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Australia New Zealand 2011

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S: AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND -- FEBRUARY, 2011

BC: In February, 2011, I visited Australia and New Zealand with my mother-in-law Jan. We spent one night in Sydney before setting sail on a cruise that tool us from Sydney to Auckland, past some of the most amazing buildings ever built and some of the most incredible landscapes we've ever seen. I fed a kangaroo, visited Christchurch the day before a devastating earthquake and danced at a Maori morae. It was an incredible trip. Here are a few of the photos I took to help remember it.

1: Thursday, February 10 Saturday, February 12 Sunday, February 13 Monday, February 14 Tuesday, February 15 Wednesday, February 16 Thursday & Friday, February 17 and 18 Saturday, February 19 Sunday, February 20 Monday, February 21 Tuesday, February 22 Wednesday, February 23 Thursday, February 24 Friday, February 25 Saturday, February 26 Sunday, February 27 | Depart Philadelphia for Sydney ... via Los Angeles and Auckland Sydney at last!! All aboard the Volendam At Sea Melbourne Burnie Crossing the Tasman Sea to New Zealand Fiordland National Park (at sea) Port Chalmers/Dunedin Lyttelton/Christchurch Picton Wellington Napier Tauranga At Sea Auckland ... and home via San Franscisco | Australia & New Zealand 2011 Itinerary

2: No matter which way you travel, Australia is on the other side of the world from New Jersey. But having visited every other continent, my mother-in-law knew that Australia had to be next. And having flown all that way, it only made sense to visit New Zealand, too ... while we were in the neighborhood.

3: All through the cold and snowy winter, as storm followed storm, and work was closed at least once a week (or so it seemed), we, knew that the Australian summer was waiting for us. Luckily, the weather was perfect on the day we started our 32 hour journey to Sydney.

4: We were exhausted by the time we arrived at our hotel Saturday afternoon, but a light lunch and quick shower perked us up in time for dinner at Aria and Madame Butterfly at the Opera House that evening. | Saturday, February 12 -- Sydney | We had dinner right here!!

5: We didn't have much time to see Sydney, as we left the hotel at 10 Sunday morning. After a short bus ride and a very quick check-in, we reached our "home" for the next 2 weeks. Leaving Sydney in the evening, we sailed under the Sydney Harbor Bridge past the Opera House. Climbing to the top of the center of the span is apparently a popular sport among Sydneysiders. | Sunday, February 13 | What are clearly people when zoomed in (above) look like ants on the bridge in real life. These are people!

6: Tuesday, February 15 -- Melbourne | After a day at sea getting used to new surroundings, we arrived in Melbourne early Tuesday morning. | Rather than a city tour, we spent the day out in the bush at a wildlife preserve and national forest. We saw lots of birds, like the Tawny Frogmouth and a herd(?) of emus, but of course what we all were waiting to see were ...

7: Kangaroos! | And in case you were wondering, yes, they really do hop!

8: We spent the day in Burnie at Wing's Wildlife Park, a family-owned nature center that has been rescuing injured animals and providing a home for endangered local animals for three generations. The park has many different animals native to Australia and Tasmania, including one of the few remaining Tasmanian Devil groups that hasn't been infected by a disease that is making their survival questionable. | Wednesday, February 16 -- Burnie, Tasmania

9: Although we never saw a koala in the wild, there are several at Wings being treated for various injuries. One of the park wildlife specialists brought this koala out on a eucalyptus branch. We were invited in to pet her, but she seemed a little nervous from the crowd. The baby Tasmanian Devils proved the point that all baby animals are cute, because the adults are fierce, nasty creatures.

10: Thursday - Saturday, February 17 - 19 | Thursday and Friday were at sea, crossing the Tasman.. Despite my best intentions of taking classes at the gym and going to some of the more interesting programs, I spent most of the time reading and napping. I also fit a manicure and pedicure into my busy schedule. But the rest was preparation for the seven day whirlwind tour of New Zealand.

11: On Saturday morning, we reached New Zealand and spent the day sailing through Fiordlands National Park. Unfortunately, it was a gray and rainy day, so the images really don't do the scenery justice. It was very beautiful ... and the bad weather will be a good reason to visit again someday!

12: Sunday, February 20 -- Dunedin (Port Chalmers), New Zealand

13: The chicks don't develop the yellow stripe on their heads until they are a year old. Most of the birds we saw were young nestlings. The adults were mostly out to sea fishing. But at the end of the walk, we did see one adult by himself (far left). The preserve also houses a hospital facility where sick and injured birds can be treated until they recuperate. The group behind the fence looked pretty healthy! | We docked at Port Chalmers early Sunday morning. An hour's drive took me to a wildlife preserve on the Otago Peninsula that is the home of a yellow-eyed penguin colony.. During a walk through the preserve, we saw the rolling hills of the peninsula, as well as a beach area where the penguins nest and raise their young.

14: After the visit to the penguin colony, the bus dropped us in the town of Dunedin, founded by a group of Scots in 1848. As luck would have it, a competition of Highland pipe and drum corps was taking place in the town that day. | I was particularly struck by the fact that most groups ranged in age from elementary school student to senior citizens. The continuation of the tradition of honoring the town's Scots heritage was great to see.

15: Given the apparent acceptance of diverse cultures, I was a bit surprised by a very non-PC display in a shop window!

16: Just before dawn on Monday, we began making our way through Lyttleton Harbor toward the port. The sun was rising on what promised to be a beautiful day. The ship was greeted at the port by a crier dressed in 18th century costume. From our balcony, we had a good view of the harbor and the Time Ball, which dropped daily at noon in Greenwich, England, to keep ship clocks on time. | Monday, February 21 -- Christchurch (Lyttleton), New Zealand

17: Christchurch is nicknamed the "Garden City" of New Zealand. During a walk through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, we found bush after bush of beautiful roses in full bloom. At the end of the walk, we hopped back on the bus and were dropped at the Christchurch Art Museum, across from the Arts Centre. | We strolled through the garden in front of the Museum, before crossing over to the Arts Centre. Filled with many shops selling New Zealand-made crafts, I couldn't resist and bought a number of items as gifts for family .... and a couple for myself. After leaving the Arts Centre, we made our way to the Cathedral and the bus back to the ship.

18: En route to the Botanical Gardens, our bus took the "long route" over the mountains that separate the coast from the Canterbury Plain.. At one point, we had a view down the wooded mountainside and over the plain, with the city of Christchurch spread out in front of us.

19: The Arts Centre buildings were part of the original campus of the University of Canterbury. They wouldn't be out of place in Oxford or Cambridge, although they were mostly built in the 19th century. After shopping, we had lunch at a streetside cafe. Watching people enjoying their lunch breaks along the banks of the Avon River -- which runs right through the central business district -- I could imagine living here. We walked back to pick up our bus, and I thought about getting a picture of the Cathedral. But I didn't, figuring I'd take one next time, because I definitely planned to return to Christchurch. The next afternoon, a devastating earthquake destroyed much of downtown Christchurch. The Arts Centre will likely be closed for years, and the steeple of the Cathedral collapsed. If I do return, it will be to a much changed city.

20: Tuesday, February 22 -- Picton, New Zealand | We left the ship in the pouring rain on Tuesday, headed for a smaller boat ride along the Queen Charlotte Sound. . We saw a group of shags in Double Cove, where we stopped to feed the "pet" fish, that had been trained to come for food at the same time each day. I also saw a group of sting rays swimming in a shallow cove during another stop. On the drive back to the ship, we passed through the Marlborough Wine country, then back to the port of Picton, where car ferries dock for the North Island.

21: Wednesday, February 23 - Wellington, New Zealand

22: I spent the day in Wellington on a "Lord of the Rings" tour, with a first stop at the Weta Cave, a gift shop where a short film on Peter Jackson and the film studio is shown. I was very surprised to see a Dr. Who section in the shop.. Some Weta sculptors are fans of the show, and sell a line of figures.

23: With the shopping stop out of the way, we set off to see a number of locations where LOTR was filmed. The Tolkien estate required removal of all sets, etc., but our guide (who was in one of the movies) had photos, and several of the group members posed to recreate scenes from the film. The Rivendell area was signposted with information about the filming. | We stopped for lunch at a catering hall that I suspect hosts a lot of weddings. The formal English garden was very pretty. | The Volendam came into site before we reached the port.

24: Thursday, February 24 - Napier, New Zealand

25: Two days after the quake that devastated Christchurch, we docked at Napier, a city on the North Island that was destroyed in an earthquake and subsequent fire almost 80 years to the day earlier, on February 3, 1931. The rebuilding of the city provided much needed employment during the global depression on the 1930s. Today Napier has the world's highest concentration of Art Deco buildings, with examples of all of the key Art Deco styles. | A walking tour included a stop insisde a number of buildings. It's amazing that the Art Deco features have been maintained -- or replicated -- on the inside as well as the outside. At one point during the 1960s, there was a push to replace a number of the Art Deco buildings with more modern construction. One store was demolished and rebuilt, but the outcry caused an interest in preservation. The city now uses the Art Deco in marketing itself as a tourist destination.

26: Friday, February 25 - Tauranga, New Zealand | Our stop at Tauranga brought us near a number of Morae, the Maori family gathering places. While there are no people remaining in New Zealand of undiluted Maori ancestry, great importance is given to maintaining the ancient customs and rituals. We were greeted with the traditional "hangi" -- touching noses, and a few of us even danced with the young men and women of the group.

27: As usual, the drive back to the ship took us to several photo stops, including one overlooking Mount Maunganui, an extinct volcano. Our shipped was docked in the town of the same name, which looked like a very lively beach town. We thought about heading into town, but the view from our balcony was just as nice!

28: Saturday, February 26 - At Sea | On our last day at sea, we were encouraged by the captain to wake up early to catch the views of White Island, an active volcano. The ship sailed back and forth a number of times over several hours, with the color of the island changing as the light hit it from different angles. I don't know if I'll ever go to Hawaii, but at least I've see an active volcano!!

30: Sunday, February 27 - Auckland, New Zealand | By the time we woke up on Sunday morning, we'd already docked at Auckland. Before our flight -- which left at 7pm, and arrived in San Francisco at 10 am on the same day -- we had time for a visit to Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Center and Underwater Adventure. Although a bit anti-climatic after actually going to Antarctica, we did see some very cute King penguins, a species we didn't see on our trip. After a quick ride up the Sky Tower -- the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere -- it was back to the airport for the trip home. Time to start planning the next trip!!

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