Posts Tagged With: New Zealand

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Named Bay of Islands by Captain Cook in 1769 for its 144 islands, this archipelago was previously discovered in the 10th century by the Polynesian explorer, Kupe, who named it Aotearoa.  Inhabited by the Maori when Europeans arrived, today the area is known as the birthplace of the nation for the treaty signed by Maori chiefs and the British.

When our cruise ship, the Norwegian Star, anchored around 8 a.m., we were on the first tender boat to Waitangi Pier. We were especially keen to see the town of Russell, so we immediately took the complimentary shuttle from Waitangi Pier to Paihia Wharf where we caught the ferry to Russell. The map below shows where cruise ships anchor, Waitangi Pier, and the towns of Paihia and Russell.

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Map of Waitangi, Paihia, and Russell

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Paihia Wharf

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View of Paihia from the wharf

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View from the ferry to Russell

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Norwegian Star from the ferry

Once called the ‘hell hole of the Pacific,” it’s hard to imagine the drinking, brawling, and prostitution which were commonplace in historic Russell, the largest whaling port in the southern hemisphere and the first capital of New Zealand. Today, little of its wicked past is evident in this charming seaside town.

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Approach to Russell

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Russell, NZ

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Because it’s flightless, the national bird is threatened especially by dogs

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Russell Wharf from the Strand

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel was the first licensed bar in New Zealand. I’m sure the old Victorian has many stories to tell.

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Jim at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel

Next to the hotel is the former Customs House and Police Station, today a private home.

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This majestic Morton Bay Fig Tree was planted by E.B. Laing, the first customs collector who served from 1870 to 1886.

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The oldest remaining church in New Zealand, Christ Church, built in 1836, still holds services every Sunday and since we arrived just as services began, we attended.

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Interior of Christ Church

A bullet hole from the Maori Wars is still evident on the exterior of the church.

 

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Remnant of Maori Wars

 

We strolled around town; I shopped for a Christmas ornament as a souvenir; and we stopped at Sally’s for coffee.

 

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Sally’s

 

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Cannon at Russell

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When we headed back to catch the return ferry to Paihia, I spied these two fishing from the pier. We also watched young people jumping off the pier into the water for a swim causing me to wonder whether they scared away all the fish. I guess that’s why they call it fishing rather than catching.

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Ferry that runs from Paihia to Russell

 

On the short ride back to Paihia, we enjoyed more beautiful views of the islands dotting the turquoise waters.

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Back in Paihia, we wandered around a bit. A local art and craft show briefly attracted my attention but Jim, not much of a shopper, stayed seated while people watching…and bird watching. A sign announced the red-billed gull as the most photographed bird in the sea bird capital of the world (New Zealand) so of course, I had to take several photos. Normally a prolific species, the gull has suffered a decline of over 50% in recent years. The sign admonished, “Love them. Protect them.” Okay.

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Red-billed gull

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Sculpture at Paihia

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Water view from Paihia

We hopped on the complimentary shuttle back to Waitangi for a stop at the treaty grounds. It was here the Maori chiefs and the British signed the Treaty of Waitangi establishing New Zealand as a British colony in 1840. Interestingly, the Maori version and the English version contain different language. The English text gives Britain sovereignty but the Maori text translates to governance which the Maori interpreted to allow self-determination. Both texts are currently used to make present-day decisions.

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Waitangi Treaty Grounds

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Copy of the treaty which is now housed in Wellington

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Waitangi Treaty Grounds

As we walked back to the pier to catch a tender boat back to our ship, I took a few more photos of this incredible paradise.

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View from Waitangi

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View from Waitangi

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Photo from our tender boat, Bay of Islands, NZ

 

Based on events from February 2017.

 

 

 

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Categories: cruise, History, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Auckland War Memorial Museum

The Auckland Museum was founded in 1852 as the first museum in New Zealand,. After several moves through the years to increase space for exhibits, the new and renamed Auckland War Memorial Museum opened in 1929 on the highest point in Auckland’s oldest park, the Auckland Domain.

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Auckland Domain

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View of Sky Tower from Auckland War Memorial Museum

We set off on foot with umbrellas in our backpack in case of rain.  Fortunately, we arrived dry at the museum in spite of the dark clouds that dogged us for most of our stay in Auckland. After a brief discussion, we decided to purchase the Moa package for NZ$55 (US$40) which included museum entry, highlights tour, and Maori cultural performance.

The highlights tour, while short, oriented us to the best exhibits in the museum. Without it, we may have missed important highlights simply due to the size of the museum. After the tour, we went back to spend more time in areas that interested us most.

We began on level 2 with New Zealand’s War Stories including exhibits from WWI, WWII, New Zealand civil wars, and other conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries. The WWI Hall of Memories was especially moving to me. New Zealand sent more troops per capita to fight in WWI than any other country which meant every family in the country was personally affected by the war. Nearly all of the 18,166 who died were buried overseas and almost one-third of them are buried in unknown graves.

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WWI Hall of Memories with Roll of Honour listing those who died in service from Auckland Province

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WWI Sanctuary with bronze wreath of kawakawa leaves, a symbol of mourning

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Stained glass ceiling with coats of arms of all British dominions serving in WWI

The Pacific Lifeways gallery contained exhibits with information about island groups in the Pacific. Of particular interest to me was our guide’s explanation of the spread of plants and animals throughout the Pacific which indicated the migration patterns of the people in the area. New Zealand was the last area discovered and settled, probably as late as 1300 A.D. by Polynesians from Southeast Asia who became the indigenous Maori people.

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Migration routes in the Pacific

A carved statue of Kave, an evil goddess from the island of Nukuoro, greeted us at the entrance to the gallery. She was brought to New Zealand in the 1870s by a trader.

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Carved statue of Kave

An outrigger canoe in the Pacific Masterpieces gallery came from the Solomon Islands as a gift from the Melanesian Mission.

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The Red Feather Cloak from Hawaii was worn only by the highest chief for religious ceremonies or in war. The nearby sign explained a cloak similar to this belonging to King Kamehameha in Hawaii contained a half million feathers from as many as 80,000 birds.

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Red Feather Cloak

All of level 1 in the museum is devoted to natural history. The highlights on this floor for me were the moa and the kiwi. The tallest known bird, this 1913 reconstruction of the extinct moa is from the South Island.

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Reconstructed moa

The kiwi is the unofficial national symbol for New Zealand and the nickname for New Zealanders. They are unique to New Zealand but how they arrived is unclear since they can’t fly.  Because they can’t fly, the kiwi is under constant threat especially by predators such as dogs and the population has shrunk to around 68,000.

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You can listen to the kiwi here.

The most surprising exhibit to me was the axe used by Sir Edmund Hillary in his 1953 ascent of Mt. Everest. The famous Aucklander died here in 2008.

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Mountain axe and painting of Sir Edmund Hillary

I especially wanted to learn more about the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, in our visit to this museum and our desire was satisfied. There are over 1000 artifacts original to the Maori. The gateway Kaitaia carving at the entrance to the Maori Court dates from the 14th to 16th century and is the oldest Maori carving still in existence.

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Kaitaia gateway

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I was fascinated by the Hotunui Preservation Project, a collaboration of museum staff, local experts, and descendants to restore a meeting house built in 1878.

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Entrance to Hotunui Meeting House

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Restoration in progress

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Painted and woven restoration

But by far, for me, the high point of this museum was the Maori Cultural Performance. Lasting about 30 minutes, the performance ended with the haka, the traditional war dance.

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It was an educational day orienting us to the natural and political history of New Zealand. With this background, we felt better prepared for our visit the following day to the Bay of Islands.

As we strolled back to our hotel, we found Solo Kitchen, a Turkish and Mediterranean restaurant, and stopped in for a late lunch/early dinner. The lamb kofta with salad and three dips (sun-dried tomato, cacik, and baba ghanoush) was delicious.

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Solo Kitchen

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And the music added beautifully to an authentic ethnic experience.

 

Come back next week for my post about Bay of Islands.

 

Based on events from February 2017.

 

 

 

 

Categories: History, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves were at the top of my list of things to see near Auckland. I looked at various tour companies and frankly, the coach tours were considerably more expensive than I thought they’d be. A group day tour to Waitomo and the Hobbiton movie set cost about $250 per person and if we added Rotorua to see the Maori cultural show, we were looking at $300 each. We considered renting a car to drive ourselves but we’ve driven on the left in the UK and Ireland and that didn’t especially appeal to me. With a distance of 193 km (119 mi) each way, we’d spend half the day driving ourselves with the attendant stress. In the end, we decided to eliminate Hobbiton and Rotorua since the reviews of Hobbiton weren’t that good and we could see a Maori cultural show in Auckland. Most companies charged around $180 for the tour to Waitomo alone but I found a no frills deal through InterCity for just $105 per person that I jumped on. When I found out later the entrance tickets to Waitomo were $50, that deal looked even better.

We definitely made the right choice by not driving ourselves. Auckland is in the midst of a transportation crisis caused by a combination of rapid city growth and poor planning. Our bus driver told us 40 years ago politicians refused to implement a comprehensive mass transit plan and the city has been paying the price ever since. Getting out of Auckland was extremely slow with frequent stops on the Southern Motorway. The only thing worse was the traffic into the city which was backed up for more than 30 miles.

A rainy day was perfect for a drive and cave tour since we wouldn’t be outside in the elements for either. My photos from the bus suffered a bit from the rain but the countryside was beautiful nonetheless.

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Rainy countryside

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Countryside outside Auckland

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New Zealand countryside

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Countryside outside Auckland

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Pastoral scene in New Zealand

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North Island, New Zealand

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Near Waitomo, New Zealand

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Drive near Waitomo, New Zealand

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Scene from the bus on North Island

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Flax growing next to the roadway in New Zealand

According to our tour guide, Waitomo Glowworm Caves were discovered by the local Maori Chief, Tanetinorau, on his own land and explored by him and a surveyor, Fred Mace, in 1887 on a raft made of flax stalks. Two years later the caves opened for tours led by local Maori guides but in 1904 the government took over the administration. They were finally returned to the family of Tanetinorau in 1989.

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Entrance to Waitomo Glowworm Caves with flax growing in the foreground

The glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is unique to New Zealand. They are actually the larvae of a fungus gnat whose bioluminescence attracts insects. The glowworms produce a long sticky thread which hangs from the roof of the cave and ensnares passing insects, thus providing a meal for the glowworm.

The 45-minute guided tour through the cave included views of stalactites, stalagmites, glowworms, and ended with a boat-ride through the Glowworm Grotto.

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Walking to the entrance of the caves

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Entrance to the caves

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Disembarking from the boats through Glowworm Grotto

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Selfie after our boat ride

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Photography isn’t allowed inside the caves so I found this National Geographic YouTube video for your enjoyment.

We also bought the photos taken at the caves. Although they are just our photo superimposed over a background picture, they remind us of the amazing sights we enjoyed at Waitomo.

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Inside the entrance

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Sticky threads to catch a meal

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Surrounded by glowworms

This was definitely a heavily visited tourist attraction, but nevertheless, we are glad we went. The glowworms are a unique natural attraction in New Zealand and as such, should not be missed.

 

Based on events from February 2017.

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Nau mai ki Tāmaki (Welcome to Auckland)

When I first began planning our trip to New Zealand, I wanted to arrive several weeks before our cruise to have enough time to properly see both the North Island and South Island. After I studied the cost and the transportation challenges, however, we scaled back our plans considerably. After 3 days transit from the U.S., a 19-day cruise, 2 extra days in Singapore, and the trip home, our trip already totaled 25 days. Our cruise departed from Auckland and included another stop in New Zealand at the Bay of Islands. We decided to focus on the area around Auckland for three days and return to New Zealand in the future to see the South Island.

With too many sights to possibly see everything in three days before our cruise departure, we had to prioritize. We definitely wanted to learn about the Maori culture and see the glowworm caves that are unique to New Zealand. We also wanted to learn more about the history of New Zealand and see a little of the countryside. After we booked our flights, our cruise itinerary changed eliminating Bay of Islands which we were keen to see. We were informed our ship, the Norwegian Star would instead spend the night in Auckland which would allow us time for a bus tour to Bay of Islands.

Our planned itinerary prior to the ship’s departure was:   Day 1: Check into our hotel around 5 pm and explore our neighborhood. Day 2: Bus tour to Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Day 3: See as much as possible around the city of Auckland. Day 4: (Added due to cruise itinerary change) Bus tour to Bay of Islands.

As it turned out, on our return trip from Waitomo, we were informed by email the cruise itinerary changed again to restore Bay of Islands. We were fortunate our scheduled bus tour allowed us to cancel the tour AND refunded our money.

I booked the Quality Inn Parnell for 3 nights in Auckland which looked adequate for our needs. The neighborhood of Parnell was a little further from downtown and the cruise port at Queen’s Wharf but the price was right at $165 per night. We were pleased to discover we had a suite with a living room/kitchen combination and a separate bedroom. Since none of the hotels I looked at in Auckland included breakfast, the kitchen facilities came in handy–especially the French press for coffee. Admittedly, I put the coffee on top rather than below the plunger the first time which was a real mess but now I’m an expert at French press coffee.

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Parnell is outlined in red and the yellow star marks our hotel

Parnell is the oldest suburb in Auckland dating from early European settlement beginning in 1841. We were charmed by the 19th-century architecture which gave a historic feel to the neighborhood.

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The original Anglican St. Mary’s Cathedral was built in 1886 but it was replaced by Holy Trinity Cathedral, the modern structure below, in 1973. St. Mary’s was subsequently moved across Parnell Road to occupy the space next to Holy Trinity in 1982.

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Holy Trinity Cathedral

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Mountain Fountain, sculpture at Holy Trinity

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Interior of Holy Trinity Cathedral

A short walk from our hotel, we found plenty of shops and restaurants.

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Parnell Road

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Shops and restaurants on Parnell Rd

With lots of ethnic foods to choose from, we decided to try Thai Friends our first night. It was excellent and although we shared two dishes, we had more than enough to fill us up.

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Jim enjoying outside dining at Thai Friends

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Tom Yum Goong (Hot and spicy prawn soup with fresh herbs, mushroom, and coriander)

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Hot green curry with eggplant, broccoli, bamboo shoots, and peas

After dinner, we strolled back to our hotel for an early night. After two full days of travel, we wanted to get a good night’s sleep before our bus tour to Waitomo Glowworm Caves the next morning. Stop back next week and check it out.

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Based on events from February 2017.

 

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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