Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rafting and Art Deco

Napier, the Art Deco Capital of the World, was next on our trip as we arrived Monday, April 17.  In 1931 a big earthquake destroyed everything, raising the inner harbor and other areas, and leaving more than 7,000 additional acres.  All the new construction was built as art deco.   

We were going river rafting.  I haven’t done that since the 80s in Denali National Park.  What a blast. 
We were all geared up with rain jackets, pants and life jackets.  We were ready to go.

We were rafting the Mohaka River, which means "place for dancing."
There was some white water.  I don't remember what they classify this river, not a big one.
There were some beautiful gorges that we rafted through, rising high on the one side, so we craned our necks to see all the way to the top.
We worked our way around the bends, marveling at the scenery.

It turns out the two who fell out of the one raft were a married couple on their 35th wedding anniversary.  Their names were Mark and Donna, and what an exciting memory to have on your anniversary.  I had hoped they’d consider it a good one.  I chatted with them later and they seemed to think so.  And this wasn’t the first time.  Great folks and a great sense of humor.
And we rafted around still more bends.
The photographer is standing on the rock to the right taking our pictures.
And he got some good ones.
The river was high due to lots of rain this year, so it was running faster than usual.  There were several rafts of us, and on one a lady fell out, and on another two people fell out. I saw the photos from the fallout.  Wow.

It was a great day filled with sunshine.  Napier has about 2,258 hours of sunshine and a little over 30 inches of rain in a year..  January and February are the warmest months with an average high around 75 degrees.  July and August are the coolest with a high of about 57 degrees.  We had great temperatures. 
The hillsides look like green velvet.  There are about nine sheep to every person in New Zealand.  And there are roughly four million New Zealanders.  That's a lot of sheep, and we can say from experience, they're hard to get a photograph of as they seem to know we want a picture and turn their butts and run from us, even when we're passing through on a bus.
We were done rafting a bit early so our bus driver took us so we could at least get a glimpse of some of the art deco, and what beautiful buildings they were.  Next time I’d opt to wandering around the little town and taking a peek at it all.  And, the guide even entertained us a bit playing a concertina.  It was fun, and different.

The archway along the water was pretty.  No big hotels or buildings here as the beach is for the public since the earthquake took down all the buildings on the waterfront.  That's a great idea.  We wished we'd had time to do some beach walking.  Next time.
Looking out at Hawke's Bay, named by Captain James Cook in 1769 after Sir Edward Hawke, First Lord of the Admiralty.  This work is something of beauty, but I don't remember what it's for.  I like it anyway.

This statue is Pania, a figure from Maori mythology.
Napier is the second-largest settlement in the Hawke's Bay area of New Zealand's north island, with a population of 57,240 (2014)
Napier has 123 art deco buildings, combining linear symmetry of art deco with tribal Maori motifs.
As we were driving back to the ship, we were stopped by the police.  There’s a new one for you … a Princess excursion tour bus being chased by a cop car with the lights running code, siren ablaring.  Haha.  Turns out when our driver was transferring fuel from one tank to another, some was leaking as the valve wasn’t completely closed.  Fixed, and on our way after a wave from the police and some big smiles on their part.  The excitement never ends with us.

Back at the dock there were eight or nine vintage vehicles and folks dressed up in period costumes.  It was great.  This was my favorite.
Every vehicle was as shiny as could be.  They were beautiful.  What a lovely way to end our time on shore.

We had a nice send-off committee of sailboats.  It was great.  And our pilot's boat was coming to get him.

We had two boats to pick up the pilot, one of which was in training and working to pick up the pilot from our ship.  The old hand finally came to get him.  It was like dance choreography.
 It was another great day, with fun, excitement, and most importantly, lots of warmth and sunshine.



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sandwiches and VWs

On April 16, Easter Sunday, we arrived at Wellington, New Zealand, our second time here.  We went up to breakfast before we got off the ship and there were balloons and crepe paper egg decorations for the day.  How nice. 

This time we had decided to just walk about.   When we were getting off the ship there was a working Beagle named Fergus.  I wasn’t allowed to pet or photograph him, but he jumped on me a few times, so I believe he knew I was a Beagle person.  At every port there are announcements to not take food off the ship.  And guess what … people do.  Therefore, we have dogs to sniff it out, and what better dog to sniff out food than a Beagle?  I heard Fergus got the job done and one less sandwich made it to shore.
A Beagle pillow would have to do.
During our walkabout we found some of the things our port lecturer had talked bout.  Cuba Street was a cool little street where there are some fun sculptures.  We had to photograph them, and then we walked to the War Memorial and the Te Papa Museum, although it was so crowded we didn’t really want to tour it.  We just continued to walk and found more cool buildings and sculptures.
Cuba Street ... what an interesting street.
A day for sculptures and signs.  The bucket fountain is made up of buckets with water cascading down starting at the top, from one to the next. Very cool.
An elaborate restaurant sign.
Lights seem to be fancy sometimes.
This sign is by the fish market.  Seems appropriate.
A beautiful entrance sign to the restaurant.
The War Memorial opened in 1932, is beautiful inside and out.  Parts have been added, such as the hall of memories in 1964.  The memorial acknowledges the impact of war on the nearly 30,000 New Zealanders who have died in conflict and honors all who have served.
This statue is dedicated to the medics and ambulance drivers and the donkeys that were used to bear stretchers.
The Parliament Building is known as the Beehive.

There was a VW car show on Queen’s Wharf.  Old ones, new ones.  It was so fun to see all of them.

This one was pretty rough, but I loved the luggage.
Yep, old 76.
This one reminded me of a friend who has passed, Sunflower.  She loved sunflowers.  She and her dad rode with us, from when she was a youngster.
We saw some dogs so I could get a real dog fix.  One was part Rhodesian Ridgeback who is still a puppy.  He’s eaten part of a couch, some rug, and a whole lot of things.  Their other dog, named Holly, is sweet and their golden child.  The ridgeback, Brodie, is their problem child, but oh, so cute.  I loved him.

Brodie, the brat.

We walked on.  There, ahead, were four Greyhounds.  One black girl is Willow and she was my favorite.  There are about 40 of them who come on Easter Sunday every year to do a walkabout.  How fun.  We saw 10 of them.  Was so fun as they’re such great dogs.

Willow, very stately.
Lovely dogs.
There was an interesting paint job on this building.  It might have been a parking lot.  I don't know.
I love how there are whimsical statues here and there.
See the yellow M&Ms in front of the building.
There's no end to beautiful buildings.
Perhaps not as beautiful, but certainly intriguing, these are toilettes.  I thought they were worm sculptures of some sort.
Then we wandered a bit further and headed toward where we needed to go to catch the shuttle back to the ship.  Good thing.  It started to sprinkle, then rain.  Our timing was impeccable today.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sydney again

We arrived this morning, Wednesday, April 12, with the Sydney Opera House on our left, the Sydney Harbour Bridge on our right.  It was only a short time now before we had to vacate this cabin that we’d grown to love, and move to our other one that we’ve deemed the ghetto cabin.  It’s quite lovely with a balcony, but now we know there’s so much more.  Yep, Princess marketing folks have sucked us right in.  But we can’t upgrade for the next leg as there are no mini-suites available.  Oh well.  Our luggage would be moved for us.  Nice.

We went up to breakfast, lingered a bit in the room, and then got off the ship, our “in transit” papers in hand, along with our passports and immigration and emigration paperwork.  We’ve heard there are 47 passengers “in transit” continuing on to Los Angeles.  The best here is that we’ll be seeing our California friends, Mike and Vangie, as they’ll be boarding in Sydney.

Cingular Quay was getting busy, suits going to work, young girls in dresses and nice outfits.  It seems to be a young town.  We didn’t care.  We knew of a coffee shop in the mall that does good coffee.  They knew of it, too, as it was quite crowded.  But we weren’t in a rush to get anywhere.

Then we wandered back through the Royal Botanic Garden.  We found statues that we’d not seen when we’d gone through it a few weeks ago.  It’s a beautiful place and worth all the time we’ve spent here.
Known as a slit-drum, this one is made of Pacific teak.  These were traditionally used for beating dance rhythms, transmitting messages or summoning villagers to meetings.
In the garden there are a couple of areas that have bamboo.  I found it interesting that people carved their initials or designs into the stalks.  Then I wondered if it killed the plants. It doesn't appear to and I hoped not as I liked imagining koalas peeping out from the fronds at the top, No, there were none here.
There were some ponds here and there, and one with pretty daisy-like flowers that we'd not discovered when here before.
This was quite unique.  It appeared that when the tree died, they had someone do a carving on the trunk. 
I bought a few things to get rid of the Australian cash and then we hit the Oyster Bar for grilled barramundi as they do it best of any we’ve found anywhere here. 

Would they really send this for an iced tea spoon?

When we got back on board we discovered the differences besides just having a smaller cabin, less shelves and closet space, a smaller deck and only one television set.  The towels are not as thick, there are smaller bars of soap, different beds and pillows.  AND there’s no emergency pull cord in the shower.  There is none at all in this cabin.  But we still get ice, our room steward has us well in hand and he seems quite nice.  Plus he brought us robes that we asked for like we had in the mini-suite.  We’d gotten quite used to having them and now expect them.

We met up with our Californians, Mike and Vangie, for dinner.  There was 2-1/2 hours of giggling, talking, laughing out loud, and we told them of the special appetizers and the fabulous view from up in the fancy Skywalkers Lounge on the 18th deck, for Platinum and Elite passengers.  All-in-all, it was a great day, and we’re underway again, crossing the Tasman Sea yet again as well. 

The next few days were at-sea days, and we headed back across the Tasman (April 13/14/15).  Of course, there was bad weather expected again, but somehow we avoided it mostly.  Yay.

I’ve been totally busy.  There are lectures about upcoming ports, the gym (Come Back New Princess says), there’s card playing … through which I discovered a whole new layer of activities with something called Cruise Critic.  Internet basically sucks so I’ve not been on it much, but when you know you are going on a cruise you can go to this site and find your ship and the date you’re sailing, and find people that are going.  Some of them like to arrange tours, card playing, and so on.  They did a cabin crawl where you visited a variety of cabins, so you could see what they were like … and what you were missing.  I’ll have to get on it for the next one. 

We went with Vangie and Mike to a new ship restaurant we hadn’t tried before, Share.  Six courses, we were way too full, but it was wonderful, and we plan to go again.  This ship does great food.  I should come back new with an additional 20 pounds.  NOT!!!

So, the second day at sea I thought one of the lights in the bathroom was burned out.  Funny, how you can’t see something well, so you make up what you think it is.  Turns out it’s a vent.  Whoops.

We had told Mike and Vangie about the Skywalkers Lounge appetizers.  We met up there, but nothing was happening.  We figured it was because the captain was having a big soiree with a champagne waterfall in the piazza.  We went up again the next night.  Still nothing, and we weren’t the only ones looking for it.  We thought we should look at the invitation.  Wrong venue.  It turns out that there are a larger number of repeat customers, about a thousand, and so it was being held in a different place.  But we were on it now.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Play day

Yay, another excursion on Saturday, April 8, in Port Chalmers, located in the southeast of the South Island.  This is the port for Dunedin, which was settled by Scottish explorers.  Actually, the name Dunedin means Edinburgh in Gaelic. 
Timber, dairy and kiwis are the main products of New Zealand.  We've seen a lot of timber in some of the ports.
The town center is built around an octagon, but we wouldn’t be spending time here.  We were heading on a bus to a place called Scenic Wonders, where we should see seals and were hoping to see penguins.  It seems as though we’re always on the hunt for penguins and don’t have a whole lot of luck seeing them.  So, we’ll try again.
This was the old railway station.  It's quite beautiful but I was only able to snap a quick shot through the bus window.  Would have loved to go see it.
This is some kind of sculpture that looks like giant teeth.
A bit over an hour in a bus would get us there.  We mostly stayed on paved highway, and then turned up a dirt road, steep and winding.  We saw lots of sheep, but I certainly couldn’t get a good photo of one.  It seems they know you want to photograph them and always give you “the look” and then turn away so quickly you never get the shot.  A sharp turn took us into the parking lot, quite a feat for a bus with 30 or so people on it. 

We were first offered tea or coffee and freshly-baked scones.  That was a very nice touch, plus they were really tasty.  Cruise ship passengers don’t like missing a meal.  Then it was time to get either into a small bus or onto an Argo, an 8-wheeled all-terrain vehicle.  We opted first for the bus.

The bus took us over a rutted road, deep ruts, and we bounced around like Bingo balls in the box before they spring them to be called.  It was ROUGH!!!  But we arrived at a lookout and got out of the bus.  We could hear noises … on my, it was a little seal just below us in the brush.  We were told to come away, as being above it made it feel threatened. 

Just around the corner of the walkway that has wooden fencing to keep people from going off the path, we saw a pond ahead to our left, and rocks and waves crashing to our front and right.  In the pond there were several baby seals frolicking.  It was so much fun to watch them dive under, come up and leap out of the water, jump over one another, play with each other.  What a wonderful life they have here in this pond while they’re young.
These little guys were having so much fun.

This was off in the distance a bit, looking as though he was getting a bit of sun.
Another pose struck by a baby.
This little guy was adorable.
They were still playing when we moved to get back onto the vehicles.
About a thousand babies were born this year, and this place is a good one for them.  It’s protected from predators, and they can spend their young time having fun.  They were great to watch, and so nice to see so many of them, slick little dark bodies, moving here and there.

We were then taken to a beautiful white-sand beach where we could see two sea lions in the distance.  No one walks on this beach as it’s protected.  Of course, seeing sea lions meant there would be no penguins there as they’d be avoiding their predators.  At this time the penguins are molting, so they are losing feathers and growing new ones, and are quite vulnerable.  We were taken to an enclosed walkway that goes down the side of a steep cliff.  We were hopeful to see penguins.  Nope.  It was very steep walking and we went to the end, not a far walk, maybe an eighth of a mile at most.  There were a few folks I didn’t think could get either down or back up, but we all made it.

The beach was beautiful, but no penguins here.
On the way back up we were taken up a second very short path.  Our guide opened a small viewing window and behind it lay a molting little blue penguin, its eyes peeping back at us.  No photos allowed so as not to disturb the little critter.  But it was enough to see it.

Then it was time to switch and we’d ride the Argos back to the base.  We’d been hopeful to see the yellow-eyed penguins, but no.  It wasn’t for us today.  We seem to have issues seeing penguins in the wild.  Another time, maybe.

It was quite the path we were riding on to get back to the base camp.
It’s a long ride to see anything from Port Chalmers, except if you were just going into Dunedin, but it was a good day.  We were out and about, and we did see something.  And we had sunshine.   We also dropped off the pilot we'd hijacked a few days earlier.  Good for him.
There are a lot of cargo ships going in and out of here, in close quarters.  I wondered if they had many collisions.
One of our little tugs was having fun doing pirouttes, showing off for his shipboard audience.
It's a narrow channel leading us out of town, and beautiful to sail through.

The next day, Sunday, April 9, we were to be doing scenic cruising through Fiordland National Park.  The last time we tried scenic cruising on a ship, our ship couldn’t get in.  This time we were graced with smooth water.  It was like glass and our park guide said in the 50 years he’d been coming here there’d never been such a spectacular day for sailing.
What a beautiful morning it was, with the sunshine on the water, the little islands, the mountains in the background.
We sailed through Dusky Sound and we saw lots of what were probably Dusky Dolphins as they run in larger pods, and there were maybe 40-50 of them.  They played close to the ship in the wake, near, alongside, under.  What a treat.

Fiordland has 14 fiords and consists of 3.1 million acres, which is 5 percent of the land mass of New Zealand.
The fiords were awesome, rising from the water and straight up, sometimes for hundreds of feet.  It’s amazing where this ship can be taken as the cliffs rose on either side, sometimes seeming so close you could touch the rock walls.  We stood on the deck for hours as we couldn’t get enough of the view.  We came out of Dusky Sound and along the end and back through Doubtful Sound, out Thompson Sound, and along the edge again.

It's pretty unbelievable where our Captain an take the ship.

Fiordland became a National Park in 1952 and a World Heritage area in 1986.
Fiordland gets more than 200 days a year with rain.
Believe it or not, this ship can make a pretty sharp corner.

We entered another sound.  There were small falls coming down, a larger falls.  And Milford, a little town at the end of Milford Sound.  We dropped off our ranger guide.  What a wonderful day it was … and then we were out, and back to the open water.
At the end of this sound with the great rocks rising directly out of the water is Milford, a very small town where we dropped off our park guide.
We learned that fiords are steep cliffs to the water, and sounds are gently sloping down to the water.  I'd say this is a fiord.  There are also hundreds of waterfalls here, that make it such a pretty place, but it was cool today.
Had to show some of the snow high up in the mountains.

 For the next two days (April 10/11), we were at sea, and close to the end of this cruise.  The water is calmer than it was on our first trip across the Tasman Sea.  We did do a few things those last couple of days … one of which was a culinary demonstration as there are a lot of Italian chefs on this ship, and we wanted to see how they do a few things as the pasta on this ship has been excellent.  “Cook with a passion,” was the message from Executive Chef Giuseppe Pollara.  A few stints in the gym, still haven’t played Bingo, and shedding crocodile tears as we packed up to move from our mini-suite to our balcony cabin.