February 21, 2012
We spent three days in three very different areas of New Zealand. In the process our ship made a semi-circumnavigation of the two major islands, North Island and South Island. Our time began in the Bay of Islands, located two-thirds of the way up North Island. This was a last minute replacement for our Tonga stop, which got washed out by Cyclone Jasmine. The Bay of Islands was a great place to start our time in New Zealand because of its historical significance. It was here where a pact was signed in 1840 by the indigenous Maori and the British which established British governance in New Zealand. We paid a quick visit to view the house where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
However, our main activity was kayaking. We spent three hours paddling up the Waitangi Estuary to Haruru Falls. Along the way, we were treated to a myriad of birds along the water, with some of them native to New Zealand. Once at the falls, we were able to paddle up just close enough to feel the mist from the falls but not get soaked. After returning back to our starting point we were ready for a big plate of local green mussels.
Back on the ship, we left the Bay of Islands in the late afternoon. We moved toward the ocean with great views of some of the 150 islands in the wide bay. We were treated to dolphin sightings on both sides of the ship. Some dolphins moved in and out of the water in pairs. Luckily we were able to get a picture!
The next morning, we arrived in Auckland as the sun was rising to a beautiful sunny day. New Zealand’s largest city is home to about one-third of the country’s population of over four million. Auckland is known as the ‘City of Sails’ because it has more boats per capita than any other city in the world. Since it was Saturday, we could already see local boats in the harbor as we approached our dock. We docked downtown with the contrasts of the Ferry Terminal building and Sky Tower both in full view. After a walk down Queen Street, Auckland’s main street, we reached the Sky Tower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere.
We spent most of the day walking around the city, eating lunch downtown and then venturing a little further to Auckland Domain, the largest city park. Here we saw several Cricket games in progress and stopped to watch one for a few minutes. One of the highlights of the day was our departure at 11:00pm in the evening. As we left our downtown pier, the skyline, brightly illuminated, slipped away as we moved out of the harbor. It was a breathtaking sight!
The weather was much different in Fiordland National Park, on the southwest coast of South Island. We encountered threatening weather as sailed through four sounds within the park during our last stop in New Zealand. The sounds we visited were Milford Sound, Thompson Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound. The largest of New Zealand’s 14 national parks, Fiordland National Park is one of four areas in the world that features fjords; the others located in Alaska, Norway and Chile.
Our first stop was Milford Sound, the best-known sound in the park. Although low clouds limited our visibility, the wet conditions created hundreds of small waterfalls seen from both sides of our ship. The weather improved slightly in Thompson Sound but then got very foggy during our time in Doubtful Sound. This sound is three times longer than Milford, at about 24 miles (40 kilometers) long. It is also the deepest fjord with depths over 1,300 feet (400 meters). It was so named by Captain James Cook in 1770 when he sailed to the mouth of the sound but was ‘doubtful’ he would be able to sail out, so he did not explore it.
Our last stop was Dusky Sound in the late afternoon. Another Captain Cook namesake (it was discovered at dusk one day and then actually explored), Dusky had very little of the waterfalls that characterized Milford Sound. However, it had sweeping views and several inlets running off the main channel that made it picturesque. One highlight was a small island in the middle of the channel with many seals resting upon it.
As we left Dusky Sound and reentered the Tasman Sea we noted our location – latitude 45S. This would be one of the southernmost points of our entire 14-month journey. From here we head back north to Australia to the start of our land adventures and first trek.