This is Part Two of my article on my trip through Oz and Zed.
From Auckland we took a thirteen day cruise which made four stops in New Zealand, three stops in Tasmania, Australia, a day in Melbourne, and it ended up in Sydney where we spent ten nights. From November 2009 to April 2010 Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America are scheduled to make similar trips.
The ship hit the main ports south of Auckland on the North Island and made one stop on the northwestern tip of the South Island. We saw many harbors, coves, sounds, and inlets which make New Zealand so popular with pleasure sailors.
Our first port stop after Auckland included a visit to Roturua. Our bus was greeted by several members of the Maori family who facilitated some tourists by inviting us to engage in the traditional Maori greeting, rubbing noses.
We were led to the sulfur pits where in the sulfur-soaked atmosphere we saw evidence of an underground gone mad with several geysers shooting up menacingly from big hot bubbling cauldrons of muck and mud. The smell of the element was very pervasive. I had a bad chest and head cold. The guide told me to take lots of really deep breaths. I did so and bought up prestigious amounts of phlegm. A day later I was a lot better. The sulfur had felt good as I inhaled it into every sinus cavity, but I do not think I'd like to wake up every day in that town where the fumes were so pervasive.
Did we know that there were seventeen breeds of sheep in New Zealand? Well, I found out in Roturua's Agridome as the various types of sheep placidly chawed whatever it is they chaw and stoud docilely and stoically at eye level on ramps as they were stroked by the multitudes. Then on a stage a burly sheepman stand a sheep up on its hindquarters, press some spot in the neck, and the sheep went limp in his arms. Maybe all those stories about the sexual delights of sheep are true, because they certainly lose it when in the arms of the right man. He then sheared the sheep in an astoundingly short period of time producing a single continuous coat of wool.
The two types of sheep dogs were introduced: the silent type that herd sheep without a sound, and the barking type that continue to yelp and drive the sheep and everyone else to distraction. The dogs posed standing unsteadily on the backs of sheep, doing a real balancing act. Photographers and videotectors had a field day.
Next, the ship docked in Napier, a town which was destroyed by an earthquake in the nineteen thirties. The downtown was rebuilt in art deco style, and it has one of the largest stock of such buildings outside of Miami Beach.
The ship's stop in Wellington, New Zealand's capital, including a visit to the country's huge museum where one can learn about the geological plates underneath Zed that cause its earthquakes and volcanoes. It also provides views of the cultural and societal life of the aborigines of the country, the Maori, part of the wide group of Polynesian people that settled on islands from Hawaii through Tahiti to Zed.
The ship's last port in Zed was Picton, a small boat, yachty, ferry terminus town where we stayed overnight. Sampling the local night life at a lively pub, we were also able to get a fine traditional British roast lamb dinner with all the trimmings and very tasty and reasonable wine. The pub was full of fishermen types who were indulging in that most detestable of all indoor activities, karaoke. Some people came in and settled down for a night of this amateur torture.
The waitress had been with her son to California, New York and Orlando. She liked the States very much but was very happy with her life in Picton which was safer, a lot less hectic, easier to fathom, and nicer than the places she had visited which although interesting were formidable and threatening. She wanted to keep her son away from drugs. Her sister lived in California but wanted to come back to New Zealand. Picton was a pretty town that made me think of towns in Maine, Alaska, Cornwall, and Cape Cod all at once.
Traveling through New Zealand was like taking a trip through a textbook example of all the best in horticulture and agriculture. At every port stop we would be met by sniffing dogs that were trained to detect fruits or vegetables. The country makes a superhuman effort to keep out foreign agricultural diseases and pests. The minder says to his dog, "Daisy, say hello to the nice lady," where the dog sniffs at the shopping bag or carry-all. He wags his tail and follows a miscreant.
"This lady," Daisy signals, "is concealing a turnip, a butternut squash, a banana, a pear, and a Snickers Bar.
At the gangplank in Wellington was an inspector with a fruit-sniffing dog waiting to sniff out and take apples away from would-be smugglers. I got talked with an apple that had been given to me in Napier.
"But sir, I was given that apple yesterday in Napier."
The official sneered at me with that look that law enforcement officials have for evil-doers and said, "Yes, a pretty story as if I can not tell the difference between a foreign apple and a Zed apple. ? "
The agricultural enforcement agent shook his head, wave me a dirty look and took away the New Zealand apple which had been given to me in Napier. A few steps away from the confiscator and his canine chum was a line of schools with baskets of apples. I was given big, luscious looking apples by two smiling school children. I put them in my knapsack. After my day's tour I took them back on the ship. Would they be taken away from me when we landed in Picton?
Could these slaphappy dogs tell the difference between New Zealand apples and apples from upstate New York? What did the authorities do with the confiscated apples?
The public relations fruit people giveth and taketh away. It's a puzzlement. One woman lost her banana, an old woman looked bereft as her orange was taken away, and woman in a wheel chair was stripped of her grapefruit. She protested loudly and asked if it could be saved for her when she returned to the ship. The inspector said she could take it back aboard, but they had no service for saving fruit while passengers were on their land tours.
She asked if she could be compensated, and he said that she was in defiance of the law, and she could be charged with grapefruit smuggling under custody Number 3456. She asked if the inspector or perhaps his dog could return the grapefruit to her cabin. No, the dog could not carry anything as big as a grapefruit in his mouth and would not be able to find her cabin in any event. He could read letters but not numerals so would be able to find her deck but not her cabin. She demanded to see the official's superior. By this time the dog had sniffed out an elderly man who was trying to get past with a pineapple.
The inspector shouted, "Stop in the name of the fruit law, my good man."
"Are you calling me a fruit?"
"No, I am referring to your contraband."
"That dog of yours tried to whiz on my trouser cuff. I want him reprimanded."
"Daisy knows better than urinate improperly."
"Your dog is a menace to tourists."
The woman in the wheelchair tried to slip away, but her grapefruit was impounded. These fruit-sniffing dogs always get their man or woman. That day not a mango, papaya, or plum slipped by, except one crew member did get ashore with three pounds of hash.
Next stop, Tasmania.