March 15 – Akaroa, New Zealand

New Zealand's flag
Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Akaroa
March 15th 2014
Published: March 15th 2014
Edit Blog Post

This morning we sailed into the harbor of Akaroa. This is a sheltered bay on the opposite side of a volcanic range from the port of Littleton and the town of Christchurch. It was a little cool on deck this morning as we walked on the deck going to breakfast. Our tour was scheduled to meet in the theater at 8:10, so we only had time for the buffet.

Unfortunately, Janet wasn’t feeling well and she decided to stay on the ship today instead of going for the excursion. But David went to the theater and got checked in. This tour didn’t actually get called to the tender until about 8:45. He boarded the little orange lifeboat and rode about 20 minutes to the pier in Akaroa. The bus was not completely full, and David was one of the first ones to board, so he got a double seat to himself. Since we spent a lot of time on the bus today, that was nice.

The bus drove about 1 hour to the Mandeley Sheep Farm. We were given a demonstration of how sheepdogs are trained, and then how they are used to “wrangle” the sheep. The shepherd just used a whistle and occasionally a voice command to direct the dog to go up the mountainside. There the dog corralled a group of half dozen sheep, and gradually drove them down the hill into the grassy area where we were all waiting. The shepherd directed the dog to stay along the fence line, then to move left or right, to walk (not run), to sit and wait for the sheep, and eventually to bring them in to us. David took some pictures and a couple of movies, so hopefully some of them illustrate how well the dog worked to bring in the sheep. Then he chose another dog to drive the sheep back to the top of the hill where they had been.

After the demonstration, we had a chance to use the facilities and to drink coffee, tea, or juice, and to eat a couple of cookies. This was about 11:15, so a snack was welcome. The owner and his wife talked to all the visitors and told them about living in that region. About 30 years ago, there were almost twice as many sheep being raised in NZ, but now it is down to around 43 million. Conversely, the cattle industry has grown from being about 5 million at that time to around 13 million now. Those aren’t quite the same numbers we had heard previously, but this guy probably knew what he was talking about.

Apparently there had been a heavy rain a week ago (12 inches) and they were expecting a storm to come in this evening – however we will sail away before it arrives. The temperature on this part of the South Island (we were on the North Island until today) can get cold enough to snow/frost anytime a storm comes from the south. However, it also gets warm enough in the summer that these folks had a swimming pool in the yard – they said it gets above 30-32 degrees sometimes in the summer. All told, this was an interesting stop. By the way, it was partly cloudy today and about 70 degrees inland, although it was cooler than that in Akaroa (by the water)

Back on the bus, we drove almost another hour to Christchurch. The terrain is very hilly in places between Akaroa and Christchurch, but also includes the largest continuous portion of flat land in New Zealand (called the Canterbury Plain). The mountainous regions resulted many thousands of years ago from the volcanic development of the islands, resulting from the Pacific Plate colliding with the Australian Plate. The region is still seismically active which causes the hot springs we saw earlier in the trip, and causes up to 2000 tremors in NZ during the year (mostly too small to be felt). Anyway, the drive was very picturesque.

The tour ships do not go to Littleton because the harbor piers were badly damaged during the earthquake a few years ago, and they have concentrated on repairing the commercial piers for shipping, instead of for tourists. Christchurch itself was heavily damaged, especially in the business district. Much of that area had been built on reclaimed land and the earthquake basically collapsed the ground under the buildings. Although there is still plenty of evidence of damage above ground, our guide says that all the pipes and infrastructure below ground (including water & sewer pipes, and road beds) are also in need of repair. Although many of the buildings did not totally collapse (so not as many people died as you might expect), 80% of the business district was declared CONDEMNED and had to be torn down. Some of the buildings are still waiting to be demolished. 50,000 residences were also condemned, so there has been lots of building of new houses out in the surrounding areas, but supply and demand has driven property values very high.

The South Island has a population of about one million people (much less than the North Island) and almost half of them live around Christchurch or Littleton. So you see the rest of the southern part of NZ is pretty sparsely populated.

The bus drove around and we saw some areas which are already built with new buildings (mostly 2 or 3 stories). The “rebuilding plan” has placed a maximum height on any building of 8 stories. Our guide explained that many of these new building were from prefab materials (steel and glass) and have been assembled on-site. We parked near the cathedral and we had an hour to explore on our own. There are two camps arguing whether to demolish the cathedral or rebuild it. Likewise several of the larger buildings (like their sports complex) are being debated by the insurance companies whether it is cheaper to repair or rebuild. In the meantime, nothing is happening to them.

David did see a section of the central business district which has been rebuilt using shipping containers. They cut out one side and covered them with glass doors, and now they are instant stores. There were even some which have reopened in large tents. The guide pointed to this as indications that Christchurch will be back better than ever in the future.

While David was on his tour, Janet was able to get some rest for her knee. She spent the morning the International café having tea with some of her knitting buddies. She then joined a group for a trivia contest. She was embarrassed not to know the motto of the FBI. The rest of the team was from Australia and they counted on her to know it. However the team still won and we all got Princess key chains. The answer by the way is “Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity”. She then had a hot dog lunch and napped in the afternoon. When she woke up she felt much better.

David got back to the ship about 4:00 and we did a couple of loads of laundry this afternoon. This will keep us well clothed until we get back to Sydney. There are 3 laundromats on the ship, but only 2 washers and 2 dryers in each one. Luckily the first place we checked had both machines available, so all went well and the clothes came out of the dryer in time to get cleaned up and off to dinner on time.

There were no wineries on today’s agenda, but David did have some wine in the cabin before going to dinner. This evening’s dinner theme was Asian Dinner. We expect that as the cruises start going north to the Asian countries, the menus will become even more oriental oriented. According to Mel (our waiter at dinner), those cruises are heavily composed of Japanese tourist and they are much more demanding than American and Australians. We have been pretty relaxed about our service (which always seems to be good) and a little patience has been well rewarded.

There were only two of us at dinner this evening (nobody else showed up). Janet had the Crabcake appetizer and Beef Tournedos for her entry. David had a small order of Fettuccini Alfredo for appetizer, Hot & Sour Soup, and Beef Tournedos for dinner. For dessert, Janet has chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup and David had the caramel crème gateau and mango-mint ice cream. The head chef went through the dining room this evening meeting the passengers – he is leaving the ship after this cruise, so we have to break in a new Head Chef. Also the Head Waiter for our section of the dining room will be leaving, as will the Maitre D’.

The entertainment in the Princess Theater was someone named Donna Campbell. She did an impersonation of Dolly Parton. She was fully equipped with all the necessary attributes (blond fig, rhinestone dress, etc) J. She was also a good singer and we both enjoyed the show.

After the evening show each night, David goes up to the Horizon Court to refill our water bottles for the next day. Tonight it was drizzling as he walked on the deck. We certainly hope that clears up by tomorrow morning. Check in tomorrow and see.


Tot: 2.393s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 12; qc: 46; dbt: 0.0384s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb