The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Feb 28 - Bay of Islands, NZ

Saturday, February 28, 2015 - Day 24 - Bay of Islands, NZ

Carolyn wakes up just as the sun is rising and goes out to watch a beautiful sunrise as we sail into the Bay of islands.....just beautiful!!

This is a tender port and you have to secure a tender ticket after 8:30AM. There are also four tours scheduled to start between 8 and 9. Bottom line if you are independent like us you have a wait before your turn will come up. So, we go to breakfast and then gather some water and our cameras. We are assigned a seat on tender trip #32 and they are just loading #19. We adjourn to the Golden Lion Pub area and Dick plays trivia awhile and then return to the waiting area where they call our tender number after about a 15 minute wait. Four tenders are traveling full and they pack it tight; about 90 people.

There is a choppy run into the Yacht Club dock area and then we are off and onto a shuttle bus into the little town of Paihia. We promptly catch the ferry over to Russell for $12NZ each, round trip. The bay area is busy with pleasure craft on this sunny Saturday. The ride takes about 15 minutes and we walk the shore-side street and peek in the shops and explore a craft market. There are some beautiful carvings and hand woven items for sale, but most are very expensive. Carolyn buys a small carving of a mouse to add to her collection. Dick tries the local hardware store for a replacement for his Leatherman Mini pocket tool which has disappeared. No luck!

Carolyn has found a table by the shore and is enjoying a Coke when he returns and we sit there enjoying the scene and take pictures of the activity, including some little boys playing in and at the edge of the water. With nothing else to do in Russell, we board the ferry and head back to Paihia but not before watching some older boys jumping the ten feet or so from the pier into the water.

Back in Paihia we stroll through a Saturday craft market and then board the shuttle bus to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This is a seriously overpriced experience at $25NZ per person but we do it anyway. This is where, in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British and the Maori people and New Zealand counts that event as the beginning of the country.

We watch a 20 minute film about the treaty and the past and current state of relations between the Maori and other New Zealanders. It is interesting and well done. We then walk to the flagstaff that marks the spot where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6, 1840. Then on to The Carved Meeting House and the Treaty House. The Treaty House was the home of the British Residency from 1833 to 1840 and where James Busby conducted much of the British Government’s business during that time.  This is all in a beautiful setting on a high point overlooking Waitangi Bay. We then make the steep, down hill walk to the building containing the worlds largest, ceremonial war canoe, HMS Ngatokimatawhaorua.  It is 35-meters long and needs a minimum of 76 paddlers to handle it safely. It was built in the late 1930s from the trunks of three massive trees, the stump of one of which is there with the canoe.

Having walked our feet off, we head back up to catch the shuttle bus and back to the tender dock.  It is a fairly short wait for the tender despite a large crowd and we are back on board about 3:45PM. Supposedly the last tender is to be at 4:30PM and maybe it is but it takes until 5:45PM before we get under way for Sydney. The sail away is just a nice as the sail in. We will be sailing along the coast most of the night. 

 We decide to eat early in the Lido. At shortly after 7PM it is loaded with people we have not seen before. This is the first time the Lido has had any crowd at all and reminds us of why we don’t like to eat in the Lido usually. They are grilling to order rib eye steaks and tuna. Carolyn has a steak and Dick has both the steak and tuna. The sides aren’t as appealing tonight but they do have a vegetable tempura that is good. Plus, they loaded fresh greens in Auckland so the salad looks good also. We top the meal off with ice cream cones and go back to the cabin and enjoy a very nice sunset. We have been told that some 600 people got on in Auckland for the short cruise to Sydney where the ship is to pick up a large contingent of Japanese. The flavor of the ship has changed.  It is younger and less worldly.  We are even seeing a number of small children. We are ready to get off and on our on and this change only reenforces this desire.  We will be glad to pick up the Queen Mary in Capetown on April 18 but for now we are a little tired of ships, or more exactly the late dining time. Fortunately we will be in the Princess Grill on the Queen Mary and have open seating for dinner.

The clocks are to be set back and hour tonight so we are in bed by 8PM tomorrow time.  Night people we are not. Especially after a day of walking and site seeing!

Feb 27 - Auckland, NZ

Friday, February 27, 2015 - Day 23 - Auckland, NZ

The ship docks right in town at Queens Wharf. It is a great docking place...right by the ferries to the outlying islands and the HOHO buses are waiting to gather those who are planning a day in town. Today we have a tour to Rotorua and the Thermal Valley. We are supposed to gather in the theater at 7AM so we go to our first breakfast in the Lido.  Scrambled eggs, bacon and juice. Quite good.

We walk into the theater promptly at 7AM to find no one from the tour office even there.  We sit for about ten minutes until a young woman from the tour office shows up and is surprised to find that the boss man, a certifiable idiot in the wrong job, is not there and the bus stickers are not there either.  She takes off to find them. About 7:20AM the boss man and the stickers show up and Dick has to go stand in line to get our two. They look at his ticket and hand him two #3s. Half the people are getting #1, others #2 and nine of us get #3. We should have known something was wrong.

After a few minutes the lead idiot calls for #1 and #2 and clearly states that the rest of us will be called in a few minutes. So we sit and sit and sit. Carolyn is fretting about the delay, but Dick is telling her to do what the man said. Finally one woman gets thoroughly agitated and heads out to find out what is going on. Seems they are missing nine people on the dock and the buses are way past ready to leave. We hustle down to the dock and load up on bus #2 and continue to wait while one woman searched for her picture ID that will be required to get back on the ship.

We finally get rolling about 8AM, a solid 30 minutes late for a long day with a very tight schedule. We are on a comfortable bus with a pleasant driver guide who does not feel obligated to talk all the time. Rotorua is 150 miles South of Auckland so it is going to be a long day. Our route takes us along a motorway, over the Bombay Hills and into the fertile dairy lands of the Waikato River Valley. We make one stop to offload coffee and take on a new load. This is across the river from a huge gas/coal fired generating plant.  We are told it is to be mouth balled as the coal mines in the area are being closed and it is not up to modern pollution standards.

Near the town of Matamata (don’t you just love the place names in New Zealand), our driver points out a substantial hill/mountain to our right where part of “The Lord of the Rings” was filmed. The film company built the Hobbit village of Hobbitton there and left it to the land owner when they finished. He now charges $75NZ ($55US) to visit and had over 300,000 visitors last year. You do the math! Plus the movie company paid him a fortune for the right to build the village in the first place!

Along the way, we pass through a mile long stretch of narrow highway called Fitzgerald Glade.  Our driver says that the dense foliage and trees in this area are what the whole island looked like when the first English arrived. Some of the trees take a thousand years to reach maturity. There is one that they have dated as 1500 years old.

We are now running 40 minutes late and arrive at the Agrodome when the show is nearly finished. This is billed as a unique show featuring 19 breeds of sheep with displays of sheep dogs and sheep shearing. The ticket costs $47NZ and we missed most of it because of the tour director’s incompetence! 

Next we are driven for a brief tour of the town of Rotorua and see the buildings and facilities from its heyday as a spa center. It is still very popular as a tourist destination and one sees thermal vents everywhere with steam rising from front and back yards and sewer grates. It reminds us in a way of Queenstown on the South Island with its broad streets and flowers everywhere. Plus, it also has a lake.

We stop at a Holiday Inn (Oh, Joy!) for lunch and it turns out to be quite nice. You can’t go too far wrong when they hand you a beer or a glass of wine as you walk in! It is a buffet with numerous tasty selections and we can only say we enjoy it and are well fed. This stop concludes with folkloric show by Maori men and women. They are a handsome people and several of the women are quite attractive; even with their tattoos!

Our next and last stop is at the Thermal Valley or the Te Puia Thermal Reserve. This is an area built up around the thermal pools and has Maori museum. While interesting, if you have seen Yellowstone National Park in the USA the thermal part is a disappointment. But, if it is all you have..........

There is a recreated, pre-European, Maori Village where we see dancers, weavers and carvers at work and Jack acquires a pin and a new “Jack Sack.” It has begun to rain, but not hard, as we board the bus for our three and a half hour drive back to the ship.  She sails at 7:30PM and we pull out at 4:10PM.  Not to worry, it is a ship’s tour. The Captain may get his “nickers in a twist” but they won’t leave us!  Hopefully!

After an uneventful drive back with one potty stop in Matamata, aka Hobbitton, we arrive back on the dock at 7:40PM. We are, quite literally, the last two guests on board and the ship is moving by the time we get to our cabin. The Captain was antsy!

The sail out of Auckland Harbor is quite pretty with the last of the sun shining on clouds and even a small rainbow showing for awhile.