Our CRUISE around NEW ZEALAND & return to AUSTRALIA FEB 2017 – PART 2 by “Yolo”

That Wednesday evening the ship headed out of the Bay of Plenty, east and then south to the city of Napier on Hawkes Bay. It is the major city of the region. The city buildings were destroyed by a major earthquake in 1951. The city was rebuilt in Art Deco style and now this design is drawing large numbers of tourists annually. We found it an attractive coastal port and an access city for some of NZ’s best golf courses in that region, the most notable being Cape Kidnappers. However, it rained persistently during the time we had in this port. Overnight the Noordam made its way south-west along the eastern coastline of the north island and down into Cook Strait that separates the two major islands of NZ. The Strait is named after Lt. James Cook who charted these waters and coastlines before heading west to discover Australia in 1770. It moored in the NZ capital of Wellington, commonly referred to as the Windy City because of the winds that can howl through the strait. Wellington is built on the southern most point of the north island. It is a compact city with homes built on the sides of the mountains that tower over the city. We had visited Wellington previously on two occasions but this time chose an unusual excursion, out of the city area along what they call The Storm Coast. We drove east right around the southern coastline onto a private dirt road right on the shoreline. With the public unable to access the area other than by boat or on foot, we saw debris washed up by heavy seas, strong winds and big tides. Although not far out of the capital, it looked very remote. We saw the original old timber lighthouse and a newer automatically operated one. We drove up onto a sheep station and were fed in the family’s homestead. A woman conducted some sheep dog displays for about 30 of us, mainly Americans who seemed to really enjoy seeing something so very different in their lives. It rained lightly on and off today too, but did not dampen our spirits. We were well aware that Brisbane was suffering temperatures of 35-40 degrees.  Again, the Noordam moved on overnight, crossing Cook Strait to the small town of Picton on the northern coast of NZ’s South Island. It is a very picturesque waterfront town in the Marlborough Sounds. Picton and nearby Blenheim are the centres of the Marlborough wine region.  We drove among many of the lovely vineyards to visit a World War 1 aviation museum that is now world class. It has around 20 restored WW1 aircraft in excellent condition. We were informed that some are still taken out annually and flown in air shows. It was a thoroughly enjoyable excursion without rain and ended with a visit to a family owned chocolate manufacturing centre quite close to the famed Cloudy Bay vineyard.

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