It bloody rained in Auckland. Not the stair rod type of warm tropical downpour we experienced in Bora Bora; this was more that type of rain we get at home, the type of precipitation you can't see but soaks you anyway. It also made the whole place rather misty and dull. This was the 14th of February our second day in the "City of Sails" and our plan was to ascend the Sky tower for great views over the surrounding landscape including the imposing Rangitoto island. That plan was abandoned.
Our first day had fared better, but being the second visit for us to this city, our unusual task for the day was to send our house sale and purchase signed contracts via courier back to Blighty. We don't plan well do we?
The lady helping us at the couriers was very friendly and even when I asked if she could let us know the nearest DHL offices for our ongoing NZ ports of call (lest we needed to send more documents). She instantly picked up the phone to an all knowing colleague. Her colleague at first didn't understand her request and it became a tad heated between them , she explained afterwards that the man she was speaking to was her husband......I think I too must have had such domestic conversations, my sympathies were with him.
We saw a Hobbit!
Actually he looked like a Hobbit.
We were returning from the DHL office by the local suburban train and sitting three rows in front of us was this old unkempt guy. He was wizened, sporting both a bulbous nose and sticky out ears that supported his bush type hat. What made us aware of him though was the way he was holding forth trying to engage the rather uncomfortable business man opposite him. I did feel sorry for that business man.
Hobbit: "Bet ya don't know what voltage those overhead train wires are"
Business man: "No"
Hobbit: " Go on, Guess"
Business man: "I've no idea"
Hobbit: "I know; in fact I could hold those wires and it wouldn't affect me, cos I was struck by lightning years ago so I'm immune "
Business man: "Really "
Hobbit: " Yea, but I don't really talk about it nowadays , in case kids get to hear and try to touch the wires "
At the next station the business man got off looking quite relieved . Undeterred the Hobbit turned his attention to two young lady German backpackers sitting across the aisle who were chatting away.
Hobbit: " Do ya speak English?"
The backpackers were doing their best not to make eye contact.
Hobbit: " I can speak lots of languages....try me"
When the train doors opened at the downtown Britomart terminal, those girls exited the carriage really quite briskly........so did we!
For us, the rest of a very warm day was spent in Devonport, a short ferry ride across the water, where after a sunny lunch Passepartou decided a routemarch along the front was needed.
Napier & Wellington
We have really enjoyed this our second visit to New Zealand, more so now we have made visits to Napier, followed by Wellington on consecutive days, both bathed in sunshine. Although travelling by cruise ship cannot offer the real what I would call "The David Attenborough experience ", it does provide a small snapshot of lots of different places and cultures, without having to pack and unpack bags frequently.
Napier apparently is known as the Art Deco capital of New Zealand and our arrival coincided with the start of their annual Art Deco festival week. During this time folk walk around dressed in 1920-30's attire; so with my knitted woollen swimming trunks and straw hat, I ventured ashore. (at this point dear reader you'll note I'm exaggerating a little, I'd forgotten my straw hat). There are also a lot of vehicles of those "flapper times " on show by their proud enthusiastic owners.
The bag ladies
Strolling around ( or should I say partaking of a five mile hike) proved fascinating, but as ever it was some of our fellow passengers that caught my attention. In particular there are two ladies of advancing years who stood out. They didn't look particularly eccentric, ( although one lady did resemble Mary Poppins)but whenever we came across them each carried or pulled a bag trolley with at least three large bags. One of the bags looked like a smaller version of the ones we get stones delivered in from our local garden centre. Wherever we see them , be it at breakfast on the ship, seeking out a sunbed and on shore, the bags are in tow.
Fascinating; what could be in those bags that make it imperative to take them around even in this heat?
In Wellington's botanical gardens by the rose garden, there they were, pondering whether they should ascend to the next level via the steps or take the gravel slope, would the trolleys make it?
During our day in New Zealand's capital, apart from coming across these dear ladies, we managed another marathon on foot taking in the Botanical gardens, the parliament buildings and the waterfront, all interspersed with Cappuccinos, cake and lager......not all at the same time I should add. Talking to the friendly natives it too seemed we were lucky as Wellington had experienced a week of rain before we arrived. We felt blessed.
Captain Luka, who had been the ship's head honcho since we left Southampton had got off and not returned, his replacement announced himself to us just before lines were let go. He said he is Cap Tayne Cook and he would be taking us all the way back home. Initially, we'd leave the harbour, make a right turn and enter the Cook strait, a stretch of water that was named after him.
Not sure we believed him. He also said, the trip across the Tasman sea to Sydney was looking good too, we shouldn't have believed him. Day one was like a millpond, day two wasn't. Having evening dinner on a rolling ship watching lightening dancing across the sky whist I'm wearing my white tuxedo is at best risky, at worst hazardous. I decided against the tomato soup.
February 19th and it's G'day
Waking up, opening the curtains and there is the Opera house, it never fails to excite, but Passepartou needn't have awoken me so early, I really can be as excited an hour later and the building will not have moved ....honest!
This was our fourth visit to Sydney and the one renowned place not visited by us was Bondi beach...not to swim (perish the thought), more to tick it off the bucket list. Bus number 333 was the one to find, direct from Circular Quay to Bondi; eventually we did it , we were those people, we found out how to buy tickets and then found that bus stop. So proud of ourselves, we boarded the bendy bus behind the best Formula One or NASCAR bus driver in Australia, slowly out of the business district, then with hammer down we were soon in Bondi.
There we were, just itching to grab a Malibu surf board and ride those waves whilst I would show off my bronzed torso as well as my surfing skills! .....Then I woke up and got off the bus.
We did quite well for our age though. We found a good beach bar in which to partake of the daily caffeine fix. A bar with a view (if one stood up) of the famous beach and its very young population....oh to be that age again!
As we had forgotten to take our swimwear and surfboards, regrettably, we had no choice other than to remain in the bar for a couple of hours, just relaxing and listening to the jazz group. So cappuccinos became beers followed by a lite bite (I did get chastised for ordering a bucket of fries though ).
There, however, as usual was for me "a sting in the tail".....another hike!
The plus point of the visit to Sydney was that it was an overnight stay allowing us to have a dinner out beside the harbour bridge. No only did I revisit Moreton bay bugs cooked in lemon butter for the second time in my life, but also could get some memorable pics.
Arcadia departed Sydney for Brisbane around 10:30 on the 20th, giving time for us to be entertained by an Aussie group known as The Bushwackers. A sort of folk, come country and western group of mostly mature years. Our ships demographic had also radically changed, with almost 1000 Aussies new on board, some only travelling to Brisbane. They were in high spirits, much higher than ours anyway. So this band belted out quite a few locally popular numbers and even one singalong, to much acclaim. We were not sure exactly what the songs were and had no way of recognising any lyrics, I just wish we hadn't sat at the front, we didn't have an escape route.
Return to Brisbane
Three days later we were docked in Brisbane, well not exactly in Brisbane, more alongside a grain silo some forty minutes bus ride away. Although this is another city we have previously visited we had lots planned for the day. Unfortunately though, Passepartou had fallen ill and despite heroic efforts she was obviously not enjoying the day and I felt I was dragging her around instead of normally trying to keep up with her.
A visit to an extremely helpful Pharmacy followed by a Doctors surgery that resulted in the start of a course of antibiotics provided an early conclusion to our visit.Hey ho! (It's normally me that gets some bug or other on a cruise...so this is a first). Just hope the treatment works!
Yorkey came from Yorkshire and emigrated to Australia many moons ago. He tried various ways to make a living ,fishing, farming etc in this humid unforgiving climate. He suffered a serious accident whilst cutting sugar cane , it seems he missed and severed his arm, so was left with a stump.
So today the 25th February we are at anchor awaiting a tender ride ashore to Yorkeys Knob, that really should be called Yorkeys Stump.
Actually, we did have another explanation for the name of this place. Simply that the area is a large promentary of land named after this Yorkshireman. Not as interesting a story though.
Last time we were here via cruise ship, we had a Great Barrier Reef snorkelling trip planned, but an earlier find of a cocaine cache on that ship prevented this port of call. So this time I had booked to go out to one of the reef pontoons for a spot of underwater exploration , but Passepartou advised me that I'm not really up to it. She reminded me that on one snorkelling trip I got cramp and had to abandon whilst on another trip they had to haul me back on the boat in a very undignified fashion looking like a beached whale,
We swapped the reef adventure for a leisurely train trip to the local rain forest (suitable for pensioners and those of a nervous disposition).
Tendered ashore in bright sunshine with a clear sky and temperature of around 30C, we felt quite relaxed although all was about to change.
We boarded a coach for what turned out to be a whistle stop tour, you know one of those trips where you are given short breaks to look around before being shepherded back on the bus etc.
So it went thus...
Bus to the Rainforest station (really a kind of zoo) around 40 minutes. RAIN STARTS
View creatures on display 25 mins. RAIN GETS QUITE SERIOUS
Ride around forest track on a WWII duckw 20 mins.
RAIN CANOPY ON DUKW MEANS WE CANNOT SEE MUCH...BUT THERE ARE LOTS OF TREES, AT LEAST WE CAN SEE TREE STUMPS
Back on bus (with just time for comfort break)
Bus whizzes around Village of Karunda.....5 minutes ..NO TIME TO STOP
Deposits us at Railway station for scenic train down through the forest. Train due to depart in 10 minutes . RAIN EASES
Choice between using the loos and queuing for a drink.
Board train to find our allocated seats are on wrong side for the" spectacular views".
Train departs only to stop after 10 minutes for photo opportunity at Barron Falls
Climb off train in mad stampede for falls best viewpoint, along with what seems a large part of the population of Shanghai,. Find folk with cameras 10 deep and a myriad of selfie sticks obscuring any view.
Dash to find alternative viewpoint.
Quick snapshots as train whistle blowing for restart of journey.
One hour and twenty minutes on train scrambling over other passengers endeavouring to get pictures from the train window, whist trying not to squash the Victoria jam sponge being eaten by the lady in one of the window seats.
Arrived at Freshwater station to leave train.
Told to turn right out of the station and walk 80 metres to rejoin bus
STAIR ROD RAIN
80 Metre dash
Boarded bus in exceedingly wet state
Bus air conditioning on full
Wet clothes turned to ICE for 30 minute drive back to Yorkeys knob
End of a perfect day!