Greetings to the tribe. It's been a long journey from the holidays to June that included a three-week visit to Cuenca Ecuador in January and a 5-night Caribbean cruise at the end of February. If we are connected on Facebook, you've surely seen some pictures from those trips as well as the subject of today's post: Our six-week trip down under and back. It all started on March 21st as we flew to Newark, then San Francisco where we circled the skies for an hour and a half before getting permission to land. The pilot was 5 minutes from diverting the flight to San Jose, which would have made getting to New Zealand in time for the cruise problematic. As it was, we made our flight to Auckland but many others didn't as economy class was only about half full, which the flight attendant said never happens.
The next day was our first port of call and we had an excursion to ride the luge in Rotorua. We enjoyed a bloody mary waiting for our group to be called. What? It made the bus ride easier.
Here we are on the chairlift to go up to the luges. In the background, you can see a very large lake which is actually a volcano caldera. There were various hot spots around town with steam rising into the air.
The next day we stopped in Napier, New Zealand. We didn't have an excursion planned, so we walked around town and shopped for souvenirs.
The next day we arrived in Picton, a very small coastal town with one main street. We looked up a trail on AllTrails and went for a hike. You can see our ship docked in the background. The weather turned rainy in the afternoon but we were already back on board by then.
The next stop was supposed to be in Wellington, but due to the rain and high winds, we were not permitted to dock. The captain decided to go to Christchurch one day early for an overnight stop. The storm ushered in some cooler weather as fall was starting.
We didn't get off the boat in the evening, but the next day we had an excursion to go wine tasting in the Waipara Valley. At the included lunch, we were the last to arrive in the dining area and took the last two seats. Wouldn't you know it, the guy next to us was from Quebec and he happened to be texting his friend at the table, who, wait for it, lives on our street. Small world!
The next day we stopped in Dunedin but again had no excursion planned so we walked around the charming town. New Zealand seemed kind of expensive but they had a version of Target there where Serge was able to get some new sneakers for under $30. Everywhere we went, people seemed super friendly. But it's a small place, only five million people, half of whom live in the Capital area. Quebec alone has nearly 9 million people by comparison. Dunedin was our last stop in New Zealand.
The next day was a sea day. Finally. We cruised the fiords and saw dramatic scenery. This area is so remote, it takes a week to hike in. Put another way, it's a week's hike to civilization. It reminded us of Chile at the southern end of the South American continent. Largely uninhabited.
The weather grew stormy when we entered one of the fiords and waterfalls were cascading down the sides of the steep cliffs. It felt like we were in National Geographic. There was narration on board which is how we knew how far from civilization we were.
The next day was a stop in Melbourne, Australia where we had an electric bike excursion in the morning. The guide took us on a stretch of the sparsely populated pedestrian walkway to get to a lookout point. We were a dozen people and when we passed by one lady, she screamed "CYCLE PATH" where the "path" sounds like "poth". It was hilarious, at first I thought she was screaming "Psychopath". Then later on she caught up with us to scream at the guide. Finally, as we headed back to the starting point, we passed her and she was SCREAMING with her cell phone out, "I'm sending this to the police!" as she filmed us passing by. The guide said he'd been doing this same excursion for 15 years and had never encountered anyone like her. We amused ourselves the rest of the cruise saying "cycle path" like Donald Sutherland shrieking in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
In the afternoon we walked around the city looking for souvenirs and having a beer along the river. We felt the visit to be too short as we wanted to explore more but we had to get back on board to go to Sydney the next day.
On the way to Sydney, we had a two-hour electrical storm. It was so cool and I finally got one on video.
I was up in time the next morning to see the sun rise over the opera house. We had a tour of Sydney planned with a private tour of the opera house. We got a nice taste of the city but wished we had overnighted there. In Sydney, the 14-day cruise people got off (about 500) and the 25-day cruise people got on (about 800). About 1200 of us stayed aboard for the 39-day cruise.