I included this map of New Zealand, not because it is so helpful, but just because it is so cute! We boarded our ship and were pleasantly surprised to find that the room I had chosen was just as spectacular as I had imagined (how often does that happen?).
Blue Eyes loves a luxurious bathroom, and this was the nicest cruise ship bathroom we have experienced. What fun sitting in that soaking tub watching the gorgeous scenery pass us by.
Our cruise ship left Auckland and headed straight up north to the Bay of Islands. We docked in Paihia. This is about the time the weather started getting dicey.
Bay of Islands
I am not fond of ship tenders as it is (the small boats they use to take passengers from ship to shore when docking is not an option), and when the seas are rough, well, not fun. The water was a lovely green though, and by the time we boarded the bus for our excursion to the Kauri Tree Forest, the rain had subsided.
First stop on our excursion was actually to another glow worm cave. This cave was not nearly as interesting as the one we had gone to in Waitomo with Paula. Again, no photography allowed inside. This time instead of sitting in a boat gently gliding through the caves, we were walking along a narrow path with far fewer glow worms.
Although the glow worms make for a pretty spectacle in the dark, they are really insect larva (they look like a maggot) and the chemicals they produce react with oxygen in the air to generate light. They spin sticky threads from the roof of the cave, and use the light from their tails to attract other insects and trap them in the threads for a tasty meal! (newzealand.com). Pretty, but I tried not to think much more about it.
I’m a huge fan of nature, the outdoors, beaches, and forests. In Portland, we live right in the middle of a forest… and yet we are just three miles from downtown. We walk our dogs in a forest every day. We don’t have sidewalks (grrr) but we do have forest.
Ruby (and Paula) helped us pick our cruise excursions in advance. We thought Bay of Islands would be the one chance of our trip to see the magnificent Kauri Trees. As it turns out, they have Kauri in Australia too! Lucky us. We spent a lot of time in forests. 🙂
This particular adventure took us to the Puketi Nature Trail in the Puketi Forest.
We did not get wet and by the time we returned to our ship, the sea was a bit calmer. Unfortunately, that was to be a short-lived phenomena.
I ended up having to take more dramamine on this cruise than I have taken combined my whole life. It was a rocky one. After leaving Bay of Islands, we had a brief respite from the weather, and I chose that time to take a fast walk around the ship’s jogging track.
As the night wore on, the winds (and the waves) picked up. We were supposed to dock in Tauranga at 8:00am, but by 8:30am, we were nowhere near land, and we weren’t going to be. So there went our excursion to the Rotorua Thermal pools. That is when we decided we would definitely have to return to New Zealand. We can’t NOT see the Rotorua thermal pools! Right?!? 😉
We ended up relaxing on the ship for the day (after taking my requisite dramamine every 12 hours of course). What choice did we have really, LOL. The wifi was horrible on the ship and we only had one pass (they are very expensive, especially since half the time it doesn’t work). Blue Eyes and I traded back and forth sitting there staring at the little bars on our phones appearing and disappearing, and that’s when I decided I wouldn’t be blogging during the cruise. The ship had an amazing library, so we took advantage of that… plus the never ending supply of food, everywhere. We also had a really wonderful room, so we didn’t have to jostle with the other passengers for a comfy place to sit and relax. Most of the time the ship was so rocky it was too dangerous to use the elliptical inside, and too wet and slippery to use the track outside. Crazy! I actually had a legitimate excuse not to exercise when I didn’t even want one!
I’m pretty sure EVERYONE was thrilled when we were able to dock in Napier the next morning, guests and crew alike.
Our excursion for the day was to Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay. Not only is this an incredibly beautiful spot in the country, perched out over the South Pacific Ocean, but it is also a bird sanctuary and the breeding site of over 3000 pairs of Australasian gannets. The land is a privately owned sheep and cattle farm. There is also a fancy resort and golf course on the property.
Cape Kidnappers was named after an attempt by local Maori to abduct the servant of a member of Captain Cook’s crew (thinking the servant was Maori) aboard HMS Endeavour during landfall there on October 15, 1769. The crew member was actually Tahitian (not Maori). Cook’s journal states that the Tahitian boy, named Tiata, was in the water near the Endeavour when a Maori fishing boat pulled alongside and dragged him aboard. Sailors from Endeavour’s deck immediately opened fire on the fishing boat killing two Maori and wounding a third. Tiata jumped overboard and swam back to the Endeavour, while the remaining Maori paddled their craft back to shore. (en.wikipedia.org)
After visiting Cape Kidnappers, our tour guide dropped us in the small town of Napier.
So, the town is adorable and has a lovely garden, lots of souvenir shops, cafes, and is right on the water. We walked through town, strolled through the gardens, then took advantage of a food cart with something we could not get on the cruise ship: fresh donuts! 🙂
I am going to start sounding like a broken record, but we fell in love with every single town and city in New Zealand. Wellington was no exception. Wellington is a pretty big city by New Zealand standards, but it felt like a town to us. I was a bit sad (upset) as we were arriving because I had booked my much needed hair color appointment for prior to arrival in Wellington not realizing that cruising through the sound would be so breathtakingly beautiful. I saw it through the salon windows, but was unable to take any photos.
After disembarking, we immediately hopped on a tour bus and headed to Peter Jackson’s Weta Studios. This would be a highlight of the trip for Blue Eyes. Every picture I have at the studio has Blue Eyes in it. Blue Eyes with Gollum, Blue Eyes with Dumbledore, I mean Gandolf, Blue Eyes with some big ugly bald guy with scars all over him, Blue Eyes drooling over the props, etc… The studio itself is not flashy, just lots and lots of actual props and costumes, weapons, etc… used in the many many films that the studio has worked on. The tours are given by artists who have actually worked on Weta projects, ours was a prop and costume artist. It was really quite interesting. We drove from the studio to Mount Victoria Park where some scenes from The Lord of the Rings were filmed.
We had the coolest tour guide for our Lord of the Rings tour. He was actually a Hobbit stunt double in all the movies (for the red headed guy). Blue Eyes kept calling him Kint. For some reason I thought this was the funniest thing. When we first boarded the bus, Kent said, in his super thick Kiwi accent, “Hoi me naim is Keent.” Now, I have already explained that both Blue Eyes and I had a bit of a sticky time with the thicker New Zealand accent, especially adding in slang and colloquialisms. Well, pretty sure what Kent said was…. “Hi, my name is Kent.” Blue Eyes never did make the connection between Keent and Kent and he just kept calling him Kint. It just sounds weird for someone with an American accent to try and pronounce things like a Kiwi. It just does.
Anyway, the view at the top of Mount Victoria was 360 degrees and it was spectacular. Unfortunately, the sun was really bright and getting a good picture facing Wellington was rather difficult.
That evening, we were treated to a traditional Maori performance at the Te Papa Museum.
And, most importantly (just kidding, sorta), I tasted my first New Zealand Pavlova!
Our second day in Wellington we were not so lucky with the weather. Actually, it poured down rain. POURED DOWN RAIN. We decided to take ourselves on a self-guided walking food tour. We donned our wet weather jackets. Coming from the Pacific Northwest coast of the US, we have lots of rain jackets.
Our first stop was a Modern Asian Hawker Food restaurant named Mr. Go’s. The berry tea was warming and comforting after walking in the rain, and the food was delicious. We opted for the spring rolls and the beef brisket and pork belly bao.
Our next stop, fish & chips. The place we had wanted to eat at wasn’t open yet, so we went for our second choice, The Chippery. The fresh Tarahiki in a beer batter was pretty tasty.
At this point I was stuffed like a piglet. I couldn’t eat any more. Blue Eyes was also full, but he wanted to stop into a NYC themed deli called Five Boroughs. We looked and looked and looked at the menu hoping there was some little space in our tummies to try something, but it was a no go. Instead we settled for hot chocolate. And even though I was so full, the hot chocolate was amazing and I finished it all. We were both thankful we had a good walk back to the ship because otherwise we may have exploded.
And just like that… two weeks on New Zealand’s north island, gone. Next up, the south island.