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Third Age Adventures

Just Cruising 2

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 23 December 2011 | Views [178]

We meet at Circular Quay for coffee, and then, suitably fortified, we board the “Radiance of the Seas” . It is huge and opulent. For the first 24 hours we are docked in Circular Quay, and our window looks out at the Opera House. We find Judy and John out on the deck at the stern of the ship, and this becomes “our place”.  The next morning we breakfast here, with the Harbour Bridge behind us.  I could get used to this life…

It doesn’t take long before the giggling starts. John gets into a lift and holds the door open for us. Before we can get in a large group of Asian women push past us and fill up the lift.  Door closes and the lift takes off without us. The look on John’s face is priceless – as is the look on Anne’s face when we are talking about life-boat drill and she thinks it involves actually getting into the life-boat!

The first two days are sea days. Sleep in, leisurely breakfast, wander around.  Coffee at Latte-tudes.

Food is delicious and our waiters – Martin from India and Suad from Macedonia are fun. On the first night the waiters do their singing thing, and we all wave serviettes (what is that about?) I ask Suad if he had been singing and he treats us to a special performance at the table. A solo just for us. He sings “Oh bella cosa” and looks straight us. For a few seconds we feel 18 again.

Early in the morning of Day 3, we sail into Milford Sound. It is freezing and misty. They served hot chocolate on deck and manoeuvre the ship almost under a waterfall. It is beautiful and we dwarf another ship that followed us in. Later in the day we sail into Dusky Sound and Doubtful Sound, which are also beautiful but different. 

Our first actual port is Dunedin. This is pretty town , but unremarkable except for the “steepest street in the world” which was recognized in the 2001 Darwin Awards (when some misguided student  decided to travel its length in a wheelie bin – thus removing herself from the gene pool). Christchurch is still undergoing its restoration, so instead we dock at Akaroa. Akaroa is a gorgeous town  on the water. Originally settled by the French, it still has French Street names, quaint houses and quirky shops. Plus lovely fish restaurants and New Zealand Ice-Cream – all of which we sample in the name of research. Wellington is also pretty, with its lovely harbour and Cape-Cod styled houses nestled into the hills. Not sure how safe they are in earthquakes – of which Wellington has more than its fair share. A trip up the mountain on the funicular gives us great views.

Further north, we dock at Napier – a lovely Art-Deco town (which was also destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt in 1931). Here Anne and I go on a Maori Cultural Tour which was the highlight of the trip. We travel to Waimarama, where we are greeted with a traditional warrior welcome. We break into groups and are taken around to experience various aspects of Maori life.  This culminates with our own private Haka, and the traditional Hongi (nose-rub) farewell.   I decide to choose cultural tours in future – beautiful scenery is everywhere, but the culture is unique!

Then on to Rotorua, where we marvel at boiling mud, and are startled each time we are saturated by geysers. Even though we know that it will happen. Doesn’t make any sense – but it did at the time.  Finally we stop at Auckland – where we purchase lots of Manuka Honey products and hope the Aussie Customs won’t confiscate them. (They didn’t.)

Our final stop, the Bay of Islands, is cancelled. The seas have become too rough to allow us to use the tenders to disembark. So we have an extra sea day as we sail north – almost to Norfolk Island, and then turn back to Sydney.  This no doubt annoys the couple who haven’t got back to the ship on time in Auckland, who would have been told to pick us up at the next stop. Hopefully they have their passports with them, as they would have  to fly to Sydney to collect their suitcases!

Everywhere we went in New Zealand we were shown places that had been affected by earthquakes. Islands that used to be connected to the mainland. Peninsulars that once were islands. One night on the ship I dreamed I was in an earthquake, and as I flung myself to safety, I managed to propel myself out of bed onto the floor! Two weeks after we were in nearby Akaroa, Christchurch suffered another earthquake. They don;'t call them the shky isles for nothing!

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