Our next cruise will be out our back door— morning quiet glides along the Intracoastal, interrupted by the calls of young osprey too lazy to find food on their own, or the exhales of dolphin breaching the surface.
It is with great sadness that we will be ending our World Cruise in Sydney Australia, two months earlier than expected, due peripherally to the outbreak of COVID-19— an event beyond anyone’s control.
In Maori terms: there were too many uncertainties behind us and disappointments still vivid before us.
Although this ship will sail on with a significantly reduced guest list and staff, our decision to stop in Sydney was not based upon fear of contracting the virus, but instead, the logistical issues this venue has going forward. With many ports of call that we did not get to see as well as those in the future no longer available or in question, we will simply cut our losses, enjoy this incredible city called Sydney, and then head home to Hobe Sound, Fl.
We were blessed with everything we have experienced up to this point and there is plenty of time for us to see and experience the rest of the world at our leisure. Until then, thank you for following along— this will be my last post of this cruise. Please enjoy this final image from the ship and images of Sydney, Australia— a truly beautiful city, designed for people, who all seem to be young, trim and live to run and eat. There are more places to eat in Sydney than you can imagine, all of them delicious.
Meeting up with our friends Leonie and Allan who very kindle treated Meredith and I to a delicious dinner for her birthday. We met Leonie and Allan early on in the cruise and like magnets could not get away from each other no matter where we were on the ship or on land. They were wonderful hosts in Sydney, their home, and taught us how to get around using the underground and cut-throughs, especially since it has not stopped raining since we arrived. LOL….
Our last meal this side of the IDL, Sydney Au. What a fantastic place called The Spice Room— intimate, beautiful, delicious.
With thirty foot seas by morning and winds topping out at 102 km as we sailed around the SW corner of Fiodland National Park, our Captain was not sure if we could make it into Milford Sound farther up the coast— both he and the harbor pilot onboard had abandoned the idea of getting into Doubtful or Dusty Sounds due to high wind and surf. But our Captain’s forecast was right and the mega swells began to settle— enough for us to duck into Milford Sound, albeit, under very misty conditions.
Entering Milford Sound was like entering the past— the face of these cliffs looking down on us, masked behind the trees that clung impossibly to the rock. Farther in, life began to rewind back to a time when these valleys had shed their glaciers and the Maori’s view of these fiords were the same as what we were experiencing today, a landscape moving in slow motion
The heavy grey clouds that had been pressing down on us like angry fists had moved through, their swollen bellies ripped open by the jagged peaks, leaving veins of waterfalls as far as the eye could see.
Waterfall after waterfall, the unbroken sound of falling water followed us into the narrows and we imagined the cool stone just beyond our finger’s reach, slick with lichen and a million years untouched.
While we gathered on deck, the Sr. Fiordland Park Ranger narrated our adventure from the bridge while clouds had settled in and the mist now too heavy began to fall. At one point we couldn’t see beyond the bow as the narrator described what was just out of view.
And then the cold uncoiled like ropes from above and it began to rain— what more could we have asked for— as the narrator carried on…. our laughter rising above it all.
When we reached the end of Milford Sound where tranquil waters nestled up against verdant slopes, we could see a scattering of buildings where the Fiordland National Park Rangers were housed and off to the side a waterfall roared down the canyon walls. It as then that the skies began to clear and our ship, centered in the cove, turned 360 degrees offering everyone onboard spectacular panoramic views.
Fiordland— our last destination in New Zealand. So with our ship pointing toward the Tasman sea we headed back the way we came.
And as if by design— a final test to see what we had learned from this beautiful land— I looked back as our ship was about to slip away from these cliffs and I smiled. For just at the mouth of the Sound, laid out upon the surface in foam was the answer to a question never asked. This is what the Maori saw, Moana, the symbol of the sea which is at the heart of their culture being a people of the ocean and masters of navigation under the stars.
It was time to say goodby to this magical land tucked away at the top of the world— Goodby for now New Zealand, your past is in front of us and our future with you, is behind.
Beautiful sea oh beautiful sea
Everything you are of me
Your gentle lift of rolling lines, so graceful so unaware of me
Beautiful sea oh beautiful sea
Please return me to these times, give me wings to follow your lines
Beautiful sea oh beautiful sea
What must you do to be part of me
Sailing into the harbor of Otago, we did not get the sense that Dunedin was a thriving metropolitan city— of course we read nothing of Dunedin, so as we took the shuttle bus from Port Otago (yes… more logs) and traveled 100 meters around the corner into the town of Port Chalmers— thinking it was Dunedin, we thought…. ‘Christchurch…. we could have walked here’, except the shuttle kept going. Oh. I guess that was not Dunedin… another 15 minutes along a picturesque bay a very large city was looming in the distance. As it turns out, Dunedin is the second largest city on New Zealand’s South Island
The shuttle dropped us off in the center of Dunedin’s octagon, a pedestrian reserve with a park and paved area, split by a carriage way.
If you are going to get dropped off, this is certainly the place because almost everything you need as a tourist is right here or in view of.
We asked a local where the train station was (at least we knew that much) and the kind man pointed us first to the i-store, which in Kiwi is the tourist information center located on one of the octagon sides.
While in the -store we asked of things to see and do and one of the reps suggested a tour of the Olveston Historic Home in addition to the Train station. We booked our tour to the Olveston House,
Another good reason to be dropped off in the octagon is for the nearby restrooms
With an 1 1/2 hours before our scheduled tour of the Olveston historic home, we headed south along the octagon and down Stuart St., which is lined with restaurants, pubs, and shopping. When you get to the station, you stop— because you have to or get hit by a car, but the view prevents you from going another foot.
The station is an architecture of a time passed, when the means of travel itself was a destination and not a chore .
Outside and in the main lobby, you could spend hours. Inside offers an art gallery where you can purchase art and gifts or walk the rooms of artwork and sculptures.
I wish we had a few days here to take one—if not all— of the many rail excursions: The Taieri Gorge into the mountains; The Seasider which travels along the bay up into the mountainsides with view of the Pacific; or one of Dunedin’s luxury line tours.
With about forty minutes for a planned twenty minute walk to the Olveston Historic house tour, we had no idea that north of the octagon, everything was built on the side of a cliff. Dunedin, short of having to be spider man to live here—makes the streets of San Francisco look like downtown in Boca Raton, where the highest point is stepping up onto a curb.
After we got back to the ship and looked up the streets of Dunedin, we discovered that until 2019, Dunedin had the steepest residential through street in the world (Baldwin Street). Number one is Ffordd Pen Llach in Wales. There is a street in Pittsburgh, steeper than Baldwin, but is not actually considered a residential through street.
We thought of ourselves in pretty good shape with a lot of walking endurance, but this was like a stress test. We made it just in time and waited for our heart rates to settle down… even the gals behind the desk cringed when we told them we walked from the train station. They quickly poured us cups of water. However, we were quickly distracted by the gift shop items— I finally got a kiwi.
But all was quickly forgotten as the tour of four of us led by a guide through this stunning home built in the early 1900’s began. This was truly a showcase home with the most modern technologies of its time. Nothing has been altered or changes since the estate was left to the city of Dunedin— it was move in ready even by today’s standards.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside, but the grounds were so inviting and usable.
The walk down was not going to be an issue— unless you tripped— either way, you were getting back into town.
I am including this next image only because it serves as a reminder to all of us, north of the equator, that not everything turns clockwise: all the water in toilets and tubs drain counterclockwise, the faucets, the doorknobs turn counterclockwise, they drive on the left here. The Maori have a saying, ‘your past is in front of you and your future is behind you.’ It took me a bit to understand this, but Bill McKay explained this to me: you can see your past— it’s right in front of you— you can see where you have been. Your future is unknown, therefore you cannot see it— it’s out of sight, in back of you. The Maori had a perception of the world that is counterclockwise to our own.
But New Zealanders sure do know how to make public restrooms. For instance, while in Picton there were public restrooms— very upscale— with flashing lights on the outside to identify which were occupied and which were not. Upon stepping into one of these capsules, a motion control sensor kicks in and a voice from above instructs you to press a large flashing red button that will lock the door for you as well as remind you that there is a ten minute maximum stay— which seems wildly excessive until soothing music is brought up and you look around and notice it’s nicer than your bathroom at home and that ten minutes might not be enough time. Where’s the snooze button?
We wanted to stay in Dunedin for much longer than a day provides, but with deteriorating weather conditions— from our Captain— we headed quickly toward the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island before the storms in the Tasman sea kicked up. The captain thought we would get into some high waves and wind by morning…. and he was right (see earlier post). Unfortunately for us, it meant not being able to travel to Tasmania, where all aboard were eagerly wanting to go.
With our fingers crossed, we skirted up the west coast to Fiordland, (yes… fiordland and not fjord land) to hopefully get into Milford Sound.
Before arriving in Akaroa, the sounds of human civilization rose above all other, but here in Akaroa, pulling into this sheltered harbor, the biophony of nature was evident: The calls of seabirds, the waterfowl skimming along the surface and high above where the shaved mountains slope to the sea you could hear the occasional mews of sheep.
We had an early morning transfer to Christchurch from the harbor, a 52 mile ride through switchbacks that laced the mountainsides, our bus clipping the guard posts and branches along the road— there was a reason the driver had asked everyone to make sure their seatbelt was on.
Arriving in Christchurch, we were on our own for the next four hours to explore. The city is still under reconstruction from a series of recent earthquakes, starting in 2010 (7.1) 2011 (6.2) and in 2016 (5.9). What made the 2011 quake (6.2) so devastating was the liquification of the soil, where water is squeezed out between the sand grains causing a quicksand-like material.
We started our hike in the Botanical Gardens at the Canterbury Museum, adjacent to the gardens. Both the Museum and gardens are magnificent.
But the true star of the show was the curator’s vegetable and herb garden which supplies some of the dishes at the restaurant called appropriately, the Curator’s House, which is a Tudor style building with tables outside and in. We have never seen anything more delicious and that goes for the pear tree arbor serving as the entrance to the vegetable garden
Downtown Christchurch is excellent for shopping and dining, of which we did both.
It was a long day for us but when we got back on ship it was in the middle of our Mardi Gras celebration.
After a few cocktails, it was time to get back to the room, shower, dress and head to dinner. Tomorrow we will be in Dunedin, NZ.
We are rounding the SW corner of NZ. Hard posting at the moment but you might want to check out the live webcam view of the bow (use menu link – THE SHIP). Winds are clocking in at top speeds of 102 km.
Due to 3 large storms we will not be heading to Hobart.
The North and South isands of New Zealand are separated by Cook Strait and the preferred means of travel between them is by ferry of which there are two main lines: the Interislander or the Bluebridge. But these are not your typical ferries, these are cargo ships transporting cars, people and trucking supplies. A run between islands takes a little over three hours.
— unless you are on the Crystal Serenity, which only takes two cocktails, a round of music trivia, dinner, show, followed by more cocktails… wow! We’re here already?
When people think of cruise ships coming into port, they think of cityscape backdrops or lush tropical islands and crystal clear waters— and indeed there are, but when you arrive in Picton on the southern island in NZ, it’s business first. Logging is still a major export. Every log you see here is labeled and it’s origin and destination can be tracked.
Still, these coves and bays are tranquil and picturesque. New Zealand is stunningly beautiful and pictures cannot quite capture the feel of the air, the floral smell of its land or the warmth from its people. If the ship never left here (LOL… inside joke and a possibility) I would be content to live here.
Picton itself has a population of 4,350 and it appears to be the starting point for exploring the South Island. You notice immediately that business casual has been shed and replaced by hiking and backpacking gear. Here you can stock up on supplies— they have a darling hardware store in town, where locals gather at the register and you can eavesdrop and catch up on local happenings in town. But there is plenty to do: have a meal, admire the art in the galleries, visit an aquarium, and other marine related museums, gather up some souvenirs, rent a kayak or just walk town. The public space along the waterfront is beautiful and lying on the chartreuse grass lawn under a palm, it’s easy to think you are in the tropical Pacific islands and not closer to Antarctica than you actually are.
In town, I could not help but notice the string of BMW Adventure bikes— The GS series. Normally these bikes are loaded down with camping gear, tools and parts, spare tires, etc., but I talked to one of the riders who explained to me that this group travels the world and BMW handles all the logistics of travel— getting their bikes from one destination to another. They have two chase vehicles: one for service; one medical van. The riders are mostly German, Dutch and Spanish. They started in the north island and will travel the entire South Island. I forgot to ask them them where they were going after that.
After a full day, loaded down with gifts, it was time to head back to ship and be on our way — our next port is Akaroa, NZ
Sailing into Wellington, NZ overnight, through gale force winds, pounding rain and high seas— hitting a couple of potholes as they say— was easily the roughest of this trip and definitely the roughest ever in any vessel I have been in; I thought the wind was going to suck the sliding door right off its track. That said, it was pretty cool sliding down into the trough —then bang— everything shakes. Once we ducked into Cook Stait (connects the Pacific to the Tasman Sea, separating North & South islands of NZ) and out of reach of the swell, things settled down to a calm.
The following morning I was chatting with two attendants outside our stateroom on my way to the bistro for morning coffee and mentioned to them about the seas last night…. they looked at me, puzzled, having no idea what I was talking about. I know these girls work incredibly hard, exhaustingly day and night, attending to these rooms; they are the hardest working staff onboard with perpetual smiles like dolphin— both slept through the torrent of wind, rain and mountainous seas. As they giggled, I struck a deal with them—“Next time I know we will be heading into a storm like that, we’ll switch… I’ll do your job for the day so I can sleep right through it!.”
We had a morning excursion that took us into the city to catch the tram from Lambton Quay in the main shopping district to the upper suburb of Kelburn, near the Botanical Gardens. Then onward through the hills, winding down neighborhoods all as crazy as Lombard Street in SF, continuing along the coast, back up Mt. Victoria for a bird’s eye view.
Wellington is built on a mountainside where the homes are wooden and better equipped to withstand earthquakes than brick or concrete. The joke is, “Why do the kiwis build homes on the side of cliffs? So when there’s an earthquake, those at the top can slide down quickly to the coast.”
We saw homes built on the the cliffs with no road access. The only way to get to the house is by private cable cars on rails. You see these rails riding from an adorable garage up to the house. It’s crazy! They had to bring in all the material by helicopter to build it, and getting the environmental authorization to build the cable car is involved and can cost around 200k just so you can get to your house. But the views must be worth it.
The city of Wellington would takes days to explore. There are restaurants that stand shoulder to shoulder, interrupted only by bars and shops to explore— everything you could want. It’s super clean and well laid out for mass transit and pedestrian walks. All the homes built along the cliffs have access stairways and paths that lead down to the central shopping and business district. There’s a reason everyone looks so fit here.
On our way we stopped at the Wellington Botanical Garden. You could easily spend a day here- quite magnificent…
Down in the shopping district, gardens upon gardens are planted. During late summer, the annuals are replaced with vegetables, which are then harvested and given to the various food shelters and soup kitchens— no one… absolutely no one steals them because they know where it is going. But that’s the way people are here. Even the capital grounds of parliament do not have any visible security personnel or checkpoints and you can walk the grounds to admire the gardens. In fact, they recently installed a children’s park on the grounds.
Wellington is a beautiful place to explore but plan on spending some time in this city and surrounding area.
Onward to Pictor— the most Eastern town on the South Island
We sailed through the night over rolling swells, from Tauranga to Napier, where we were towed into port by two tugs that just finished up a gig at Pixar— damn if these were not the cutest tugs you have ever seen!
Napier is a city reborn. On February 3rd 1931 at 10:47 am, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated this area, killing 256 and injuring thousands. The quake lasted two and a half minutes— a lifetime— with aftershocks lasting weeks, one measuring 7.3 m. 10 days later. Imagine what these people experienced. Had it not been for the H.M.S. Veronica already in port and sending out distress messages seeking help, the tolls would have been much higher.
But if a silver lining could be found, the landscape and architecture in Napier changed forever. The once Ahuriri Lagoon had lifted almost three meters, creating 40 square km of seabed rising up in those two and a half minutes. The People could not be broken and with such forward looking optimism, rebuilt not only their city but their identity
Today, the once Ahuriri Lagoon is now rich in agriculture. Our excursion took us through endless apple orchards, corn fields, past vineyards— you name it. There is a good chance the Fuji apples you eat came from here. We toured though the city of Napier, rich in Art Deco architecture, its rural streets a quaint reflection of the time. Our guide mentioned that his mom has a home here and is a consummate gardener, and on occasion, digs up sea shells in her flower beds.
We toured through the shoreline of Westshore— a mix of industrial and modern— a weekend retreat of bars and restaurants along the water. There is so much to do here. The artwork among the buildings encourages sustainability and promotes environmental awareness. I could not get a picture of it, but on the side of one building was a full scale painting of a whale, filled from head to tail with plastic items of consumption.
But the star of the show was downtown Napier itself. From February 19th through the 23rd the city holds New Zealand’s largest Art Deco Festival— a celebration of its architecture, design and its people— a positive reminder of their rebirth. We have never seen a spirit like this anywhere we have been. I don’t think there was a single inhabitant that did not participate. It was a travel back in time as these images will hopefully show.
Even these images cannot truly capture the enthusiasm and excitement of this city.. or the genuine kindness of its people… or their optimism. But it was time to say goodby to Napier. Time to sail onward to Wellington.
And now.. more tugboats