Napier, New Zealand: More Wine and a pop quiz

Napier, in Hawke's Bay, is a scenic city, largely rebuilt in an Art Deco style after an earthquake destroyed much of the city in 1931. The weekend we were there was an Art Deco Festival, so lots of vintage cars, people dressed in period costumes, and the city all decorated up. Hawke's Bay enjoys a Californian/ Mediterranean climate and is known for its wine. Off we went to verify the wine quality.

First, a Pop Quiz:

What major export is the area known for?

Hints:

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Got it?


Mission Estate Winery
The oldest winery in New Zealand, established in 1851 by French Catholic Missionaries. Trivia: in 2005, Rod Stewart played to 25,000 fans at an annual concert held on the grounds.

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Top Secret image of an actual tasting

 

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Wilson puts in an appearance. Note that most folks at the table were smart enough to ignore his antics.


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A very small wine cellar. The bottle is in the floor just inside the entrance. It is a bottle of 1963 Fontanelle Sparkling Wine. Memorialized because it was the first wine in New Zealand made using Methode Traditionelle, the traditional method of making champagne-style wines.

 

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Proof that we are in New Zealand and not, say, California


Abbey Estate Winery (and Brewery)
A smaller boutique winery located in Bridge Pa, Hawkes Bay. Established in 2002. The main building is an interpretation of a Gothic abbey. Really nice wines!

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Passion Rose 2023


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Napier/ Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
02/15/24


Tauranga, New Zealand: short walk to a beautiful beach

Tauranga is a small coastal city in the Bay of Plenty and the fifth most populous city in New Zealand. The harbor features a beautiful beach with Mount Maunganui in the background.

A walk to the beach (technically, the beach is next to our ship, but we walked through town to get to it)...

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Coronation Park: very nice

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The eyes!

 

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New Zealand Police closed?

 

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A Boat and a Bell. Boat Bell? Bell Boat?

 

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Repurposed Door
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New Zealand Defense Forces recruitment. Snoozepod??

 

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Planter in an out-of-business mini-mall

 

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Words of Wisdom

 

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Pet Stores are very different in New Zealand.

 

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Thank God its February!


The Beach

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A beautiful day to go to the beach!

 

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Four Boats and a Swimmer

 

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Boats in the water, boats on the beach... and a bird

 

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Working side of the beach

 

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Final view with Mount Maunganui (Mauao) in the background

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Tauranga, New Zealand
02/14/24


Auckland, New Zealand, Day 2: streetwalk and an experiment

Auckland is a beautiful city, nicknamed the "City of Sails" because of its location between two harbors and generally great weather. It is also the largest city in New Zealand with 1.3 million residents. The downtown is an interesting contrast between new and old, making it a great place to streetwalk.

The experiment? The only camera I shot with was my new Amkov R5. CAUTION: photogeek stuff follows; feel free to skip the rest of the paragraph. The Amkov is a miniature camera developed in Hong Kong as a Kickstarter project last year. It looks a lot like a DSLR but is very small; about 1/4 the size of a traditional full-size DLSR, and very light. This makes it good for unobtrusive work. Tech specs, you ask? Mirrorless, Sony CMOS supporting 48mp High-Resolution, AF Autofocus (that works most of the time), 3" flip-up display, 5X optical/ 8X digital zoom functions, and 2G6P lens.  

Anyway, urban streetwalk with a small lens...

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Sidenote: the public facilities were immaculate


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Barbarella. The image is not grainy, it's the wall finish

 

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Kiwi dentistry


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Those who know me will get the insider joke.


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Inside an old restored building


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Rentals are down in The Guardian. The first floor occupant is an IT store

 

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Hey, all you Craigs, I found your building!

 

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Hope the product is better than the sign maintenance


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The other side of the old ferry terminal

 

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Who's the Boss?



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The interior of an out-of-business Club by the port

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Auckland, New Zealand
02/13/24


Auckland, New Zealand: wine island!

Waiheke Island is a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland and is the most populated island in the gulf. Most importantly, it is home to 30 boutique wineries in its only 92 square kilometers (36 sq. miles). It is actually nicknamed the "Island of Wine" due to the proliferation of wineries. Good for us!

Ferry to Waiheke

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Batch Winery

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Tasting Room

 

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A nice sparking Rose, good White, and interesting Red... with snacks!


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It's not all hard work at a winery.


Stony Ridge Winery

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The camera is not askew... we really were on a slope


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Caravan Bar Outdoor Deck, with Wi-Fi and Fine Wine


View through a bus window

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Ferry back to Auckland

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Camping, New Zealand- style. They have a tent put up.

 

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Big house under construction on a hill. Nice view! Not sure what they are building next to it.


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Ferry docks with old ferry terminal in the center.


Later that night...

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Waiheke Island, New Zealand
02/12/2024


Bay of Islands, New Zealand: an island trip

The Bay of Islands is an enclave of more than 140 islands next to New Zealand's North Island. It is the home of the whaling port of Russell, New Zealand's first colonial capital. Russell was the first permanent European settlement and seaport in New Zealand.  Its early nickname was 'The hellhole of the Pacific' because it was a shore leave destination for sailors, whalers and traders during the 19th century. Our trip today is a ferry ride to and then walking around Russell.

First, a brief walk around the docking port.

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Kiwi emojis


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Waiting for the ferry


Ferry to Russell

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Russell ahead of us


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Russell

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Entrance to town

 

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People OK, Fish not so much?


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Kinda offsets the Hell Hole nickname

 

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Giant Manganese boulder


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"Commemorating the past and the new with thanks to those who gave so that we can live the bountiful life we lead."

 

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No picture of the hotel because it was blocked by rascal/ reprobate vehicles and trees

 

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Butterfly amongst round spikey fruit

 

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Bowling, New Zealand style


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"Hell Hole" is actually just a coffee shop. Wild times!

 

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Leaving Russell on a ferry boat

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Bay of Islands/ Russell, New Zealand
02/11/2024

 
























Suva, Fiji: a tourist tour

Suva is on the peninsula on the island of Viti Levu and is the largest city in the South Pacific. It is the political and administrative capital of Fiji. Suva was the last of the South Pacific island ports for us before moving on the New Zealand.

As we stood on our balcony just after arriving in port before disembarkation started, several people gathered at the end of the port building on the dock. They pulled out large signs advertising the glories of the private excursions they offered and waved them at whoever on the ship would look at them. They were too far away to hear, but they shouted what we assumed were the virtues of their tours. One guy pointed at Ruth and enthusiastically waved his sign of pretty pictures. He and Ruth engaged in a weird kind of conversation consisting mostly of waving their arms at each other and yelling things neither could hear. At one point, Ruth grabbed our binoculars, and the guy froze while Ruth studied his sign. Upon the end of the "conversation," we went back into our cabin.

Later,

we disembarked with no planned excursion. As we exited the port building (actually a large warehouse), we were pounced upon by independent tour operators, urging us to take THEIR tour because it was better. Ruth found her new friend and his sign. We signed up for his tour, much to the chagrin and dismay of the other operators, and off we went in a somewhat battered-up blue minivan with several other tourists. 

The first stop was the President's mansion.

Boring political stuff follows, skip to the pictures if you want.

Fiji's government is a little confusing, mostly as a result of coups and its growth from the old tribal systems. The head of State is the President, elected by the Parliament after being nominated by the Prime Minister. The position is largely honorary, somewhat like the British Monarchy. Real power is in the cabinet, presided over by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is elected by the Parliament.

In addition to all this, there is a Great Council of Chiefs (Bose Levu Vakaturaga) which runs the hierarchy of provinces, districts, and villages.   

Anyway,

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Ceremonial Guard (guys in fatigues were nearby)

 

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As close as anyone can get to the President's Mansion

 

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The President's Helipad, with a nice background


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Our second stop was one of the highest points in the city, with a scenic view of the port. 

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Our third stop was to watch traditional fire dancing in a traditional village. Unfortunately, when we pulled up we were advised that the family of the Chief, who lived in the next village over, had a serious medical issue. Tradition demanded no celebrating or dancing, and everyone stand around quietly. We looked from the van at several people standing around quietly and left. 

Our fourth stop was a natural area with ponds and falls and nice photo opportunities. We were joined by two, later three, tour buses as well as a scattering of minivan tours and cabs. 

Our guides told us the area was home to several rare birds. They said we wouldn't see the birds because they were only around late in the day,  but there were pictures of them, as seen below. Look carefully at the sign.

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Trail or Trial. A suspected typo.


The walk to the ponds and falls was a bit strenuous, particularly given it was a typical "warm" tropical day. The destination was worth the effort.

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First of the upper pools

 

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How some offset the tropical climate

 

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End of the Upper Pools

 

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Lower Falls of the Upper Pools

 

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Water in motion

 

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A trail to???????

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Ruth conquered the jungle


Our last stop was "shopping." We were dropped off at a large complex of stores about ten minutes from the ship. After a bit of mandatory shopping, we decided to walk back to the ship instead of riding the free shuttle. 

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Harbor Scenic

 

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A guy we stopped to talk to at the port. I told him I would put his picture on the internet, so I did.


Click here for Fiji Urban Art
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Click here for Fiji's "A drumroll started it all"
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Suva, Fiji
02/08/2024

 


Apia, Samoa- a streetwalk

Apia is the capital of and the largest city of Samoa. The Apia Urban Area had a population of 36,735 in the 2011 Census. A very urban area, so a streetwalk...

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Row boat? NO, BOAT ROW

 

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Sign at the port



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The bay Apia is built around.


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'Not real sure about the point of the statue. If you move slightly to the left, he is anatomically correct. Also, not really sure what Wilson is saying putting himself in the picture.

 

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Close-up of part of a homage in a park

 

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Church, urban-style.
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Next to the church. Immaculate Caffe; Fresh Brewed Coffee, and Religious Shop



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Directions


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#4: very big, very imposing building

 

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On down the street a bit, another church

 

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Commemorating the establishment of the Methodist Church in Samoa

 

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WWII Memorial

 

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Heavy Chinese presence in the islands, some say dating back to the introduction of Chinese migrant workers

 

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The clock tower is the central point of the city

 

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Window covering at a closed camera shop...

 

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Reimagined as a painting in the style "Urban Sketch."

 

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The shop makes, in the back of the store, and sells all their dresses

 

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Ruth buying a dress made in the back of the shop

 

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Floral display in the shop reimagined in an Aquarell painting style

 

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Street scene looking back at the clock tower

 

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"Supporting Samoans to take on the world"

 

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My own BoomBox!

 

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Urban street flowers reimagined in a classic painting style

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Apia, Samoa
02/06/2024


Pago Pago, American Samoa- roadtrip!

Pago Pago on the island of Tutila is the capital of American Samoa, about 2,300 miles from New Zealand and 1,600 miles from Hawaii. The two primary sources of revenue are tourism and processing tuna. The island consists largely of a mountain running its length with very little flatland, so some of the traditional tropical crops cannot be grown for resale.

If you are a native of the island or a knowledgeable visitor, you pronounce the name as Pango- Pango, otherwise, you are just a tourist.

It was a dark and stormy day at the beginning of our visit...

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As noted, tuna is a major source of income. There are two huge processing plants, one with a familiar name...

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Starkist Samoa


with a colorful representative.

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Charlie!


We engaged the services of a local cabbie to tour the island and we took off in his pickup truck, cleverly disguised as an "Airport Cab." The weather cleared a bit, with the rain mostly stopping, but continued as a threat.

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The rain chased us along the island


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An unusual site: many homes had familial burial sites in front of the home


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A fallen breadfruit

 

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A four-legged gang just out lookin' for trouble.

 

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One of the many, many churches. It seemed like every village or even wide spots on the road had a church or churches. We were there on a Sunday, and almost everything on the island was closed. Stu, our driver, said everyone except cab drivers went to church on Sunday.


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Stu told us this ruin, adjacent to the church, was the original building, destroyed in a storm.


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Road house?

 

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View of the port. The very top of our ship can be seen in the middle. Because it is in a lagoon, the port is one of the safest in the islands... one of the reasons the US chose it for the capital of American Samoa


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Back at the port

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A neighbor

 

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The Big and the Small of it.


View from our balcony.

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Governor's Mansion. Built when the US founded American Samoa so he could have a view of the island (according to Stu).

 

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The port. As with many, we shared the space with containers.

 

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The other side of the Starkist plant

 

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The rain continued to chase us as we left port.


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Pago Pago
02/04/2024


It all started with a drumroll...

There we were, sitting in our room late Thursday afternoon, docked at the island of Viti Levu in Fiji, watching the rain fall after a tiring day touring the island and waiting for our departure from port. When we heard...

a Drumroll!

Walking onto our balcony, we saw this below us, marching up and down the dock playing traditional band music and performing elaborate maneuvers. All in the pouring rain, which didn't bother them in the least.

An unexpected and outstanding end to a day in Fiji.

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Fiji
02/08/2024









  


Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Another beautiful tropical island. We didn't spend much time ashore but discovered the best air conditioning on the island!

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First of several images of the extinct volcano behind the village

 

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The best air conditioning on the island... the local post office. A good thing because, in addition to stamps and postage, a lot of complicated paperwork and long discussions. With three clerks, the wait to mail something to the US was over 1/2 hour! 


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Shhhh.


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Tender company.


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Traveling away...

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Last view of Bora Bora


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Barrier reef with rain in the distance

 

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Localized rain. Rendered as tri-color


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Dramatic effect

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Bora Bora
01/31/2024

 



 


Papeete, Tahiti- out and about

Just to be clear, Tahiti is used interchangeably to mean either the island of Tahiti, which the city of Papeete is on, or, in many cases, the entire destination chain of 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia. This posting concerns the island of Tahiti and the city of Papeete, the capital. Now that it is all cleared up...

The port area at Papeeti is very urban and very busy: lots of traffic of the ferryboats, vehicles, and foot varieties.  It was also a typical hot, humid tropical day, so a quick urban walk...

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The urban setting cannot hide the grandeur of the extinct volcano mountains in the background

 

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An outdoor craft brewery

 

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a famous hotel

 

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Tahitian beer. The most popular beer in French Polynesia
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Papeeti is not immune to the after-effects of COVID and the cessation of tourism for an extended period.


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So much for the morning. The afternoon was a bus trip to the Western side of the island...

First stop: Society Islands Marae, "a space reserved for ceremonial  social, and religious activities of ancient Polynesians."

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Tti mouldings (anthropomorphic sculptures)

 

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Why does she look so unhappy? Is it because he is in front?


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A big fallen breadfruit tree leaf

 

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A small marae with one upright stone

 

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Several images of the paved terrace, steps, and Marae Arahurahu. The stones are dry-stone constructions. No mortar was used.  


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Tourists and guides cannot set foot on the Marae or terraces

 

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A tourist photographing a wannabe Tahitian deity


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A burbling creek next to the Marae


Second stop: a Waterfall and Gardens in Tahiti Iti, the smaller southeastern peninsula area of Tahiti.

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Third stop: the Ana-Vai-poiri grotto at Mara'a

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Local embellishments by unnamed artists

 

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Yes, there is a swimmer in the grotto, despite many No Swimming signs

 

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Inside looking out past the dripping water from the ceiling


Pictures through a Bus Window
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Tahiti
01/30/2024

 








Rangiroa, French Polynesia: a walk across an island and back

Rangiroa is actually an atoll, the largest in French Polynesia and the second largest globally. Other than tourism, its primary sources of revenue are being one of the greatest dive destinations and the breeding of pearl oysters, including legendary black pearls. 

Since we do not dive and the only Black Pearl we are interested in is already owned by a certain Captain J. Sparrow, that left being tourists and doing a walk across the atoll. A note about walking and French Polynesia: it's tropical and the weather is WARM. We found out later the area was experiencing an unusual heat wave. So even the locals claim it is HOT and HUMID. Being the intrepid travelers we are, a little heat wasn't going to stop us. Once again, common sense was not top of the list.  

The port is a single long concrete dock that we tendered to.

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We shared the lagoon with another ship.

 

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The Aranui 5, the other ship in the lagoon, is an interesting vessel. Built as a hybrid in 2015, it is half cruise ship, half freighter. It does 12-day cruises around French Polynesia and other islands while also delivering freight to a number of local ports.


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Off we went, hiking across the atoll. Good News: hiking all the way across the atoll involved about a 25-minute stroll down a paved street. Bad News: did I mention it was very HOT and HUMID?

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Not exactly sure what the sign is about...

 

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The minivan looks in need of some massaging


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Coca-Cola has made some serious inroads on the islands. Their strip signs are everywhere.

 

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Another sign that I have no idea what it means...

 

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Self-portrait


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Shadows on the road


The beach and waterfront "on the other side."
Beautiful!
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Across the road from the beach

 

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The entrance sign has seen better days

 

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A classic


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Fisherdog... he was definitely after something in the water


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Later in the day, a storm coming in...

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Rangiroa
01/29/2024

 


Crossing the Equator: going from Pollywogs to Shellbacks

We crossed the Equator at approximately 10 pm on 1/26. In anticipation, the ship held a crossing ceremony in the morning known as the "Order of the Shellback" commemorating a first crossing of the equator.  While its origins are quite elaborate and, at times, rough on the participants, the Oceania version was tame and nicely sanitized.

First-time crossers, known as Pollywogs, are initiated into the Order and become Trusty Shellbacks, or sons of Neptune. It all begins with a pledge and a parade...

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Waiting for the start, with banners flying

 

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The opening pledge basically promising to be good Trusty Shellbacks (never get off the elevator on the wrong floor, never wear black socks with sandals, learn to properly pronounce the names of all ports, etc.)


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The Parade

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The Musicians

 

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Pollywog crewmembers

 

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King Neptune and his "wife" Highness Amphitrite


The Proclamation

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Presenting the Fish

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First, Pollywogs must Kiss the Fish

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Pollywog crewmembers went first. Enthusiasm about kissing a big (real) fish varied.


Then the ceremonial Dunking

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Dunking has been replaced with a large ladle of ice water

 

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Pollywag Passengers followed the crewmembers. Some were better at kissing the fish than others.

 

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Lined up

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At sea
01/26/2024
















 


Nawiliwili, Kauai (Hawaii): a cautionary tale

Kauai is the fourth largest and northernmost in the Hawaiian chain of islands. It is called the "Garden Island" for its lush greenery and, according to our driver, is home to the second heaviest rainfall spot in the world. The harbor entrance was outstanding.

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Another ship was already docked by the cruise terminal, so we were relegated to a temporary dock in the adjacent freight yard. The walk to the terminal and to a nice park at the edge of the port was lengthy. We decided Uber was the way to get to our first destination, the famous Wailua Falls. Rides were plentiful, and Angelo arrived in a few minutes. The twenty-minute drive to the Falls was pleasant, and Angelo assured us there were a lot of Uber drivers in the area, so we would have no problems catching another ride.  The Falls were off the beaten path: the road off the main highway was lengthy and winding as we climbed to the dead-end at the Falls. Emphasis on "off the beaten path", "lengthy", "winding", and "climbed" become important.

The  Falls themselves were dramatic, falling a hundred or so feet to the rocks below. A lot of signs warned about the dangers of hiking to the Falls and told everyone not to go past the signs; we abided by the signs.

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Our initial view of the Falls was degraded by the presence of an entitled citizen who chose to ignore all the warnings and other signs to go down to the top of the Falls. He proceeded to stand there for an extended period with his cell phone and stick extension taking pictures of himself. There were a number of comments from those looking at the Falls about how nice it would be to have a sniper available. We concurred.

 

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No visitor, courtesy of good software.


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I bought a bracelet hand woven from a Ki or Ti plant. In ancient Hawaii, the Ki plant was thought to have great spiritual power to ward off negative energy. The vendor and Wilson became great friends.

 

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Why did the chicken cross the cliff....


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After we saw all that was to be seen and did all that was to be done, it was time to get a return Uber.

Thus begins the cautionary tale.

While there may be a lot of Uber drivers in the area, they are only as useful as your capability to book one. In our eagerness to view the Falls, we forgot one small, but very important, detail: always check your cell phones for the reception. It turned out that our Spectrum cell phones, which connect off Verizon towers, didn't have enough signal strength (the dreaded One Bar) to sustain a connection with the Uber app. 

Being experienced travelers, we quickly realized we had three options:

1. Ask some of the hoard of other tourists if they had a signal and if we could borrow their phone
2. See if one of the street vendors would call us a cab
3. Walk down the road from the dead-end until we get a signal.

For reasons only attributable to either the altitude or a Brain Cloud, we decided on option three and took off down the road. Because we were smart and sophisticated Americans, we avoided the temptation to run screaming in a panic as we went. Initially, there was Good News and Bad News. The Good News was the scenics were very nice. The Bad News was signal strength went from One Bar to SOS (no signal) the further we walked. 

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After days of stumbling through the jungle, fighting off wild beasts.... Actually, after about 1/2 hour, we came to a wide spot in the road and decided to take a break, sitting on the railing beside the road. There was nothing in either direction.

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While I bemoaned our fate, my wife, the smart one in the crowd, looked at her phone and saw two bars. My contribution was to tell her not to move a muscle regardless of how uncomfortable the railing was until she got us a ride. A Happy Ending followed: Ganny rescued us about twenty minutes later and took us to the Harbor Mall.

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Rescued!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Side notes: While we were waiting, one of the passing vehicles actually stopped and asked us if we needed a ride; thank you, unknown good samaritans! In route, Ganny told us that what he normally did was ask riders if they wanted him to wait and take them back down for an additional mere penance.  It turns out that AT&T cell phones have good signal reception at the Falls.

Harbor Mall

Only about a half dozen stores were open. The BIG excitement was a chicken shepherding her chicks through the food court, not at all bothered by the stupid tourists. The best store was what looked like a tourist trap from the entrance. But in two additional closed-from-outside storefronts accessible from behind the touristy stuff was an amazing collection of high-end model cars, trains, and airplanes. There was a section of vintage Lionel train sets, locomotives, and railcars all set up in display cases.    

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Mall entertainment

 

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"Where the sun rises on the past"


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A free- shuttle returned us to the port terminal for the <long> walk back to the ship.

End of day
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01/22/2024