Cuba and New Zealand travel blog

Wellington original government house

Hanging Staircase

New government house

Beehive - the Parliament

Library with Silver Fern supports


Emperor Ying Zheng - the first emperor

Terracotta Warriors






Tomb Entry

Kettle from tomb

General Han warriors

Cannon dumped from the Endeavor

Plaque to Polish WWII chiildren - amazing story


Cable Car

whirling lights in the tunnel

the original cable car

Sundial. pointing to 2 pm

Views from top of Botanical Gardens and Cable Car

Queen's wharf

Paddy the Wanderer

Cool penguin paint on tug

Cellar Masters - our nightly drink spot

Silent disco

Elms Mission

Wash house - 2 days a week

Honey shack

Main bedroom

family collection

Brown's library

See how the view has changed - reclaimed land

Puhiraki tomb

Pilot Bay - Mt Maunganui


Main Beach



Today we arrive at 8 am into Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and at the bottom tip of the North Island. We had been here on our driving trip but as we only had ½ day there, there is a lot we didn’t see. The weather is fabulous, hot and sunny. There are shuttles into two points in town as you are not allowed to walk through the port.

We get off at the first drop point and go across the street to the Old Government Buildings. This is one of the largest wooden structures in the world built in 1876. It is terrific shape and they have kept some of it for historical viewings and the other parts to the University and in particular the law society.

One of the most interesting is the hanging staircase. A multi story spiral staircase that seems to be hanging in air. Turns out that while it was quite the engineering feat it did multi times need to be propped up and today hidden in the structure is steel.

From here we walk across to the new Government Buildings, or newer as they are beautiful old buildings. As well here we find the BeeHive or Parliament building. Which as the name suggests is a tall beehive looking building. Unfortunately, all the morning tours are booked up, probably by the tours of the two cruise ships in town today.

We head down Lambton Quay, a lovely tree lined street with shops, cafes and little alleyways with more of the same. We find ourselves shortly at the entrance to the Cable Car that takes you up the hill to the entry to the Botanical Gardens. The queue is long and one of the tourist volunteers recommends coming back in the afternoon. She says the line is about 20 minutes long, so we decide to wait until the hoards from a tour bus arrive and are whisked to the head of the line. Will come back this afternoon.

So we wander toward the waterfront and the New Zealand National Museum or Te Papa. When we were here a couple of weeks ago, we saw that they had a Terracotta Warrior exhibition. They are something both of us have always wanted to see and just in case we never get to China here is our chance.

They are well worth it. Discovered by accident in 1974 by peasant farmers digging a well. They are believed to be over 2200 years old. The life-size army of China’s first emperor Ying Zheng who came to power at the age of 13 in 221 BC. He started having them created immediately so that they would be buried with him to protect him for all of eternity. He only lived for another 15 years but they continued to build them and bury them around his tomb for 40 years.

Today they have found approximately 3000 warriors and horses, but they believe there is more like 8000 in total. Incredibly no two are alike. It took over 700,000 workers to carve these up to 2-meter-tall, and 300-kilogram warriors. Now greyish stone they were once covered in vivid colours.

The Emperor was considered a barbarian, villain and tyrant and yet he was responsible for much of what is common in China today. He built many of the roadways and canals that enable transportation. He consolidated the currency and most importantly for defense he started the Great Wall in 215 BC.

Along with the warriors are many pots, jewels, clothing and household goods all buried so that he could have an afterlife of leisure and travelling. In addition, on exhibit is a smaller version of warriors built by General Han who died in 169 BC. Equally impressive, just not on the same scale, it is believed he had them built smaller because he was very critical of the Emperor’s extravagance.

As we don’t have too much time, we wander through an exhibit called Passport which talks to the emigrants to New Zealand. We are particularly struck by the Polish children who came at the end of WW II. It is a true story of hardship and perseverance. They were sent initially to labour camps in Siberia in 1939, part of 1,700,000 deportations to USSR.

Here many died from hunger, cold or beatings. After two winters, those that survived were released when Germany attacked USSR and they joined the Allies. Only 120,000 travelled by foot, train and boat thousands of miles to Tehran. The rest were discovered in mass graves murdered by the Soviet Secret Police in the Katyn Forest.

Here those who survived spend 18 months in hospitals and orphanages as by now most of them had lost their families. Finally, some 733 children and 104 adults were sent on a voyage to the other side of the world arriving Oct 31, 1944 at Wellington Harbours. At the end of the war they were to be returned to their native Poland. However, the Yalta agreement ruled this out as it was felt it was not safe for them to return. So most accepted the governments offer to stay in New Zealand.

The last interesting artifact we see as we are leaving is one the cannons from Captain James Cook’s ship the Endeavor. It had been thrown overboard off the Great Barrier Reef when the ship ran aground, and the sailors were ordered to throw anything heavy off the ship to free it. On the 200th anniversary of Cook’s 1769 arrival in New Zealand the Australian Government bequeathed it to the people of New Zealand.

From here we head back out to the sunshine and find an outdoor table on the waterfront at Mac’s Brewpub. We run into some of our fellow shipmates and are able to find Wi-Fi so that I can post the last blog entry. We decide to share a fish and chips and I wash it down with a cold local beer and Gail, a glass of Hawkes Bay Chardonnay. We are sorry we shared as it is, by far, the best fish and chips we have had on the trip. Practically melts in your mouth.

Back to the Cable Car where there is virtually no line but before we can turn into the alley a tour group arrives. Aargh! Fortunately, it is only about a 10-minute wait till we are ended up on the 609m track at 5m per second. The view from the top is beautiful and we wander on the top path to see if from all angles. We have decided not to take the hour long walk down through the gardens because we don’t want to irritate Gail’s leg anymore.

Instead we go into the Cable Car Museum where they have one of the last of the original cars. The story of the system is quite interesting. Built by developers who wanted to sell the land in the area and needed a means for people to get quickly to the lots. It was even more successful than they could imagine with over 4000 people using it the very first day.

The original Red Rattlers, as the locals called them, cost 2 pence up and 1 down in an attempt to get more people to take them down versus walk. The last of the old cars and system were retired in 1978. The locals felt it was no longer safe especially after one gentleman was badly hurt when hit by a tram in 1974 and it was discovered the back-trailer cars had no brakes.

Back down on the cable car and back to the waterfront. We walk as far as we can before we hit the industrial areas, so we turn around to Shed 5 and a glass of wine at Dockside on The Queens Wharf. No internet here though which is very typical. Unlike at home where every bar or restaurant has Wi-Fi, most of those in New Zealand do not have it. What they do have is free sunscreen and hats. So, Gail now has a new hat.

Time to head back to the shuttle but first we stop to read one of the bronze plaques on the old Harbour building. Bronze plaques are a beacon for both Gail and I as it usually tells some interesting historical story. And this one does not disappoint.

Beside the plaque is a water fountain and the bronze head of a dog. We notice it as some little old man on a bike rides by, rubs the dog’s nose and says, ‘Hi Paddy’. Turns out this fountain over flows to two dog bowls below and was donated by the friends of Paddy.

Paddy was a local Airedale who in the late 1920’s came down accompanied by his owner, a little girl, Elsie, and their mother to visit her father who worked on the docks. Sadly, Elsie died at the age of 3 ½ and Paddy feeling lost without his best friend ran off and wandered in search of Elsie the docks for the 1930’s.

He was befriended by the dock workers who feed him and paid for his annual licence. Taxi drivers took to him as well and he as often found in a taxi going for a ride into the country. He was often on the ships as he had a good noise for a bad storm. He even road in a Biplane. Ultimately he was given the title of Assistant Watchman on the docks.

On July 17, 1939 Paddy died. A fleet of black taxis lined the harbour and formed a funeral cortege to carry his coffin. A real tribute and lovely story.

Back to the boat and a little poolside reading before showering, change and cocktails. About 7:30 we go to get our buzzer to wait for a table only to be told there is a sharing one available now. I go get Gail and we head into the dining room to our table of 8. And guess who is at the table, Nick and Jayne. 2800 people and we share with lots of the same people every night, all by chance.

A bit of a sleep in the next day as it is a day at sea. After breakfast we are out to poolside as it is bright and sunny. I head back to put my bathing suit on only to come out 10 minutes later to dark clouds and cool winds. Jayne points out that this sudden change is my fault, if I had just stayed in my shorts.

This, sadly, is the weather the captain predicted, and we head back inside as it looks like it could rain and is not very pleasant. Hopefully we get better weather for the Bay of Islands tomorrow. The weather is back and forth, nice or cloudy all day but not to worry as we have a Wine Tasting today.

Sharon and Graeme, from Toronto, whom we have had drinks with after dinner most nights in the wine bar, are also attending so should be fun. It starts at two and it is an old versus new world, so 6 whites and 6 reds. We have one hour to go around and sample and then, time permitting go back and get a good pour of the ones we like. We start out slow, savouring the samples and realize if we don’t pick up the pace, we won’t try all 12.

In the end we get 2 or 3 good pours before they start to put the wine away. Graeme, Sharon, Gail and I, after finishing our last ‘good pour’ decide to continue on with tasting. Now normally around 5 ish we would head to our room, shower, change for dinner and be back at Cellar Masters around 6:30 for a glass of wine or two before dinner.

Tonight, some 3 hours after our tasting ends, the four of us realize we need to get moving to shower, change and even make dinner … so we leave the bar at 6:30. We, of course, head to dinner direct from our room and have a totally new crowd who probably wonder why these two ladies are so chatty. After dinner, for the first time, we head to a different bar first as we have heard good things about the duo, and they are really great.

I awake the next morning with a sore throat, sadly the start of a cold so out come the lozenges. And by the next day out come the cold tablets for my sinuses. Fortunately, it is not bad enough to have me down and out.

Today we are back in the Bay of Islands and it is a glorious day. While we had considered going out to see the Hole in the Rock, we decide that for the cost and with much of the excursion a duplication we will just stay on board and get that day at sea poolside we missed yesterday. It is a great day and in fact up until about 11 am we are the only one’s poolside.

Tonight, after dinner we finally go to the second show all cruise, the Beatnix. A Beatles knock off band who we think are not too bad but then we are in the very back and singing our hearts out. Those in the front few rows think otherwise. We again meet the usual suspects in the Cellar Masters for nightcaps and now I think the cold has me a bit as I leave before the others, leaving Gail and the guys at the bar.

Our final port the next morning is Tauranga but we actually dock in the tiny town of Mt Maunganui. Gail and I take the shuttle into Tauranga and follow the map to the historic sites. The first one turns out to be closed, open only from 2 hours on Sundays. This all could be a bust. We follow the streets covering most of the town till we get to the The Elms.

The Elms turns out to be fascinating. Here in the early 1800’s missionaries came to the island hoping to civilize the Maori, teaching them Christianity, farming and bringing literacy. At the time there was incredible intertribal fighting and large numbers were being slaughtered. The missionaries hope was that they could show them that if this continue the race would be obliterated.

The original Archbishop Brown came in 1829 from Colchester England and finally settled in the area in 1838. Starting with a Raupo or grass hut, he and his young family purchased the land from the Maoris. Joined by other missionaries they finally established a more permanent home some 9 years later. The family of Archbishop Brown continued to live and work in the original homestead for almost 150 years until they bequeathed it to the historical society.

Originally surrounded by an English Garden including Hollyhocks from seeds from plants of Buckingham Palace, today it is alive with mostly native New Zealand plants. But much of the 190-year-old trees still remain.

Trying to bring civilization was difficult and there were two significant battles between the British and the Maoris. Both in 1864, the first a challenge from the Maori chief Puhiraki. This first battle was won by the Maori when they hid in makeshift trenches and caught the British off guard killing most of their officers who were in the front. The second just 2 months later had the Maori chief killed and the British triumphant. Today the officers killed in the first battle and the chief are all buried in the nearby Mission cemetery.

From here we circle back to the main street and realize that nothing appeals to us either as more to see or lunch so after a quick beer we hop back on the shuttle. We figure if the small town of Mt Maunganui is not to far, we might go in there for lunch as the views of the crashing waves from the ship this morning looked intriguing. It turns out it is right there, and we follow the beach side road.

Unfortunately, while the views are lovely and the houses spectacular we walk clear to the far end and find no restaurants. As the town is only a few blocks wide we cross to the opposite side. Here is what we were looking for ... crashing waves, craggy rocks and lunch spots. A great view and nice food.

After lunch a walk out on the rocks for views back and a stroll along the main shopping and restaurant street. This is definitely the loveliest of the two towns by far and there is enough time, in the heat, for a Hokey Pokey ice-cream.

As it is our last night, we have arranged to have dinner with Nick and Jayne, and we meet them at the Sunset Bar on 15th to watch the sail away and enjoy the last sun of the day. Suitcases out and time for dinner which in the end turns out we are joined by Steve and Sherry whom we have had dinner a few times with and have enjoyed.

Really, we definitely can say that we have enjoyed all our breakfast, lunch and dinner mates. Typically, you end up with someone that you want to avoid but we have really met some lovely folks and made some great new friends.

It is time for all of us to say goodbye … we have made arrangements for dinner in Auckland with Sharon and Graeme in a few days time but sadly we hug Nick and Jayne goodbye and talk about us trying to find a way to come up to Nottingham when we are in UK in December. All and all a great cruise, fantastic weather, incredible scenery and a lots of fun.

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