World Cruise 2013 - Part 3

This is part 3 of the 2013 World Cruise report -- New Zealand and Australia.

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For the next several days, Mike and Sandy explored New Zealand, with stops at 5 ports: Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, and Wellington on the more-populated North Island, followed by Picton, in the Marlborough wine-growing region of the picturesque South Island.

Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, calls itself the "City of Sails" as its waterfront is surrounded by marinas and support industries for the sailboat world. Mike and Sandy jumped on a ferry and visited a cute little village across the bay -- felt like going to Sausalito from San Francisco -- and then wandered around town a while. They saw some crazy folks riding a "bungy cord machine." On their second day, a tour took them out to an area where several wineries have recently opened -- so-so wine (this isn't New Zealand's best wine region) but they greatly enjoyed a 150-year old old English-style country pub, very reminiscent of some Mike & Sandy visited while living in England.

Next port, Tauranga, was half-way down the North Island, and is close to Rotorua, the hub of New Zealand's mud-bath and hot springs resorts area. (Similar to areas north of San Francisco, geothermal vents drive electric power generation as well as personal fun at the resorts.) Having been in the area before, Mike and Sandy just walked around town a bit, including circling an old mountain oddly sticking up out of the water.

Napier was our next stop, a little town on Hawkes Bay. It is noted as having the most art deco buildings of any city in the world -- thanks to a 1931 earthquake that totally destroyed the city, and resulted in every building having to be built anew. Here again, Sandy and Mike checked out the local winery scene.

Wellington, the New Zealand capital, is at the southern tip of the North Island (frequent ferries run from here to the South Island). Sandy took the funicular to the top of the hill over-looking the city and Cook Strait for some great views, and walked back down into town, passing the "beehive" building of the New Zealand legislature.

A short trip across Cook Strait brought the ship to Picton, their only stop on New Zealand's South Island. Here Mike and Sandy joined a small group going out with the ""Bubbly Grape" winery tour, visiting six wineries, big and small, in the famous Marlborough wine region, home of many wines exported to the U.S.

The ship took 3 days to cross the Tasman Sea and arrive at Sydney, Australia, just at dawn for a 2-day visit. The first day saw Mike and Sandy join an all-day tour headed a few hours north of Sydney to the famous Hunter Valley wine region. They toured 3 wineries (including one where an outdoor stage was being set up for a concert appaearance by Carol King). They also saw where recent wildfires had burned to within a few feet of a large housing area. Day two was spent walking around Sydney, going to some street markets, and catching up on some Internet work. One of their table mates decided to do the "bridge walk" (think walking up the Golden Gate Bridge's suspension cables), but Mike and Sandy stayed on solid ground. Sailing out of the harbor was equally beautiful, but at a more reasonable hour.

On leaving Sydney, the ship headed for 5 more ports along the south and west coast of Australia, none of which Sandy and Mike had ever visited. Hobart (on the adjacent Australian island of Tasmania) was the first port, and Mike and Sandy spend most of the day at the Port Arthur penal colony site nearby. (During the 1800's, England "exported" many convicted criminals to Australia and other colonies, and the Port Arthur prison settlement is one of the few that remain and can be visited - it's a UNESCO World Heritage site.) The drive to Port Arthur from the ship took them through a small town where many houses and businesses were burned to the ground in a wildfire a few weeks earlier. During their stay, Mike and Sandy didn't meet any of the famous Tasmanian Devils, but learned they are now an endangered species, due to an odd facial cancer that is rapidly killing them off.

Adelaide is a mid-sized city on Australia's south coast, and the center of the South Australian wine region, usually known as the Barrosa Valley. OK, Mike and Sandy took another tour of wineries -- but remember such things are going to be practically non-existant once they leave the New Zealand- Australia area.

Kangaroo Island saw Mike and Sandy on an all-day nature tour. Yes, they saw kangaroos, but also Koalas, Wallabys, and Seals, and enormous Granite rock outcropings. They enjoyed a "Birds of Prey" show (they have never been this close to Falcons, Owls, and Eagles -- really big talons!

The last two Australian ports, Albany and Perth, are further west than Sandy and Mike have ever been in the country. Albany is a quaint small town, once a hub of whaling activity, with huge National Park areas along its neighboring rocky coastlines.

Perth is not actually on the coast, but just up the Swan River from the port city of Fremantle. Both feature prominently in early-day settlement of Australia, and the whole area is rather reminiscent of San Diego. Mike and Sandy enjoyed a beer at a famous brew pub, and saw a bell tower with bells formerly at St. Martins in the Field church in London -- they were originally cast in the 1500's.

Now the good ship Amsterdam turned north, heading for Indonesia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.