R & R on Fiji

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Our tour of Australia and New Zealand was over.  We could have come home, but we decided to add on the Fiji extension.  It was kind of billed as R & R following the trip.  I am so glad we went to Fiji because it was just what we needed.  Being on the go constantly, three days of peace and quiet sounded wonderful.

We left our Tour guide at the Aukland airport and flew to Fiji.  She did not travel with us and we would be getting a new guide once we landed.

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As with most of our plane trips this also took 3 hours which meant that we were now three hours closer to home as well.  We landed at the Nadi (pronounced Nandi – I know there is no”n” in the spelling but that is how it is pronounced).  We met Dan, out guide, and headed to our hotel.  Of course it was an ocean front resort.

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Here are some pics of the resort .

On our first full day, Dan took us on a tour of a local market.  We were set to have a Fijian feast on the beach that night so he wanted us to see some of what we would be served.

After the marked tour we went to visit a traditional Fiji village.  We were greeted by the men during a welcoming ceremony.  We had to pick a chief and a spokesman from our group to participate in the ceremony.  This included learning the greeting, learning how to clap (not what we think of as normal clapping), and the drinking of kava when it was offered.  My friend, Bill, was picked as chief and I was asked to be spokesman.  We both agreed and our guide took us through the ceremony.

Here are the men of the village in the meeting room.

Luckily, we were given chairs.  I am glad because I am not sure I could have gotten up gracefully we we had to sit on the floor.  Bill and I learned our parts and all went well.  Because of this ceremony, we can now go back any time and be considered members of the village.

I do want to say one thing about the kava.  It is a kind of grain mixed with warm water and served in a coconut shell.  My opinion, it looks like muddy water and tastes like it as well.  Being the spokesman I had to finish it without making a face.  Hard to do but I did it.

After the meeting we got a tour of the village.  It started with a coconut demonstration.  We were shown how to split a coconut.  We were given straws to taste the coconut milk. We were also given coconut to sample.  There were two kinds, brown and green.

A tour of the grounds followed.

Each village contains a church.  At this particular village it is a Methodist Church.

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This section of the church is reserved for the chief and the children.  Children sit with the chief as a way of behavior control during services.

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That night we had dinner on the beach and were served some of the items we had seen at the market that morning.

After dinner we were provided with entertainment .

This ended our first day on Fiji.  I know it seems like a lot of going, but the pace was so nice and slow that it was relaxing.

Next week we will bring this trip to an end.  Finally!

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Finishing Up New Zealand

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We had a few more stops to make before we left New Zealand.  One was at a Kiwi Preserve.  We were not allowed to take pictures of the kiwi so what follows were taken at the exhibit.  I knew what a kiwi looked like, but I had never seen one.  I was surprised by their size.  They are about the size of a chicken. They are nocturnal creatures because that is the safest time of day for them to be out and about.  Less predators lurking about.  There are different types of kiwi, which I didn’t know.

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As I said, these are not live kiwi, but display models.

You can see an egg in the middle picture.  As you can imagine, they are a good size.

After leaving the kiwi Preserve, we headed north to Auckland, our last stop in New Zealand. However, on the way we did make one more stop.  We were in New Zealand.  How could we not stop at the place Peter Jackson filmed the Hobbit movies? Yes, we stopped at Hobbiton.  I must admit that I had never read The Hobbit until about two weeks before our trip.  I did, however, read the Lord of the Rings trilogy many years ago and really got into it.  I was excited about this stop.

The scenery and views were magnificent.  I can see why this spot was picked for the movies.

Let’s stare with Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole.

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Of course, since this was a community there were other dwellings as well.

When is a tree not a tree?  Peter Jackson was not happy with a tree that was on site so he had this tree made.  It is not a real tree, but one that had been constructed for maybe a 10 second shot in just one movie.  Genius or insane?  You decide.

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Notice the wash on the line.

The tour of Hobbiton ended with a stop at the Green Dragon for a free drink: ale, hard cider, or soft drink.

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Here are just some pics of the countryside.

OK, so Kathy and I got into one of the pictures as well.

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We left here and made our way to Auckland. We had two days here.  One day we went, where else, to a winery: Peacock Sky Vineyards.  I guess it got its name because it was at the top of a hill.

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This large chess set got my attention.

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Of course there was wine tasting.

As I said, we were at the top of a hill.  Check out these  views.

 

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The last we did in Auckland was visit the Sky Tower.

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This gave us a bird’s eye view of the city.

Our tour coordinator, who doesn’t have a fear of heights was not comfortable up here.  She held on for dear life. Her fear was that if everyone came to this side of the tower to watch the bungee jumper –  yes, you could bungee jump from the tower – the tower would lean an fall over.

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One thing I thought was neat was that they had clear inserts in the floor around the inside perimeter so that you could see what was directly beneath you.

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Since it was getting dark when we left the tower I just couldn’t resist this parting shot.

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This ends our Australia/ New Zealand trip.  On the way home we stopped at Fiji for some R & R.  More about that next week.

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The North Island

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We were set to leave the south island and move on to the north island, Rotoura to be exact.  However, there was a problem.  We had rain the day we were to fly out and flights to Rotoura were cancelled.  This caused a bit of a problem for our tour guide since there were things she had planned.  The one thing she really wanted us to get to was the Maori Cultural Village and Hangi (Feast).  So, our guide frantically went about trying to get us booked on another flight.

Finally she succeeded. However, our flight would now take us into Auckland which is several hours from Rotoura and Erika still wanted us to get to the Village and feast.  Our bus was waiting for us when we arrived in Auckland and we drove to the village.  Erika knew that we wouldn’t make it for our scheduled time, but we would still be able to see some of it and attend the Hangi.

The village was set up as a series of stations where we were taught something different about Maori culture at each one.  Because of our timing we were only able to get to two.  At the first one we were taught a traditional Maori game.  Thank goodness for Bonnie.  She is game for anything so she agreed to participate in the game.

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As you can see, the game involved throwing and catching sticks.  However, there was a pattern that had to be followed.  I know I am not coordinated enough to do it.

At the second station we were told how the Maori fight and try to intimidate their enemies.

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Right before the meal we were shown where the food was cooked. For a feast, food is placed in the ground and cooked for most of the day.

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The cloth is covering the cooking pit.  Here you can see some of the cooked vegetables and meat.

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While the food was removed from the pit and readied for the meal, we were treated to some entertainment.

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It was then on to the food.

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The food was delicious.  I have never had pavlova before even though I knew what it was.  Didn’t take any pictures, though.  Sorry.  Here’s an internet picture.

Next week a visit to Hobbiton.

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Milford Sound

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Before we left Queenstown we had one more planned excursion and a day on our own.  Let’s do the excursion first.

After breakfast on our second day in Queenstown we boarded our bus for a trip to Milford Sound.  It was a several hour trip and we passed some magnificent vistas on the way.

First of all we had to go through a mountain pass.  The story goes that when the road was being built there was no way to get over the mountain so they had to blast through it.  It is hard to tel from these photos, but you might be able to see the winding road we took’

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We stopped partway down for some pictures.  Here you can see the tunnel entrance.

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Just a spectacular view.

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Yes, that is the road we traveled.

We traveled a bit farther and then stopped here.  The sigh explains it all.

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I posted pictures of this spot several weeks ago, but I think they bear repeating.

The reflected images just blew my mind.

And one more.

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On to Milford Sound.  Our boat was waiting for us.

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Milford Sound heads out to the Tasman Sea which separates New Zealand and Australia.  Our ride took us the entire length of the sound and into the Tasman Sea where we turned around to head back to port.

This picture just proves that I was on the boat.

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We did get up close and personal with a waterfall.

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Wait, that’s not really close.  How about these.

I chose not to stand where I would get wet.

We came across some seals that were sunbathing.

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It was really an enjoyable day.  As you can imaging, we were tired and many of us old fogies fell asleep  during the bus ride back to our hotel.

A quick bit about out last day in Queenstown.  It was a free day.  I hate to say it but Kathy and I spent the morning doing laundry.  Hey, when you are gone for 24 days clothes need to be washed and reworn.  There is only so much suitcase space.

When we were finished, though, we decided to take a walk around town.  We hit a few gift shops because I needed some gifts for family members.  Then it was time for lunch.  Our tour guide told us that one of THE places to eat in Queenstown was Fergburgers.  Yes, it is a hamburger joint, but what a burger.

The place itself is small.  There are maybe three tables in the place and a few counter seats.  The building is narrow.  People, however, are line up on the street just to get in and order a burger.

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We joined the line. The burger was worth it.

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m21Yes, there is a burger in there and it is the size of a dinner plate.  Hard to tell from this picture.

After we ate we took a slow, and I do mean slow, walk back to our hotel.  Along the way we stopped for some pictures – imagine that.

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Queenstown really is a beautiful city.  Next weer, the north islane

 

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Queenstown

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We were now on our way from Christchurch to Queenstown – a bit of a bus ride as you can see by this map.

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We would be spending the next several days here.  We checked into the Rydges Lakeside Resort.

I don’t think I have mentioned yet how beautiful New Zealand is.  To give you an example, here are views that greeted us at breakfast each morning.

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We had several things scheduled for our first full day in Queenstown.  First was another Skyline Gondola ride.  I really don’t like cable cars.

The view from the top was impressive, though.

After the gondola ride it was off to a wine tour and tasting at Gibbston Valley Wineries.

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Kathy posed next to the greeter at the winery.

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We left there and headed to Arrowtown, an historic gold mining town.  This stop really made Kathy’s day.  I won’t say why, but I am sure you can figure it out from this picture.

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I would not be telling the truth if I said some purchases weren’t made here.  Arrowtown is basically a  one street town.

From there we headed back to the hotel because we had dinner plans.

At 5:30 that evening we headed down to the dock, a five minute walk from the hotel and boarded the TSS Ernslaw which would take us to Walter Peak for a gourmet BBQ and sheep sheering show.  The Ernslaw

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is a steam powered boat, so for the entire trip, about 1 hour, this guy shoveled coal.

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The sun set while we were on the boat giving us some beautiful sights.

People just sat and enjoyed the trip.

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At Walter Peak our group was assigned a table for dinner.

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The meal was delicious.

After eating, we went outside to a large shed for the sheep shearing show.  We had someone explain to us how, when, and why the sheep were sheared.

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He then went about defleecing(?) a sheep.

After that it was a stop at the mandatory gift shop.  I did buy myself a pair of gloves because I didn’t take any with me and it was cold.

We then headed back to the ship for our trip back to the hotel and a well earned sleep.  Next week, Milford Sound.

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Christchurch

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Well, our time in Australia is over, but our trip isn’t.  From Sydney we hopped a plane for a three hour flight to New Zealand.  We were warned that New Zealand is extremely strict on what you can and cannot bring into the country.  No food of any kind is permitted.  In fact, there are food sniffing dogs at the airport.  One of our troupe had an apple in his pocket that he ate at the Sydney airport.  The dog in NZ sniffed his pocket and he was asked about food.  Luckily he had eaten it because it is an automatic fine of $300 if you are caught bring food into NZ.

Map of New Zealand

As you can see, New Zealand is made up of a North and South island.  We started in the south at Christchurch. Some of you may remember an earthquake that hie Christchurch in 2011, I believe.  Well, the city is still recovering from it.  On our way to the hotel we passed a church that had received severe structural damage.  There is an ongoing argument by the people there as to whether it should be restored or torn down and rebuilt.  The main proponent of rebuilding is a bishop who wants her name preserved for posterity as the one who had it rebuilt.  You can see the damage in these pictures.

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This sculpture was in the courtyard in front of the church.  I just liked the looks of it.  I am sure there is a story to it , but I don’t know what it is.

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That evening we had an interesting dinner.  Instead of eating as a group or being left on our own to find a place to eat our tour guide divided us into groups of 4 – 7 and arranged for us to eat with a local family in their home.  This is the family Kathy and I , as well as four others, had the pleasure of dining with.

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We had a traditional meal of lamb with all of the fixings.  For dessert we had rhubarb pie made from rhubarb grown in the family’s back yard.  It was a delicious meal and plenty of interesting conversation.

The next day we started off on a six hour bus trip which I will talk about next week.  Before we left Christchurch we stopped here.

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In case you are wondering why we stopped here it was because this is New Zealand’s tribute to 9/11.  Those beams are from the World Trade Center.

Next week we travel south to Queenstown.

 

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Last Stop, Sydney

The last stop on out Australia trip was Sydney.  Our first night there we were scheduled for a harbor dinner cruise.

We are waiting as our boar comes into dock.

It was a relaxing and delicious meal.

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We saw the Opera House lit up.

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The next day we had a full day of sightseeing.  We hopped on the bus and headed to our first stop, Mrs. Macquaries Chair.  Instead of giving you a history lesson, here it the plaque so that you can read about it instead.

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And here is the chair with two of our friends sitting on it.

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From here we got back on the bus and headed out to Bondi Beach.  Along the way we stopped at this scenic spot.

Because of the height and the rocks below this point, many people have decided to jump from this point because life got to be too much for them.

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However, there was a man who lived across the road from this spot and whenever he saw someone who looked like they were contemplating jumping he would go over to them and invite them back to his house for tea.  He would talk to them and as result saved many lives.

Bondi Beach is considered one of the “must see” spots in the Sydney area.  It is easy to see why.

And one more.

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I was fascinated by these trees.  I love how the needles grow up.

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We left the beach for a tour of the Opera House.

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On prominent display is a portrait of Dame Joan Southerland.

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We got into several theatres where rehearsals were going on, but we were not allowed to take pictures.  It was then time for lunch.  Our tour director treated the group to pizza.  The toppings were a bit unusual.  One was a traditional cheese pizza. One had emu topping.   Another had kangaroo topping.  The last had crocodile topping.  Yes, I sampled all three.  I did like the croc the best.  Of course, put enough tomato sauce and cheese on anything and it has to taste good.

After lunch we took a walk onto the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  Some people chose to do the bridge climb; I did not.  Heights and I just don’t get along very well.  I did, however walk on to the pedestrian walk and took some pictures of the Opera House from the Bridge.

That night Kathy and I had tickets to see a operetta at the Opera House – “Two Weddings, One Bride”.   We took a cab back down to the harbor and got some more night pictures before the show.

On our last day in Sydney, we went to Featherdale Wildlife Park.  Of course there were more koalas to see.

There was a Cassowary:

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cassowaries (/ˈkæsəwɛəri/) are ratites (flightless birds without a keel on their sternum bone) in the genus Casuarius and are native to the tropical forests of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea and Indonesia), nearby islands, and northeastern Australia.[3]

There are three extant species. The most common of these, the southern cassowary, is the third-tallest and second-heaviest living bird, smaller only than the ostrich and emu.

Let’s not forget the quokka.

 

While there we were treated to some Billy Tea and got to see and learn about dingos.

With tea we had some delicious snacks.  My two favorites were lammingtons and ANZAC biscuits.  I even got a recipe for the biscuits (cookies) and have made them a few times.

After this it was back to the hotel to get ready for our flight from Australia.  Our trip, however, is not over.  Next week: New Zealand.

 

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