queen is a locally built, shallow draft, stern driven vessel - similar to a Mississippi River Boat and ideal for Lake Rotorua's shallow waters. During the cruise we enjoyed a performance from a Maori cultural group. Shane got up to learn the Haka (the Maori war dance).
We then headed to Rainbow Springs. There we saw more than 135 varieties of native trees and ferns that surround the pools, which are teeming with trout.
There are incredible 60-foot tall trees and lots of endangered birds and lizards that you can see.
We visited the nocturnal Kiwi House, where we met New Zealand's adorable national emblem, the endangered kiwi bird. Rainbow Springs is the home to New Zealand’s largest and most successful kiwi conservation centre. Since 1995 they have released over 1,000 kiwi into the wild.
We then travelled an hour and a half back to port through magnificent scenery including the sparkling Rotorua lakefront to board the ship once again.

18th December
Straddling a narrow isthmus created by 60 different volcanoes, New Zealand's former capital boasts scenic beauty, historical interest and a cosmopolitan collection of shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and gardens. Rangitoto, Auckland's largest and youngest volcano, sits in majestic splendor just offshore. Mt. Eden and One Tree Hill, once home to Maori earthworks, overlook the city. Auckland served as New Zealand's capital from 1841 until 1865, when the seat of government moved to Wellington. When we awoke, and looked out our window the city was right there. It was amazing how close the ship had docked to the city.
We decided to go on the hop on hop off bus for the day. We stayed on the bus and did a lap around the city.
At Bastion Point they were flying big kites.
We then changed buses to do the other line so we could climb Mt Eden. It is one of Auckland’s most famous natural landmarks. As the highest volcano on the Auckland isthmus it provided stunning views over the city and harbour.
We got off the bus a few stops early and walked down Queen Street to get back to the ship. They had their Christmas decorations up and this one reminded me of Adelaide except they have reindeer as well as a big father christmas.
We got back to the ship around 1400 hours.
We had a late lunch and later in the afternoon we went to a special show “Haka the Legend”. They talked about the Maori history and did lots of songs and dances including the Haka.
We went out onto the deck for the sail away from Auckland. Only one more stop before heading back to Sydney.

19th December
The Bay of Islands is the birthplace of modern New Zealand. Here the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, establishing British rule and granting the native inhabitants equal status. Rich in legend and mystery, the Bay of Islands has age-old ties to the Maori and to whalers, missionaries and New Zealand's early settlers.
The Bay of Islands has lured explorers for countless centuries. The Maori say that Kupe, the great Polynesian adventurer, came here in the 10th century. Captain Cook anchored offshore in 1769, followed by assorted brigands, traders, colonists and missionaries.
The ship anchored off shore and we had a tender ride to shore. We arrived at Waitangi Wharf and made our way to Paihia. It was only a half hour walk so we walked instead of taking the shuttle. The New Zealand Christmas bush is in flower and was stunning.
We had arranged a short trip just to get a snapshot of the area.
Our first stop was to get a view of the bay.
We also stopped at a little waterfall called Haruru Falls.
Shane was really impressed with the carvings on this entrance.
It was a lovely day but we decided to head back to the ship around 1300. We decided to have our last bottle of wine and cheese and biscuits for lunch. At 1500 there was a happy hour so we went and had some cocktails. At 1600 we set sail for Sydney. So hopefully the weather across the Tasman will be in our favour.
Well that's all for this trip.

Posted by shaneandnicola 13:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Week One

9th December
We left home at 0630 to get the airport for our flight to Sydney. After settling into our seats on the plane the pilot advised that there would be a delay on the Sydney end due to high winds. So, we took off around 10 minutes later than planned. The flight was to be 1 hour 20 minutes but ended up being 2 hours and 20 minutes. An hour later than planned. They had us circling as they only had one run way open because of the wind. It was quite bumpy coming in to land. We grabbed our luggage and there was a Princess representative there waiting for us. We had booked a transfer to the cruise terminal and we were glad we had as there were big traffic jams in Sydney and it took forever to get there. It would have cost a fortune in a taxi. So, it was well worth booking.
We finally made it to the cruise terminal and once again were in awe of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. We never get sick of seeing them. We had a quick check in which was good as were expecting to have to wait a while. When we got to the counter they advised us that we had received an upgrade to our room. We were initially hesitant as last time they gave us an upgrade it was above the Vista Lounge and was quite noisy. This time we went from an interior room to a window room. It was a pleasant surprise.
After grabbing some lunch, we had a walk around the ship and took a couple of photos of our view.
At 1530 we were all called to the compulsory emergency drill. So, with life jackets in hand we made our way to the Wheelhouse Bar which was our meeting point for the drill. This didn’t take too long and were once again free to wander around the ship and find a spot to watch the beautiful Sydney harbour as we set sail.
The captain advised us all that we were in for some rough seas and he was right. We took some sea sick tablets just in case, then before settling in for the night we took a restavit each to help us sleep.
10th December
We woke up really late this morning. It was about 1030 but then we realised they had also moved the clocks forward 1 hours overnight, so it was really 1130. Having missed breakfast, we got ready and headed up for lunch. The captain advised that the seas had been worse than first expected and the waves had been around 20 feet over night. We hadn’t felt a thing. Good old restavit.
We had a lazy afternoon watching movies and relaxing, as we got used to the sway of the ship. Today was non-eventful.

11th December
We had another relaxing morning as it was another day at sea. Once again there was another 1 hour time change so clocks once again went forward another hour. So, that is 2 hours lost, but we get them back on our return trip across the Tasman. We once again skipped breakfast. It was Mexican theme for lunch so off we set for our fill of Mexican food. It was yummy. We are trying not to overdo it. Another relaxing day watching movies and reading. The seas had calmed down significantly.
We decided to go to the happy hour this afternoon as it was buy one and get another for $1. We thought if we ordered one each that they would charge a dollar for one of them, but it ended up being that we got 2 drinks each and the second one was a dollar. Nicola looks pleased with her 2 strawberry daquiris.

12th December
We woke up early this morning as we were going to be cruising in the Fiordland National Park. It occupies the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. It is the largest of the 14 national parks in New Zealand, with an area of 12,500 km2, and is a major part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site. It is home to the stunning Milford Sound. Last time I was here in 1985 it was drizzly and you couldn’t see a thing. Well what a difference it was today. The sun was shining and the cloud slowly went away. We got to see a lot of the sound. The scenery was beautiful.
Entering Milford Sound.
Coming out of Milford Sound.
After exiting Milford Sound we cruised further down the coast and entered Thompson Sound. We cruised through the sound and exited via Doubtful Sound. There was a bit more cloud around but the scenery was still lovely.
About an hour later we entered Breaksea Sound and exited through Dusky Sound. By then the weather had come in but it was still nice cruising around the fjords.
This was our final scenic cruising destination for the day, so off we headed overnight for Dunedin.

13th December
We docked at Port Chalmers which is a gateway to Dunedin. It is located 8 miles from the city centre of Dunedin. We got up early so we could see the ship enter the breakwater.
We had heard that we might be able to see some albatross as we entered through the breakwater. We only saw one on the water.
Coming into dock at Port Chalmers was beautiful. It was so green.
Perched on the hills above the harbour, Dunedin is a city with a Scottish heart. Hailed as the “Edinburgh of New Zealand”, Dunedin is proud of its heritage. A statue of famed Scottish poet Robert Burns graces downtown, and the presence of the only kilt maker and whisky distillery – as well as bagpipe bands – keep its ties to Scotland alive. The city also boasts a distinguished architectural and cultural history, a legacy to the 1860s gold rush.
We decided to do the Taieri Gorge Railway trip. It is one of the world's great train journeys. The original railway was to be closed in 1990 but the Otago Excursion Train Trust realised the potential for tourism and the Dunedin City Council opted to purchase the line. The Save the Train appeal was launched and over $1.2 million was raised. We experienced an amazing variety of landscapes of the city, farmland, forests and the wild Taieri River Gorge. The train was pulled by a classic 1960s DJ diesel electric locomotive.
We crossed magnificent stone and wrought iron viaducts and bridges, and gasped at the sheer drops to the river below. We went through ten tunnels with the schist rock walls only inches from the side of the train. The track glided across the Wingatui Viaduct, a marvel of 1880's construction that remains the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand.
We continued across curving bridges, before emerging from the gorge near Pukerangi, the turn-around point for our railway adventure.
We had a boxed lunch on the train with some New Zealand wine.
As our train pulled into the historic Dunedin Railway Station, we stepped into the grandest "gingerbread house" you'll ever see. Nicknamed "Gingerbread George" after its architect George Troup, this elaborately decorated building boasts a mosaic floor of almost 750,000 porcelain tiles, among many ornate embellishments. After this short stop, we re-boarded the train to Port Chalmers and our waiting ship.

14th December
On the eastern shores of New Zealand's South Island, Akaroa is a popular tourist destination with a distinctly French flair, its history steeped in legend. It lies on the volcanic Banks Peninsula, which the Maori believe was formed when a hero named Maui piled mountains upon a giant who threatened to eat his children.
The same peninsula was purchased from the local Maori by a French whaler around 1838, and was later settled by both the French and the British, who had just signed the Treaty of Waitangi ensuring New Zealand's existence as a British colony.
With French-named streets leading to restaurants serving French cuisine and colonial architecture all around, Akaroa's heritage as the only French-founded community in New Zealand is unmistakable. Akaroa harbour is home to a diverse array of marine life, including rare Hector's dolphins. Unfortunately, we only had a day here and did not get a chance to look around town as we went on an adventure exploring one of New Zealand's least-visited areas: the rugged hill country of the Southern Alps. It's a stunning region that stands in dramatic contrast to the flat Canterbury Plains that surround Christchurch. From the sea side port of Akaroa, we journeyed over the coastal hills and across the fertile Canterbury Plains in a mini bus, before making our way to Springfield and then down onto Rubicon Station's Tourist Centre on the banks of the spectacular Waimakariri River Gorge.
Upon arrival in the high country we boarded our next exciting mode of transport, an off-road 4x4 for a scenic and exciting 4WD tour over Rubicon and Mt Torlesse Stations.
We learned about the colorful history, the geology and day to day farming of these impressive stations. Both of these private High Country Stations have no public access. Mt Torlesse Station is a 10,000 acre working sheep and cattle station that has been in the same family for 4 generations. We had numerous stops for photos and a chance to appreciate the spectacular views of river gorges, rugged high country and the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps as well as views across the Canterbury Plains.
We stopped to take a look at the fast flowing Waimakariri River .
After enjoying our 4WD adventure we returned to Rubicon Station for a delicious buffet lunch which included lamb of course. We then, boarded our next mode of transport, a Hamilton jet boat, which took us on a thrilling and spectacular scenic ride deep into the heart of the Waimakariri Gorge, skimming over water at times only centimetres deep.
We then had a relaxing return journey along the Great Alpine Highway and back across the Canterbury Plain to Akaroa, where we returned to our awaiting ship. We then set sail, so we went out on deck as it was a beautiful afternoon. Here is the view as we cruised out of the caldera.
The coastline was really rugged.
It had been a long day so we had an early dinner and retired for the evening.

15th December
Happy Birthday mum.
This morning we arrived in Wellington. New Zealand's capital offers stunning views of forested peninsulas, dramatic cliff-side homes and fine Victorian buildings. Settled in 1840 by the London-based New Zealand Company, "wonderful, windy Wellington" is frequently buffeted by bracing winds funneling through Cook Strait. Unfortunately, the city lived up to its reputation. We had 50 knot winds coming into Wellington. The ship tried several times to dock and we even had the assistance of 2 tugs, but they just couldn’t do it. So, we missed out on looking around Wellington. We headed back out to sea and had to spend the day at sea.

Posted by shaneandnicola 10:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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