Days M129-131: Three Sheets To The Wind

Fri 03.02.12 – Sun 05.02.12: Friday took us around the Southern Cape of South Island and along the majestic Fjords of the incorrectly-spelt Fiordland National Park. As part of the deal for the free cruise, I had offered to do a talk about my travels for the delight of my fellow passengers. The talk went down quite well, and I was buoyed by the presence of my new buddies onboard, the Young Guns. You see, there were not many 32 year olds on board the Sea Princess. In fact there was only one. I know that cos I met him. So the options consisted of hanging out with people old enough to be my grandparents or with people barely old enough to buy cigarettes. Of course, I balanced this out rather well, managing to get myself adopted by the grannies during the day and being the…

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Days M127-128: The Auld Alliance

Wed 01.02.12-Thu 02.02.12: Christchurch is not somewhere for holidaying at the moment, and since the major earthquake last year, cruise ships have been calling at the place down the road, Akaroa. What’s interesting about Akaroa is that it was intended to be the beginning of a full-on French colony that was to encompass the whole of the South island. Could you imagine? Two New Zealands: a British north one and a French south one. Eek! Luckily for New Zealand, before the first French colonists arrived, the British had signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori tribes, giving them power of attorney (or something) over both islands. Yeah, I know you think that’s a bit mean saying they were lucky not to be colonised by the French, but ten of the richest countries in the world were British colonies and ten of the poorest were French…

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Days M124-126: Taumata-whakatangihangakoauauo-tamateaturipukakapikimaunga-horonukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu

Sun 29.01.12 - Tue 31.01.12: Sunday morning and The Sea Princess arrived in the rather lovely port of Tauranga (pronounced Toe-ronga). I had a bit of a mooch, watched some watersports that were going on down on the beach and thought about climbing up the volcano, then thought better of it. The next day we ship pulled into Napier, allowing me to waste even more photons taking piccys of the rather awesome architecture. I also got to meet Bertie, Napier’s unofficial art deco ambassador and his awesome 1930s motor. That night we would be sailing past Mount Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, one of the longest place names in the world. I managed to get the Maori barmaid of the local Irish boozer to read it out for me, but I wouldn’t stand a chance. It means... “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the…

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Day M123: The Sea Princess

Sat 28.01.12: So let’s go. The ship leaves today for Australia in a roundabout kinda way. Why the hell am I going back to Australia? I hear you cry. Simple really, the only ship that goes to Nauru leaves from Brisbane next month. After the P&O cruise last November, I made a few friends in Carnival, the guys who look after Princess, P&O, Costa, Cunard and all that lot in this neck of the wood, and asked them (nicely!) if they’d let me stowaway on one of their ships to Oz from NZ. To my delight (and surprise) they said yes, so long as I did some publicity for them along the way. I HEARTILY ENDORSE THIS PRODUCT AND/OR SERVICE. As the Scarlett Lucy only goes to Nauru once a month and I had already missed the January sailing, why the hell not eh? For that…

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Days M120-122: All Good Things

Wed 25.01.12 - Fri 27.01.12: Mand was supposed to be joining me on my FREE cruise back to Australia, but she couldn’t get the time off work (I would have resigned, but hey) and so she had to fly back to Oz and leave me on my own to enjoy the luxury five-star treatment that the good folk at Carnival and Princess Cruises had lined up for me. And so, with a heavy heart, I drove Mand back to Auckland airport. We hugged. We kissed. We said goodbye, a word that we use far too often. I’m as amazed as you are that Mandy puts up with me gallivanting around the world, but the farewell was made moderately sweeter by the fact I would be seeing her again in just two weeks time. I dropped the car off and headed back to the Queen Street Backpackers…

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Day M119: Architecture’s Last Hurrah

Tue 24.01.12: Up early and it was ta-ta Wellington (I’d be returning next week sans Mandy) and yey off to Napier! Napier is a seaside town on the east coast and was rather fortunate to be destroyed by an Earthquake in 1931. When I say fortunate, I don’t mean that earthquakes are a good thing, I just mean that if it had been destroyed in 1971 they would have re-built the city using disgusting blocks of concrete that wouldn’t look out of place on a WWII battlefield. Happily, the thirties were the decade of the last great hurrah of architecture (before they decided to embarrass and frustrate the hell out of future generations by not building anything beautiful ever again), Art Deco. And so Napier is adorned with some of the finest examples of the movement this side of Miami. Yeah, I know it’s just dolled…

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Day M118: Fly, You Fools!

Mon 23.01.12: Got up nice and early in order to move the car off the street before the Monday morning Wellington parking regs kicked in only to find out that it was a public holiday and so all parking was free! How awesome is THAT?! After an unhurried breakfast, Mand and I drove over to the Miramar Peninsular to start our day of Peter Jackson stalking. The official Lord of the Rings tour was full, so we’d be making it up as we went along. After a scenic drive along the seaside, we invaded the The Weta Cave, the small shop-cum-museum that shows off the stuff Jackson’s FX company has been working on for the last twenty years. From humble beginnings making the puppets for Meet The Feebles, the zombies for Braindead and the ghosts for The Frighteners, Weta is now the world’s leading FX company,…

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Days M115-117: High Tea in Mordor

Fri 20.01.12 – Sun 22.01.12: Lake Taupo is one of those must-see sights in New Zealand, and it’s not hard to see why. Situated slap bang in the middle of North Island, you’d be a fool not to stop off here on your way between Auckland and Welly Town. Today the weather was as fine as fine could be. After a lazy morning, Mand and I went for a walk around Haka Falls, a stupendous piece of natural engineering: gigalitres of water THUNDERING through a narrow chasm, one that looks at once exciting to try to go down sitting on a big rubber donut, but one that your common sense circuits are screaming DON’T BE AN FOOL, HUGHES!! At the falls I was jabbering away into my camera (as I have a tendency to do) and a lady standing nearby asked Mandy if I was making…

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Day M114: Gushing Meadows

Thu 19.01.12: So then, Rotorua, I’ve missed you for a decade, but you’re still not smelling no sweeter. You see, New Zealand is SLAP BANG on top of one of the most shifty-slidey tectonic fault-lines in the world, which goes some way to explaining why over 80% of NZ’s power comes from renewable resources. In fact, when it comes to green credentials, New Zealand is painfully ahead of the competition and a rather sound bolt-hole for you to run to when the oil runs out or your entire nation gets flooded to death. But you’ll be dead by then, right? Right. In Rotorua, the Earth’s crust is as thin as a poppadom and so hot sulphuric water bubbles up to the surface with great alacrity. This was good for the local Maori people who used these hot thermal springs to cook, to bathe and to possibly…

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Day M113: In A Hole In The Ground There Lived A Hobbit

Wed 18.01.12: And so it came to pass that Graham and Mandy picked up a hire car (it’s a legal move so long as I return to Auckland!) and headed south down through the Barrowdowns of New Zealand, past Tom Bombadil’s house and the Inn of the Prancing Pony. I rather like going south, it feels like going downhill. We thundered along the road as fast as Mr. Bliss, and after a hour or so, we came upon The Shire. Mandy reckons we were late, but I maintained that a wizard is never late, he arrives precisely when he means to. When the outdoor set for Hobbiton was built for the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was scheduled to be destroyed once filming had wrapped. Fortunately, the mischievous weather gods had other ideas and a period of prolonged heavy rain prevented the bulldozers from…

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