Published: February 19th 2013February 19th 2013
Auckland to Sydney
Our visit to New Zealand was so busy I am just now finding time to write about it. First of all, we love NZ and everything about it. The country is beautiful, the people are friendly, and the wine is very good. The only downside comes with the cost of everything from bottled water to objects d’art.
We docked right in the midst of downtown Auckland late one afternoon, giving us time to stroll about the city a bit before dinner. We found the place where we both had haircuts in 2008 and then walked to the transportation center – a converted building which had once been a post office, and before that, a railroad station. Just beyond that we saw the golden arches of McDonald’s, but kept walking back to the ship for dinner.
The next day we left the city and headed to the Wautoma Glowworm Caves about an hour and a half away. There are really three ways to see these caves: 1. Walk down 122 steps and board a large row boat; 2. Walk down a spiral ramp to the bottom of the cave along a metal walkway with some handrails (in very dim, or no lights) having to duck very low to avoid scraping the stalactites (a $10,000 fine!); 3. Raft in. Don a wet suit and go by raft into the cave. We opted for #2, the spiral ramp. Once inside the cave we saw wonderful formations and beautiful colors. Finally, we saw the glow worms. These are actually larvae that glow, emitting a soft light throughout the cave. We had to be very quiet or the worms “shut off”. It is a unique experience, and the best part is that I made it down and up again! We asked our guide how far we had walked, and she said 2.5 k’s, or about 1.5 miles.
We proceeded to the Kiwi House after lunch. This is one of the best places to see the kiwi bird because it is nocturnal, and difficult to lure into the open during the day. The place they are housed is dim and kiwis did venture forth so we could see them. The female lays a very, very large egg – almost as large as an ostrich egg – and, only one per year. Therefore, the female is larger than the male. Maybe that is more than you really wanted to know. We returned to the ship quite tired but with amazing memories of the day.
The next day we sailed to Taranga (Rotorua), NZ. We went to a Maori village (reproduction) where we saw a Maori dance and saw how they made their costumes. The tribes fought each other and painted their bodies in the past. Their main feature was sticking out their tongues and voicing aargh very loudly to scare their enemies. From there we went to a town where we had lunch on our own. There are many take-away restaurants where they have displays of the food like meat pies, pizzas, fish or chicken and chips, sandwiches, or a menu of other offerings. You pick and they heat it and bring it to you. This area has many geysers and hot springs. I did not go on the walk through this area and the mud spots, but Bruce did. This was a nice spot to just sit and look around, have a spot of tea, and relax while the others suffered the heat.
From Rotorua we sailed to Napier, NZ. Here, we went on another trip with Karen and Brad and twelve others. This time we were on a winery tour. We visited seven wineries that day and that was too many for one day. We did taste some very nice whites – Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and a couple of reds; Syrah, and Pinot Noir. There were a couple of sweeter wines we did not care for, although there was one rather nice dessert wine that was close to what we know as ice wine. We bought only three whites and one red that day. Fortunately, we can bring wine on the ship and take it to our cabin.
Wellington was our next port. We had no tours that day so we just took the shuttle to the center of town and walked around. We took the cable car to the top of one hill and the view from there overlooking the bay and the town was awesome. We sat and had tea and just took it all in. We were right at the Botanical Gardens entrance and we did see some beautiful flowers and trees from there. Because it was Sunday, the stores downtown were closed, and since we had seen the Museum before, we decided to return to the ship. The day was a nice break from our previous day’s wine tasting.
Our next port was the only one on the South Island, Picton, which is a three hour ferry ride from Wellington. Here we did another wine tasting tour with Karen and Brad. Again, we had some nice whites and Pinot Noirs. We had lunch at one of the wineries in a beautiful setting. It was almost like another worlk being among the grape vines and beautifully manicured lawn leading up to the lovely stone “Cellar Door”. Swings hung from the huge trees making naps hard to resist. This was our last stop in NZ before heading for Sydney, and what a perfect way to remember our visit in New Zealand.