Napier, Jan 8
Toured this beautiful town with the strictest, most humourless guide I have ever encountered. He was very thorough though, and I now consider myself an expert on Art Nouveau and Art Deco. This beautiful town was all but destroyed in a massive earthquake and fire in 1931 and was totally rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the day. Fabulous theatre and public buildings. This town looked like a wonderful place to retire with many charming homes and beautifully maintained gardens, but also lots of culture and things to do.
Before dinner we were asked to assemble in our corridors for a block party to meet our neighbours. Ship staff joined us including my new favourite dancer Ruben who has been pursuing an international dance career since leaving Italy at 15 to study ballet in Toronto. When he’s onstage, I have eyes for no one else. The entertainment that night was a full stage Broadway Tribute. Cheesy but fun!
Friday Jan 9 we landed in Picton and did a wine tour of the Marlborough region. We visited Allan Scott, Saint Clair and best of all, Drylands, producer of my favourite Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Kim Crawford. I now own a KC apron and bottle pourer. The wine tastings were all conducted very differently, from most informal standing out in the winery cask storage area to formal table tastings, so each winery presented in a very unique style. The tour ended in a Chocolaterie that featured the most delicious chocolate I’ve ever tasted. Much self discipline was required not to load up on their delicacies.
Sat Jan 10 we landed in Akaroa a beautiful port. Sadly in the past, our ship would have docked in Christchurch, but the earthquake of 2010 ruined their harbour. Our bus tour included many opportunities to view roads whose direction was altered from the earthquake and sites of rebuilding. 170 people died in that earthquake and the Cathedral in Christchurch will take a long time to rebuild given the huge cost of addressing all the damage in this area. We then commenced a drive into the highlands, followed by a hike down to our lunch venue overlooking a beautiful river gorge. After lunch we boarded large sport utility vehicles for an adventure ride down to the gorge. We were divided into groups and clambered onto big jet boats which absolutely zoomed us through the gorge. Our fellow boaters were being piloted by a former professional jet boat racer who took a wrong turn and ended up beaching his boat and passengers on a sand bar. They had to be rescued by our driver and a couple of hours was lost in the rescue process. Now, not to sound churlish, but just about everything that could go wrong on this excursion went awry. No air conditioning on the bus on a very hot day, no water at the restaurant, one man threw up numerous times on our bus and we were almost 2 hours late getting back to our bus. Surprisingly, the day was still fun (but maybe not so much for our poor vomit prone passenger).
Sunday Jan 11, we docked at Timaru. A very small and pretty town noted for its two botanical gardens and a marvellous art gallery. I have to say, I love the flowers of NZ. The purples, especially are so vibrant in their lilacs, wisteria, jacaranda trees, hydrangeas, roses, phlox, etc. the agapanthus really stand out as they grow wild everywhere as they apparently spread like wildfire and are no longer sold in nurseries.Evening entertainment featured an Australian vocalist named Annie Francis who sang beautifully but whose repertoire includes obscure Australian Filipino and Irish ballads. Her big finish was a medley of Vera Lynne war ballads that my 96 year old mother who have absolutely loved.
Monday Jan 12 we docked at the port of Dunedin to take an adventure train trip through the Taieri Gorge. This area was the location of a gold rush in the 1860’s which brought many adventurers to NZ. I have just finished reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton which tells the history of this period . The scenery was beautiful as the train took us through canyons bordered by fir tree covered mountains. The train returned us to the historic city of Dunedin filled with beautiful Victorian architecture.
Evening entertainment on the boat was a full scale Broadway music and dance extravaganza called Dancing in the Street with a Motown vibe that was very entertaining.