Friday, February 18, 2011

Christchurch, Dunedin, Oban, Milford Sound

Friday, February 11, 2011 - Christchurch, New Zealand –the most English city outside of England!

Lovely, brisk sunny morning greeted us in the Lyttleton harbor. Gene hosted a tour to the Manderley Farm to see the sheep dogs in action and I took the first bus to the city to be greeted by our friends, Bob and Evelyn, my southern hemisphere grandparents! After a cup of coffee and a little chat, I settled in to work since it was approx. 3:30PM in Delaware by that time (the previous day’s afternoon!) and I had a few hours where I could use Skype to phone various businesses and clients. It took longer than expected, but of course I under-estimate! Had a great lunch of homemade soup and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from their large garden. Beans, potatoes, grapes, onions, Swiss chard, rhubarb, carrots, lima beans, garlic…all meticulously tended.

I saw where the October earthquake of 7.1 made their parked and garaged car lurch forward and damage their freezer and the garage door. Many stores and buildings in downtown Christchurch were surrounded by fencing, meaning they would be torn down as they were unstable. Earthquakes are not new to New Zealand and they have an Earthquake Commission to assist in disasters. They regularly experience 15,000 a year but they are very slight tremors; I’ve never felt one. To the bank, met Gene downtown, had a nice blackcurrant juice/coffee and headed to the ship. After saying goodbye, we met two more friends who came onboard for a ship’s tour. Hopefully, a cruise is in their future!

Dinner and show – Solo Mystique – a quick-change (costume change) ballroom dance duo from Australia who have won several dance awards.

Saturday, February 12, 2011 – Dunedin, New Zealand – the most Scottish city today outside of Scotland!

We docked in Port Chalmers and the town provided a complimentary shuttle to the town center. Today was their annual Thieves Market and many streets were blocked off for the various vendors and suppliers in the Octagon (city center) . We toured the First Church of Otago (county) and had a very nice chat with the past vicar, who also created a Heritage Center in the back of the church. The church was opened in 1873 and still has bell ringers in the belfry – the only Presbyterian Church in the world to have bell ringers. We visited the Dunedin Art Gallery and Cadbury World (yes, the famous chocolates!). Next time we would take the train to the Taieri Gorge and explore Larnach Castle and see the rare yellow-eyed penguins and royal albatross colonies! The albatross have a wing span of more than 12 feet. They can circle the world and have been documented to fly an average of 80,000 miles each year.

Our friends, Michael, Sarah and Grace came to visit us on the ship! Michael was an AFSer with me in Denmark from 1977-78 so it has been 32 years since we last saw each other!!!! It was absolutely wonderful. He is a solicitor with the Australian government and has lived in Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and now in Queenstown, New Zealand. They drove over four hours to share a few hours with us. Sarah is a teacher and museum registrar. Grace is a lovely 10-year old and she enjoyed exploring and her time in the pool! They are returning to Denmark this summer to visit his exchange family.

Entertainment was Simeon Wood, musician.

Sunday, Feb 13 – Oban, Stewart Island, New Zealand

This is a remote natural paradise only 15 miles off the South Island. It takes a hearty soul to live in the sometimes-rugged environment, but whaling and logging have given way to a pleasant fishing and farming community. There are approx. 390 people on the island. It is a pristine place of native bush, rain forest, sand dunes and natural wetlands. It is also perhaps the only place where kiwis outnumber people.

Coldest day yet and the long underwear came in handy! We tendered to Golden Bay on the 1st tender and crossed the steep hills to get to Oban and Halfmoon Bay. We climbed (and I mean climbed!!!) to Observation Rock where we had a nice view of the bay and small islands, including Ulva Island, a nature preserve since 1899.

Presbyterian church service at 11 – tea and cookies and savories with the small congregation and visitors – trekked back to ship on a very steep path with a million steps (past Lonnekers Beach up Peterson Hill Road, to Deep Bay to the Deep Bay Track to Golden Bay– worried about making the ship in time! The small museum is open 2 hours a day showing the whaling and European milling industries. The island has less than 20 miles of roads and most of them are unpaved. Would return here again…

Tony Pace, Las Vegas headliner “The man with the voice who just happens to be funny”, performed. Worked until 1:30 AM.

Monday, Feb 14 – Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sound, New Zealand – World Heritage Sites- Valentine’s Day!

Probably our last day for long underwear for the entire voyage. Very tired but up to see Dusky Sound. We sailed around Resolution Island; Captain Cook first sighted the sounds on February 13, 1770. He spent two months exploring the area on his second voyage. It is believed that the first beer brewed in NZ was brewed here by Cook’s crew. Wandered around the ship and they had pastries in various nooks. 11AM we had pea soup around the ship. Afternoon tea served around the ship; reminded me of the trans-Atlantic steamers and being served out on the decks with people wrapped in their blankets. Lunch with friends; beautiful scenery as we watched from the back of the ship by the pool. Doubtful Sound was next; a very large fjord named Doubtful Harbour by Captain Cook – he was not sure he could ever get out of it!

“There are just a few areas left in the world where no human has ever set foot. That one of them should be in a country so civilized and so advanced as New Zealand may seem incredible, unless one has visited the south-west corner of the South Island. Jagged razor-backed mountains rear their heads into the sky. More than 200 days of rain a year ensure not a tree branch is left bare and brown, moss and epiphytes drape every nook. The forest is intensely green. This is big country…one day peaceful, a study in green and blue, and the next melancholy and misty, with low cloud veiling the tops…an awesome place, with its granite precipices, its hanging valleys, its earthquakes faults and its thundering cascades.” - Charles Lyttelton

Called the 8th wonder of the world by Rudyard Kipling, sailing in Milford Sound (fjord) was absolutely stunning. Brilliant sunshine, sheer rock faces that rise 3960 feet, high peaks including the well-known Mitre Peak, several gushing waterfalls, small day cruising ships passing us, kayaks sailing under the waterfalls…As this is known as the wettest place in NZ, it was quite a contrast to our last visit to the Sound with teaming rain and millions of waterfalls cascading down around us.

Valentine’s Day with hearts and red decorations all over the ship. Valentine’s Day Ball in the Queens Lounge. “Black Tie” opera, piano, cellist and comedian performed.
“The happiest life is that which constantly exercises and educates what is best in us…” - Hamerton

Tuesday, Feb 15 –at sea and on to Australia!

Slept late – so tired. Skipped my classes. Worked; lunch with friends. Lance Ringnald, Olympic gymnast, juggler and musician performed; we went to both shows. Choir rehearsal; cleaned up room (even the room attendant is wondering how we find things?!) Dinner with crew friends in the Italian restaurant, Canaletto.

Wednesday, Feb 16 – at sea in the Tasman Sea

Ship is rocking these past few days but this area is known to be that way. Lunch with friends, dinner with Lance Ringnald, the Olympiad and choir rehearsal. We are now 16 hours ahead of you which will make it difficult to call Delaware during waking hours. Paperwork. P.E.O. gathering (my woman’s group) today and there are at least seven other Sisters onboard! Amsterdam Singers (men only) performed.

Documentary on paparazzi photojournalist (if you can call him that) Ron Galella. Amsterdam singers and dancers performed “Street Singing”.

“The will to persevere is often the difference between failure and success.” - David Sarnoff