Archive for February, 2016

Sydney, Australia (Day 2)

     Sydney is the largest city in Australia & was also the first settlement here.  This area was first visited by Captain Cook around 1770.  He sailed past Sydney harbor without entering & anchored a little way to the South in a place he named Botany Bay (now the location of Sydney’s airport).  He submitted glowing reports about Botany Bay.  Meanwhile, some 17 years later, Great Britain had a growing problem with its criminal underclass.  The Enclosure movement had driven many peasants off the land and into the cities where they had no way to earn a living.  This led to large growth in petty crime.  At that time any theft worth 40 shillings was a hanging offense, and the prisons filled up with people convicted (usually in very summary trials) of petty theft.  Criminal overcrowding had for many years been eased by deportation to the American colonies where the convicts were sold into indentured servitude, usually for seven years.  But the American Revolution cut off deportation there, and overcrowded prisons were supplemented by “hulks,” ships denuded of masts anchored in the Thames & at Plymouth where prisoners rotted away in the unrelieved filth with little fresh air or food.

     Something had to be done, so ultimately the government decided to begin transporting convicts to Botany Bay, which was as far from England as it was possible to go & which Cook had assured them would be a good place to live.  Many convicts were given a choice between the gallows and transport to Botany Bay, so you can imagine how many “volunteers” there were for transport.  The “First Fleet,” headed by Arthur Phillip, arrived in Botany Bay at the beginning of 1788, but it quickly became apparent that Cook had been wrong about the living conditions, particularly because of the lack of a source of fresh water.  After a few days Phillip set out to explore the other bay to the North & found it to be extraordinarily good for settlement.  He wrote that it was the best harbor in the world, in which the entire British navy could be harbored with room to spare.  So the fleet moved there & they began to build a settlement at a place near where the Opera House now sits that is called “the Rocks.” 

     The Aboriginals at Botany Bay were glad to see them go.  When Cook had been there, they had gathered on the shore and shouted to him to “go away.”  Of course, Cook had no idea what they were saying but he did go away.  So when the First Fleet arrived there the Aboriginals again told them to “go away,” and they had every hope that this tactic would work again.  But when the British began building a settlement on their land, and catching their fish to eat, they began to realize that this was a lot more serious.  This led to a lot of strife.

     Our plan for Day 2 was to explore the Rocks area, the oldest section of the city situated between the Harbor Bridge & the Opera House.  It is a very interesting area, with old buildings, some built by the original convicts, intermingled with glass skyscrapers.  The old Victorian buildings had a lot of interesting architectural detail of the kind not seen anymore (too expensive I guess).

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     Our first target was the State Library built in 1906, which was quite magnificent with a domed reading room.  The floor in the entrance was an amazing stone inlay copy of a map of this part of the world drawn by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in the middle of the 17th century.  I think he was the first to reach this part of the world, which is why it was known as New Holland into the 19th century.  The island of Tasmania (which he called Van Damien’s Land) is named for him, as is the Tasman Sea between Australia & New Zealand.  There is a tunnel leading to a modern library building that is mostly glass and very light & airy.

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     Outside the library is a statue of Matthew Flinders who we met before in Melbourne, the first circumnavigator of Australia at the beginning of the 19th century.  On his way back to England he was detained in Mauritius, a French territory that was at war with England at the time.  It seems he had obtained a pass, but it was in the name of his ship rather than his own name.  He had lost his original ship and was returning on a different one, so the officials on Mauritius refused to recognize it and imprisoned him as a spy.  He spent several years locked up there before clearing up the matter and obtaining his release.  In England he wrote a book about his exploits, but he died on the very day it was published.  Through all of this he was accompanied by his cat, Trim, who even stayed with him in prison on Mauritius.  But when they were freed, Trim was nowhere to be found as he prepared for departure.  It turned out that a group of ravenous locals had eaten him.  Behind the Flinders statue out side the library is a separate statue of Trim, the first cat to circumnavigate Australia

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     We walked past Sydney Hospital, built in 1814.  In front is Il Porcellino, a bronze copy of a well known statue in Florence, donated by the Florentines in 1968.  Its nose is rubbed shiny & there is a plethora of small animals sculpted into its base.

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     Next we came to the Hyde Park Barracks, built in 1819 and designed by a convict turned architect, Francis Greenway.  This was built to house convicts, not soldiers.

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     We walked through Hyde Park, lush with trees & flowers.  In the center is a very elaborate fountain built in 1932, on one side is St Mary’s Cathedral and at the end is the ANZAC Memorial (but we didn’t walk that far).  There was a sign warning to watch out after a rain for “failing trees.”  The park is also home to a large number of Ibis, an awkward looking bird with a long beak that we were told are considered pests hereabouts.

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    The Queen Victoria Building was erected in 1898 as a market hall & after years of neglect it was restored in the 1980’s into a really glorious indoor mall.  It has four stories with a large variety of stores & kiosks, and a huge hanging clock on which, when it strikes the hour, small figures emerge and behead Charles I (or so we have read . . . sadly, we didn’t see this happen).  We rode down from the upper floor in an old fashioned cage elevator, & in front of the building is a large statue of Queen Victoria.

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     Over the last few decades Sydney has developed into a cosmopolitan & ethnically diverse city (it has only been a few decades since Australia abandoned its narrow racial immigration restrictions).  This month it is celebrating Chinese New Year over a period of several weeks & the city was decorated with some delightful displays.  Our favorite was the rabbits in front of the old Customs House, built in 1845 & remodeled in 1885, whose first three floors house the city’s public library (which we didn’t visit because we only learned about it later).  We also passed a fellow playing the Digeridoo; not just for Chinese New Year, he looked pretty permanent (and other passengers mentioned they had seen him on previous visits).  We have had a digeridoo player on board since we left New Zealand, teaching passengers how to play.  His scheduled performance was, unfortunately, canceled because he injured his eardrum shortly after boarding the ship.127. Sydney, Australia  (Day 2)129. Sydney, Australia  (Day 2)82. Sydney, Australia  (Day 2)130. Sydney, Australia  (Day 2)324. Sydney, Australia  (Day 1)124. Sydney, Australia  (Day 2)131. Sydney, Australia  (Day 2)227. Sydney, Australia  (Day 1)

      Well, after seeing all this, doing some shopping & consuming huge cones of gelato it was time to return to the ship for the sail-away.  It had been a sunny & warm day, but at sail-away it turned cloudy & overcast, so the views were not as great as they could have been.  Pretty good still, though.  There was a big party on the aft deck as we left & HAL provided free wine & food so everyone was feeling happy, including moi.  We passed by all the icons one last time: the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge & Luna Park.  There was a group of bridge climbers on top as we passed under the bridge & there were shouted greetings on both sides. We had to wait about an hour at the mouth of the harbor for a boat to come out and pick up two passengers with medical issues that required hospital care, then we sailed up the Eastern coast of Australia. This was too short a stay in this special city, which left quite a lot to do and see next time.

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Sydney, Australia (Day 1)


     We got up very early on February 10 to see the sail-in to the legendary harbor of Sydney, Australia, thought by many to be the best harbor in the world.  We got our first view from the ocean threshold before sunrise & it became more beautiful as we sailed in.  We had our first view of the famous Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. 

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    We sailed under the bridge and on to our berth at White Bay, within view of the bridge but about 45 minutes drive by shuttle bus.  Last year the world cruise docked at Circular Quay, right next to the Opera House, but when there are larger ships in town that can’t fit under the bridge, smaller ships like Amsterdam are banished to White Bay.  It seemed to us that the site must have been selected by someone trying to find the most inconvenient spot for cruise passengers & little has been done to provide efficient transportation (our cab driver that night had been driving here for 5 years and had never been to White Bay).  But despite this, we were very happy to be here.

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     After breakfast we set out on an excursion that took us first to Koala Park, an animal park (ie. glorified zoo).  After all, you can’t go to Australia & not see koalas and kangaroos! Despite its name, the park only had one koala.  Koalas sleep about 20 hours a day because the eucalyptus they eat gives them very little energy, so this little guy must spend all his waking time on duty.  In Queensland it’s permissible to have your picture taken holding a Koala, but here in New South Wales it is illegal to touch a koala.  But people lined up to have their picture taken standing in front of the koala anyway.  It looked like a hard way to earn a living.

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     While there was only one koala, there were a lot of other interesting animals.  We have been told that 90% of the species of animals and insects In Australia are found nowhere else, so Australian zoos are pretty exotic to Americans & Europeans.  Among the birds we saw here were the Laughing Kookaburra, the Blue Peafowl, the Double-Wattled Cassowary, a White Cockatoo & the Emu. There were also some creepy looking bats called Grey Headed Flying Foxes.

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     We saw Dingoes, which looked a lot like our son’s Australian Cattle Dog but for their yellow color, and seemed much nicer than portrayed by Rudyard Kipling in the Just So Stories, oh best beloved. We even got to pet one that was being walked on a leash.  There were some Blue Tongued Lizards, although we didn’t get to see their tongues.  We saw part of an Echidna (a spiny ant-eater and egg laying mammal), who was hiding with only its back showing.  And there was a Wombat, but it took one look at the approaching tourists and retreated into a barrel & covered itself in straw.  I am including a picture of its face taken while it was inside the dark barrel, even though it is pretty hard to discern.

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    And finally, the Kangaroos & their smaller cousins, the Wallabies.  There were two species of Wallaby in this park, Wallaroos & Red Necked Wallabies.  They seemed very active, hopping here & there, very suddenly and very fast.

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    The kangaroos were in a sort of corral which visitors could enter to interact with the kangaroos.  You could feed them (they eat grass & leaves) or pet them, and they were quite used to people & very friendly.  One was a mother with a joey in her pouch; all you could see of him or her was the long legs sticking out of the pouch.  We were told that kangaroos are born very tiny & somehow manage to climb into the mother’s pouch, where they latch onto a nipple & stay attached until ready to emerge many months later.

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   The flora here was interesting as well, including very large-leafed ferny plants & a variety of Eucalyptus whose bark appears to fall off, leaving a white trunk.

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     The next thing on the advertised agenda was lunch at the top of the Sydney tower.  But it turned out that our guide hadn’t made reservations ahead of time & the restaurant wouldn’t take us until 2:00.  So we had to drive around town for a couple of hours, seeing some of the city but mostly to waste time.  This was a problem for a few of us who had opera tickets for that night & were relying on the published return time of 5:00 to make it to the show.  We made it back only 15 minutes late despite all this delay, but it made the rest of the excursion a little nerve-wracking for us.  Our first stop was in a park on the opposite side of the Harbor Bridge from the Opera House.

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     We drove through the Royal Botanic Gardens to its furthest point, where there was a nice view of the Opera House & the bridge (I hope you aren’t sick of them yet, there is more to come).  We also saw Mrs MacQuarie’s Chair, a bench cut into the stone wall in 1816 by convicts at the behest of the Governor’s wife, who liked to sit here and enjoy the view.  There was a group of tourists on the very top of the bridge. For about $250 you can join a bridge climb to the top, dressed in a special suit of overalls and tethered to the bridge so you can’t fall (you can’t bring a camera either, since it could be dropped & hurt someone below).  We didn’t do that.

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     We finally made it to the Sydney Tower at about 2:00 for lunch.  This is similar to the tower in Auckland, prominent on the skyline from many areas of town.  We had lunch here in a revolving restaurant: the windows & central kitchen area are stable while the table area rotates at about one revolution every 1.5 hours.  The buffet had quite a lot of foods available, & Rick had crocodile & emu sausage, and a sort of kangaroo stew.  Not all that great, so fortunately there was other food available too.  The views were very far-reaching.

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     Our last stop was for a tour of the Sydney Opera House.  The story of its building is long and complicated, but basically this design was chosen from a worldwide competition after initially being rejected.  No one knew how to make a building with this design actually stand up, but after a lot of experimentation the original architect hit on the idea of using sections of a sphere for the sail-like structures & that turned out to be the breakthrough.  It ran way over budget (doesn’t everything?) which led to the original architect being ousted from the project, & he never saw the building in person, though there was some reconciliation before he died.

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     We visited the major performance spaces.  Best was the Concert Hall, huge & beautiful with outstanding acoustics.  Our guide said there are no bad seats here, so you may as well buy the cheapest ones.  There are also seats behind the orchestra on stage. Above the stage is a series of large hanging discs.  These are raised and lowered to improve the acoustics for the performers: low for a string quartet & high for an orchestra, for example.  And in the middle is a huge pipe organ, with several thousand more pipes behind that you cannot see, from small enough to hold in your hand to several stories tall.  Quite impressive.

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     That night we went with another couple to an opera in the Opera House. Originally operas were expected to be staged in the concert hall, but that didn’t work out (can’t remember why), so another smaller space was converted into an opera stage.  The orchestra is beneath the stage with the conductor standing up through an open space in front; there are TV monitors so that orchestra members can see what he is doing above his knees.  The opera was Rossini’s Barber of Seville, and it was fabulous.  They played it for laughs, & the biggest joke was all of these magnificent voices in the service of low comedy.  In the other performance venue was a show called Blanc en Blanc.  A number of other passengers attended this cabaret style show, complete with hot tub & full frontal nudity.  Sadly, there was no nudity in Barber of Seville.

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     We made it back to the ship late, but it was a lovely night so we went up to the top deck for some final photos from a very full day.  And we weren’t through with Sydney yet.

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Melbourne, Australia

     After three days at sea we arrived at Melbourne, Australia on February 8.  Melbourne (pronounced “Mel’-bun,” to our surprise) is the capital of the province of Victoria & the second largest city in Australia with a population in excess of 4 million.  It was founded in 1835.  Of course, Aboriginal people had populated the area for 30 or 40 thousand years before that, having mostly walked from Southeast Asia because the oceans were much lower then.  The Aborigines were progressively dispossessed of their land in the region over the first 5 to 10 years after settlement by Europeans.

      In 1851 there was a gold rush in Victoria & by the 1880’s Melbourne was one of the largest & richest cities in the world.  In 1901 it became the temporary capital of the new Australian federation, but after years of competition with Sydney for that role the capital was moved to Canberra in the 1920’s, halfway between Sydney & Melbourne.

     The harbor is a few miles from downtown so we took the bus in ($14 Australian to ride all day). The bus let us off just across the Yarra River from the central business district, so we walked across the bridge into town.  The weather was gray & overcast, but we hoped it would improve at it has done many times on this trip.

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     Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of Melbourne is the combination of soaring glass skyscrapers and elaborate Victorian stone buildings of the late 19th century.  The proliferation of monumental Victorian buildings in the 1880s and 90s was a direct result of the excessive flow of money into the city from the gold rush.  We came upon three of the best examples immediately upon crossing the bridge.  First, Flinders Street Station was built in 1909 and was the busiest commuter rail station in the world during the 1920’s.  It is still bustling and “under the clocks” at the station is one of the commonest meeting places in the city.

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     Second, across the street from the station is St. Paul’s (Anglican) Cathedral, with soaring steeples and a beautiful interior of alternating colored stone stripes.  It was built in 1891.

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     Next to the cathedral is the Town Hall, a massive building completed in 1870.  Its entrance doors display the four images on the city coat of arms . . . a whale, a ship, a bull & a sheep, representing the area’s economy.  Across the street was an imposing building of a later vintage that is part of Victoria University.

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     We walked on to the State Library of Victoria.  Built in 1856, it is one of the oldest cultural institutions in Australia and has more than 2 million books in its collection.  Its domed, multi-story main reading room is quite impressive.

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There was another reading room with skylight & lots of glass & a separate chess room with chess tables & one of the world’s most extensive collections of chess books.  Also here are some architectural details. 

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     The museum we most wanted to see is closed on Mondays (naturally), so we decided to walk up to the Melbourne Museum, a very modern building of recent vintage said to be the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere.  It has a vast collection, but we mostly just wanted to see their Aboriginal collection, so we were happy that they waived the $14 per person admission for seniors, even if you aren’t Australian.  This made us feel better about the limited time we had to spend there.  There was a lot of interest in the Aboriginal collection, both artifacts and narration.  On the way out we noticed hanging from the ceiling an important old airplane, which may have been the first one built in Australia (we can’t remember).

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     Near the museum is the Royal Exhibition Building, erected for the International Exhibition of 1880. This is also where Australia’s first parliament met in 1901.  There was a big sign on one side advertising that you could rent it for your wedding or other function, and there were similar signs on other grand old buildings, like the Town Hall.  It seemed strange to us, but I guess business is business.  It’s not as bad as naming baseball stadiums after the corporation that bids the most.

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     We walked back downtown to the Supreme Court to see our second library of the day.  It seemed to take forever to get though the metal detectors at the entrance, only to find that we were required to leave our cameras with the guard.  This we duly did, & walked in and looked around the lovely round domed library inside the court.  When we came back the guard told us that only cameras were forbidden & it was OK to photograph with your phone!  So back we went and made the photograph below.  When we returned to take our leave it appeared that lunchtime was over because there was a line of people waiting to enter the court.  Rick was the only barrister there who wasn’t wearing the British style black uniform with a fluffy white collar (actually, they probably wouldn’t have believed Rick was a lawyer, dressed in his t-shirt, cargo pants & baseball hat).


     There were some other miscellaneous things.  On Flinders Street were a number of tall poles with designs on them, some Aboriginal and some not.  They didn’t seem to have lights at the top, or any other obvious function, so maybe they are just decorative.  On the same street was a statue of (surprise) Matthew Flinders.  While he is not well known outside of Australia, here he is a hero somewhat akin to the Founders in the U.S.  He was the first to circumnavigate Australia, mapping much of its coastline for the first time, and he was also the first to call it Australia (it had been called New Holland up to that time).  More on him in a future episode.  We walked through the Royal Arcade, a shopping mall built in 1869 and Melbourne’s oldest existing arcade.

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     By now it was getting late (& we were getting hot & tired), so we walked back across the river to catch the bus back to the port.  It was much sunnier now & the river and the newer development along its shore were brightly lit.

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      We sailed away from Melbourne in late afternoon, feeling that we had seen quite a lot in only one day but that there was still quite a lot of interesting places to see on our (hopefully) next visit.

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Picton, New Zealand

     The Amsterdam was easing into its dock when we opened the window on the morning of Thursday, February 4.  Picton is a nice little town in a beautiful setting, Queen Charlotte Sound.  It is at the north end of the south island of New Zealand & is the terminal for the ferry across the Cook Strait that connects the two islands.  This province is called Marlborough & is New Zealand’s top wine country.  The first European settlement here was a whaling station set up in 1827, but the town was established in 1848.

     This bay was one of Captain Cook’s favorite anchorages & he spent almost half a year here spread out over his three voyages.  During his second voyage he was separated from his second ship in fog near Antarctica & this bay was the designated meeting place.  So he brought his ship here & waited a number of days before giving up and sailing on.  The other ship arrived just a few days later & sent ashore a provisioning party.  When it did not return they sent another party to find them.  The second party found them, but only some recognizable parts of their bodies & they concluded the first party had been killed & eaten by the local Maori.  So they returned to the ship, which hightailed it back to England.

     We were anchored almost in the center of town, so after breakfast we walked in.  Like a lot of days on this voyage, it was very cloudy & looked like rain but later turned brightly sunny.

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     Our first stop was to see the Edwin Fox, what remains of an old ship built in India in 1853.  Its first service was to transport troops for the Crimean War.  Its primary significance is as the only remaining ship to transport prisoners to Australia & settlers to New Zealand.  If you have seen the movie “The Great Train Robbery,” the characters played by Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland were later transported to Freemantle, Australia on the Edwin Fox’s one voyage in 1858 as a prisoner transport.  The ship served as a commercial vessel for a number of years, carrying tea from India to England, then after its sailing days were over it was made into a giant refrigerator for storing preserved meat before transport to England.  After arriving in Picton in 1897, It languished for a number of years, subject to plundering, before being purchased and towed to its permanent display location in Picton  in1999.  It’s not in very good condition & they lack the money for any refurbishment (at least so far), but its historical significance is substantial. 

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     We walked over to the Picton Foreshore, the beach area at the center of town.  The weather was still threatening, but the bay was beautiful.  There were also colorful flowers in extensive flower beds.

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     Passing through the Anzac memorial serving as a gate between the Foreshore & the town, we walked up the main street.  Not much beyond a few uninteresting stores & restaurants, but in a lovely setting surrounded by mountains.  Then we found the library, always a primary objective for us.  We discovered recently that Steve & Wendy, two of our Cruise Specialists hosts, also collect library pictures for their son, who is a librarian in Louisville, Kentucky.  We thought we were the only ones, but apparently not.

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     We decided to take a walk on one of the trails along the harbor, so we headed over to what the locals call the Coathanger Bridge, passing a lot of sailboats at anchor.  From the bridge we followed the road straight ahead, which turned out to be a mistake.  After hiking about a mile we (finally) happened upon a sign that told us we were on the wrong path.  The one we wanted required turning left after the bridge (but there was no sign at the bridge to tell you that).  So our best recourse was to take the “Scout’s Track” over the mountain ridge to the path overlooking the harbor.  It was very steep, but we made it.  We decided that the name referred to boy or girl scouts, who would be much younger than we are!

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     At the top we were rewarded with great views of the Sound (and the prospect that the rest of the trip would be downhill!). 

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     As we came down the trail on the harbor side of the ridge of mountains there were more nice views & some interesting flowers.

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     After this hike we were ready to walk back to the ship.  We passed a playground with a Donald Duck statue (does Disney, Inc. know about this?) & some acrobats busking in the Foreshore area.  They announced that they thought their act was worth at least 10 or 20 dollars, but since we only saw the ending as we passed by we just continued on. You can see from this view of the harbor that the weather had greatly improved (yay).

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     So that’s it from Picton & from New Zealand.  The sailaway was quite beautiful, as you might imagine, & the Sound was much longer than we had anticipated.  We were looking forward to some relaxing sea days as we crossed the Tasman Sea to Australia.

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Auckland, New Zealand

     When we woke up on February 2 the Amsterdam was already docked in Auckland.  Founded in 1840, Auckland was the capital of New Zealand in the middle of the 19th century.  It is located about half way down the north island & is the only city in the world built on a dormant (not extinct) field of volcanoes, the last eruption of one of its 50 volcanoes having occurred just 600 years ago (presumably to the dismay of the Maori living there at the time).  With a total population around 1 million, Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world (somewhere around 100,000).

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    After breakfast we left the dock to walk through town to the War Memorial Museum.  Next to our dock is the 1912 Ferry Building, which is still the terminal for ferries to other parts of the region.

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     It was a pretty long walk and, as seems so normal in New Zealand, mostly uphill.  We walked through two parks: the Domain & Albert Park.  Albert Park had a floral clock & we walked past a lot of apparently old trees with wandering boughs. We also walked past the University of Auckland, which had a striking clock tower on its Old Arts Building, built In 1926.

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     The Auckland War Memorial Museum was built in 1929 to commemorate the ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers from New Zealand who died in World War I.  In front is a “cenotaph,” based on the tomb of the unknown soldier in London.  On the front steps we met another couple, one of whom was wearing a Cincinnati Reds jersey.  He is from Martins Ferry and she is from Yellow Springs, Ohio, quite near where Rick grew up. They are teachers living in China.  Since Rick was wearing a Reds hat, it was hard to miss the affinity so we talked for a few minutes & they took a picture.  The Museum is on a hill with a nice view of the water.

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     This is really a world class museum.  It has 3 floors: Maori & Pacific Islands artifacts on the 1st floor, natural history on the 2d & military on the 3d.  We spent several hours there and couldn’t finish the first floor.  There were a lot of Maori artifacts, mostly intricate carvings; we can show some of them to you but can’t really explain them. The piercing blue/green eyes are made of paua shell.

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     In the center of the gallery is a pataka, used as a storehouse.  It was originally built in the 1870’s & the figures represent ancestors of the chief.  It is quite beautifully preserved and an impressive piece of work, covered in carved panels all the way around. 

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     To one side is the much bigger Hotunui, a meeting house similar to the one we saw in Waitangi but much older.  This one was built in 1878.  We were told that not many of these buildings have survived that long because they were often destroyed by war or fire.  When it was acquired by the museum in 1925 they painted it all red (like the one in Waitangi) & repainted it in the 1950’s.  For the last 30 years they have been working on restoring the building to its original appearance, removing all the red paint they can & repairing the woven tukutuku mats that line the interior between the vertical carved panels.  As you can see below, this work continues, but the lead worker on the project told us it is expected to be finished in a few months.  When asked he acknowledged that they are now putting some thought into the celebration they will have & said he was pretty sure it would involve alcohol.  You are required to remove your shoes before entering as a sign of respect (and yes, the shoes were still there when we came back out).

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     The third oversized artifact is Te Toki a Tapiri, a war canoe some 25 yards long that held 100 warriors. Built in 1836, it is the oldest waka in existence.

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   Finally, there was a collection of paintings of Maori chiefs, all looking pretty fierce in their facial tattoos.  Here are a couple of them.

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     Time was beginning to run a little short so we left the museum, having been unable even to finish the first floor.  We will have to come back here next time!  Walking back toward downtown we found the public library.  It is a nice library & its collection includes books translated into Maori as well as those in English. The Maori term for “library” is the same word they use for “storehouse.”

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     The last item on our agenda for today is the Auckland Sky Tower.  Finished in 1997, this is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere at more than 1,000 feet. It is possible to see 50 miles from its observation level.  This being New Zealand, it is also possible to bungee jump from near the top (you are probably not surprised to hear that we didn’t).  The elevator to the top is very fast & has glass walls and a partially glass floor.  One poor guy on our elevator firmly fixed his head facing into a corner he was so terrified.  You can see this tower looming over other buildings all over town.

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The view from the observation deck is pretty spectacular, from islands across the harbor to hills (volcanoes) in the other direction.  We could look directly down on the tops of pretty tall buildings, and also on the bungee target platform.

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     So we sailed away from Auckland in late afternoon & got to see the view we missed by sleeping through the sail-in.  We passed a sailboat with a guy leaning about as far out as possible to keep it balanced.  It was a strenuous day on our feet, so thankfully there would be a sea day before our next port.

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