Thursday, February 16, 2012

Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, and Geysers

February 15, 2012

This was a sea day: we cruised around the Coromandel Peninsula in the Haruki Gulf outside Auckland where the highlight was a rock island with a hole in it. They call it the "hole in the rock". Who would have thought! It was overcast and the rocky coastline was illuminated in the morning with an overcast sky with occasional sun breaks. The coastline reminded us of the oegon coast with rocky outcrops and tree covered hills. The peninsula is a popular vacation spot, and had it's heydey in the late 1800s after gold was discovered.

In the afternoon, we rounded the peninsula, heading west into the Bay of Plenty. The rains came, turning heavy at times, so not muchof  interest until later in the afternoon when we got up close and intimate with White Island - an active volcano. White Island is similar to Mount St. Helens in Washington, except it rises directly from the sea in the middle of the Bay of Plenty. And like Mount St. Helens, it blew its side out during one of its eruptions. Rather than lava flows, there are basalt masses growing in the crater with steaming fumeroles. The rain let up a little so photos could be taken. The rain also kept the sulfur fumes contained. We cruised past the maw of the crater several times, approaching within a 1/2 mile so al lthe features were quite visible.

Wednesday evening was formal night, and Mike's tuxedo showed up in time. We all dressed for a fine dinner. Before dinner Cindy, Mike, and Deb attended the "Back to Broadway" show that was just OK. The vocals were excellent, but the music was marred by a very bad synthesizer attempting to sound like violins. This did not work at all, and the temp was a little slower than it should have been. There was a fine flutist and piano player that we should have heard more of. Two numbers were saved by the excellent vocals - a great duet of the Phantom of the Opera and a solo rendition of "Defying Gravity" from The Wiz.Other numbers from Grease and West Side Story just didn't sound right.

Dinner was excellent; most of our group had lamb chops; John had a nice Beef Wellington; Deb had Alaska Crab Legs; and Mike experimented with Forestiere Mushrooms.

After dinner we posed for a nice group formal picture, then it was off to bed as we had an early start on Thursday.

Thursday, February 16, 2012
Our ship docked around 4:00am in the port of Tauranga. THis was a fine little town and port at the base of a young but dormant volcano at the port entrance. The 800ft cinder cone was quite steep with several trails around the base or to the top.

We were up early and into the Lido dining room for breakfast by 6am. Things were a bit disorganized and understaffed, as there simply weren't enough servers or wait staff to handle this early morning crush. Things got underway a bit earlier due to tours leaving at 6:30am. The start was a few hours earlier than originally scheduled due to tide conditions.

We boarded our bus for "Fascinating Rotorua", aobout 60 minutes inland from the port. Rotorua is probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in NZ. It is located in a caldera basin on the shores of a large lake. Evidently, the lake is sort of like Crater Lake in Oregon, except that it is shallow and drains to the sea. The entire area is over a volcanic hotspot, with many hot mud pools, active geysers, and hot springs.

On the way to Rotorua, we first stopped at the Rainbow Springs attraction, which gave us the opportunity to see kiwi birds up close as well as walk thru a tended arboretum where we could see and identify many of the native plants and trees unique to NZ. We were surprised to see giant redwoods there - a gift from California in the early 1900s. The climate was well suited to the redwoods as the 80 year old trees already towered to almost 200 ft heights.

One more stop before we got to the hotspot area of Rotorua - the Agridome. The Agridome is defintely for the tourists - a show explaing the different types of sheep raised in NZ, a demonstration of sheparding skils of dogs, and a bit of humor for the crowd. There are 14 different breeds of sheep in NZ, with the most famous being the Merino, whose wool is highly sought. Also learned that some sheep are better for wool production rather than eating. A compliaant sheep also succumbed to a shearing demonstration.
After the Agridome, we traveled to a Holiday Inn for a buffet lunch that was quite good. The lunch room then presented a Maori tribal show with singing and dancing to traditional Maori music.

Once the show was over, we boarded the bus to travel to the hotspot area nearby. The Prince of Wales geyser at the Te Puia thermal area put on quite a show for us with almost continuous streams of hot water and steam gushing from the ground. We were actually quite close, and did get wet. The smell of sulfur was everywhere. In the quarter mile suare area there were many springs, a hot mud pot, and several geusers. We were surprised at how close we could approach these features. There were trails and fences of course.
After getting our fill of the Te Puia thermal area, we boarded the bus for the trip back to our ship. We continued counter-clockwise around Rotorua Lake and traveled thru the kiwi growing region of NZ. The kiwi is not native, being brought here from Chian in the early 1900s. There is a golden variety that was developed here in NZ, derived from the original green kiwi we all know.

Along the way, we passed thru a small town named Te Puke. Ow well, the accent does make it sound a bit better!

We left the Tauranga port a little after 4pm. Mike and Deb lounged on the rear deck, while the others made sure the hot tub was put to good use. Mike also made sure he took advantage of the afternoon pizza snacks, and the happy hour drink specials.

Did we mention what a fine day it turned out to be? Sunny skies with temps in the 70s. Definitely the best kind of weather for touring. Mike and Deb schlepped their backpacks with rain gear and umbrellas. That surely was the catalyst to drive the rain away!

That's it for now - dinner was OK -- I had a dry Risotto, and Deb had second thoughts on the duck in her Duck l'orange. Cindy brought her bottle of champagne which we all shared with dessert. Following dinner there was an outstanding magic show. The magician was quite the comedian, too!

Tomorrow we hit Napier, a small city with Art-Deco architecture.

1 comment:

  1. We drove north to Bay of Islands and stayed at a great Mom & Pop hotel with a view to kill for. We took a speed boat to what they call "Hole in the Wall" which looked similar to this - about 20' clearence so often they cannot go through. It was a great day for us and we drove through. Tons and tons of brids feeding on huge schools of fish - a National Geographic moment.
    We also drove south to Rotorua which I felt was a mini Yellowstone - smell and all. Spent a lot of time walking around. Looks like we went to the same Kiwi attraction you did where they just had a new hatching. We think we saw the baby Kiwi - or a pile of dirt. Wish I could load a picture here.

    Glad you are having a great trip - I just love that area of world