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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

No expectations..

Day 44/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Rotarua (Tauranga)

We woke up in a new port this morning and when we looked outside our balcony it looked a bit hazy and overcast. Ugh…

The forecast was for a 60% chance of rain and 21C. We packed the small collapsible umbrella we had brought with us, as the Viking umbrella is like a golf umbrella and was just too big to lug around for a ‘just in case” it rains kind of day.

We had room service delivered for breakfast and since we were in no real rush for our 10am tour, we had a leisurely morning, rather than rushing out for an early tour. I’m not a fan of early mornings since I usually blog quite late to try and get a faster internet, so most of our tours if I can help it, will not be early ones!

We saw a cargo ship coming in on off our port side balcony this morning as we were eating breakfast. The Port of Tauranga is New Zealand’s largest, fastest-growing and most efficient port. It is the only port in New Zealand to accommodate the largest container vessels and The Port of Tauranga handles 1/3 of all new Zealand cargo, nearly 40% of New Zealand exports and nearly half of all shipping containers. Once we met our tour guide, she also mentioned that The Port is the only port in New Zealand that is NOT unionized, the port is still backlogged from Covid and there are always about 25 cargo ships sitting off the waters of Tauranga waiting to come in and unload their containers or goods.

As we were watching the cargo ship arrive, a Princess Cruise line ship arrived too.

Looking a bit worse for wear, the Grand Princess was built in 1998 at a cost of $450million USD and was the largest and most expensive ship ever built at the time. Capacity is 3,100 passengers. The Grand Princess docked right in front of the Neptune and since it is a Saturday in Tauranga, and a long weekend (Monday is a national holiday), we knew it was going to be a busy day in this port.

We had a very long walk along the pier, past the Princess Cruise ship, to the flag pole, where we were to meet our private guide for our tour.

We had booked a Viator 1/2 day Tauranga Shore Excursion: Small-Group Bay of Plenty and Tauranga Tour which cost $141 CAD for both of us. Our guide’s name was Jan and she drove 10 of us in her Mercedes Sprinter van. All of the other folks on the tour were from the Princess Cruise ship which is doing a 14 day cruise from Melbourne, back to Melbourne, so it was interesting to compare notes on our cruise ships and destinations as they had just visited Napier yesterday and we are heading that way, and they are off to Auckland, and of course you know we just came from there. The Princess ship still requires masks everywhere on the ship, except when sitting down to eat. When we got to the Sprinter van everyone else was already onboard, so Richard sat in the second row in the middle between two people and I got the window seat behind the right hand driver and guide.

Because of the recent flooding that occurred last week with all of the rains, some of the roads were still impassable. Also, because it looked like we were going to get rain, Jan decided to switch up our route slightly to try and give us a chance to enjoy some nice weather outdoors. Our walk in the native old growth forest was cancelled though, because of the trails being washed out and too muddy to pass through.

I do not have photos from when we were driving in the sprinter van but I did snap a photo near the pier which gives you a sense of what the area we were leaving from looked like.

The cruise ship pier was down to the right off the photo.

We passed by Maunganui Beach which has been voted the best for surfing, beachside cafes and endless white sand beaches, in New Zealand. The mountain overlooking the area is known as Mount Maunganui, (MON-GAN-NU-EE), so the locals call the beach “The Mount”. There was a beach volleyball tournament in town today, tons of people on the beach and in seaside cafes enjoying the vibe on what had turned into a sunny day. Many of the condos in town are owned by people who have vacation units. The beachfront homes called “BACHs”were initially owned by rich New Zealand dairy farmers from the West Coast and were built in the 1940’s.

A typical BACH home on Mt. Maunganui Beach. The homes are across the road from the beach and have all been replaced by mega mansions ($5-7million NZD) or condos. There is one remaining BACH home left on Mt.Maunganui Beach. Further along the beach there were homes which backed onto the water, and these homes are ‘grandfathered’ because the local government no longer allows beach front homes to be built, because of the issue with erosion and climate change. The government instead has mandated that grasses be planted on all shorelines to prevent erosion.

We made a quick pit stop at a park in Tauranga to use the washrooms before heading on with our tour.

Characters from the Hairy Maclary books written by local Tauranga author Lynley Dodd. I had never heard of these children’s books but the Ozzies on our bus knew them well.

We headed through downtown Tauranga on Cameron Street which is the main thoroughfare in the town, to a small, very hilly park called Gate Pa. What was so striking to us as we stopped to get out of the van, was the warrior statues carved out of wood and standing guard over the side of the park.

Maori statues.

A very fierce looking statue.

Not statues. Gate Pa entrance.

At the top of the hill in Gate Pa is a monument to the battle of Gate Pa which saw the Maori’s win a major battle over the British on April 29, 1864 with 31 killed and 80 wounded, despite vastly outnumbering their Māori foe. The Māori and the British fought in many battles in New Zealand, over land ownership and sovereignty. These wars were known as The New Zealand Wars. In early 1864 the British landed on the northern end of Te Papa which to the Māori was seen as an invasion. The Maori met and resolved to fight the invaders (since the Māori were often at war with themselves as well), and they drew up a Code of Conduct for the upcoming fight. The Code was agreed to by the Māori leaders who then issued a challenge to the British. When the challenge was ignored by the British, the Māori selected a sight where they designed trenches, and tunnels and protection against military artillery and rockets. The British were unaware of the complexity of Gate Pa and the British lost the battle there. Unfortunately for the Maori, they were surprised by an attack by the British in June 1864 and they were slaughtered and lost their land. The loss of the Maori land in Tauranga has been debated for years and it is only in recent times that the Māori are starting to see settlement of their grievances. The treaty known as Waitangi which is celebrated as Waitangi Day on February 6th (this coming Monday) marks the anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi which is regarded as the founding document of the nation of New Zealand. The Treaty was signed at Waitangi, Bay of Islands (the port we missed before Auckland because of bad weather) by representatives acting on behalf of the British Crown and initially about 45 Māori chiefs which then grew to over 500 Māori chiefs and the British Crown. I won’t get into the grievances that have been documented since the signing of the treaty but for Canadians we have our own issues with Indigenous lands and it seems to be a very similarly situation in New Zealand.

The weather was not looking too good at this point, so our guide Jan was adjusting our itinerary on the fly so we would not get wet (hopefully)!

We stopped at a kiwi fruit orchard and while we were going into the orchard we were allowed to get out of the van for some photos.

Kiwi fruit vines are very similar to grape vines in how they grow. Cultivation of the fruit spread from China in the early 20th century when seeds were introduced to New Zealand in 1906, with the vines first fruiting in 1910. A New Zealand horticulturalist developed the well-known green kiwi fruit in 1924 and these were later renamed ‘Hayward’ as a tribute to its creator, Hayward Wright. The fruits were originally called ‘Chinese gooseberries’, but because of the Cold War in the 1950’s, and the connotation with China a meeting of growers in Auckland occurred and someone suggested the name: kiwi fruit’ after its furry brown appearance similar to the flightless New Zealand bird the kiwi. And that is how the odd-looking, tasty fruit got its name.

To harvest kiwi fruit, pickers have to crouch down under the vines in April and May when these kiwi fruit are ripe and pick them. Definitely not an easy job considering I had to crouch down to take these photos.

Kiwis are a major horticultural export for New Zealand valued at over $145 billion NZD annually. There are actually 3 different types of kiwi fruit; green (Hayward) kiwi fruit which taste tangy; gold (Zespri) which are sweet with just a hit of sour flavour; and red (Zespri) which have a sweet, juicy raspberry-twist to the taste. Red Kiwi’s are hard to come by as most of the New Zealand production is exported to China. I’ve never seen a red kiwifruit before until I looked up this photo.

Interesting…we will have to see if we can hunt down some red kiwi fruit on this trip.

After visiting the kiwi farm we headed up into the countryside to visit a beautiful waterfall in McLaren Falls Park.

McLaren Falls Park is a 190 hectare parkland situated alongside Lake McLaren. Camping, kayaking, fishing, swimming and picnicking are all things to do in the day time and in the night, glow worm viewing is the thing to do!

McLaren Falls!

I just love the tree ferns they have in New Zealand. They look like big lacy palm trees!

See what I mean? Lacy tree ferns!

After viewing the falls it was time for ‘a cuppa’ as Jan the guide was calling our stop.

We stopped at ‘The Falls’ coffee shop in McLaren Falls Park for a delicious pot of Earl Grey tea and some wonderful savoury and sweet things.

A very quaint cafe with great local Bay of Plenty magazines with many great recipes!

The ham, cheese and tomato croissant was warmed up for us and it was delicious! We split it.

We also split one of these too and it was moist and delicious! We both love a good home baked good as I love to bake and find it hard to find good baking, when I’m a baker. The goods we had today were as good as the Cumberland Bakery in Cumberland, Vancouver Island, one of our most favourite spots to visit!

The rain had started in earnest while we were enjoying a ‘cuppa’ in the quaint little Falls Cafe. Luckily our guide Jan had a covered spot for us to try some kiwi juice, kiwis and 4 different kinds of honey, that was close to the cafe. This was not Jan’s first rodeo!

Jan setting up the food for us today in the covered, outdoor pavilion area of the park.

We did unsweetened kiwi juice shots! It was quite delicious and apparently it is very nutritious too!

Jan cutting up green Hayward kiwis for us to try today. We were told NOT to eat the skins.

We then tried 4 different kinds of honey. Field honey, a Manuka blend honey, a Mossops Manuka honey with a UMF factor of 5+ and an Intense ginger honey. Manuka honey produced in New Zealand has a UMF or Unique Manuka Factor which identifies natural unadulterated Manuka honey produced in New Zealand that is audited to verify the honey is true to label. Low grade manuka honey is UMF 5-9; Medium Grade UMF is 10-15 and Superior High Grade is 16-25. Manuka honey is produced by bees that pollinate the flowers found on a Manuka bush, a kind of tea tree. Manuka honey has antibacterial, antiviral anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties which come from an active ingredient called Methylglyoxal (MGO). Used to treat wounds, it can speed up the healing process, promoting tissue regeneration and decrease pain for people recovering from burns. I wish I had some Manuka honey when I was coughing my lungs up the past two weeks! Regular old honey was not cutting it for me!

After leaving the park in the pouring rain, our guide Jan was not very hopeful we would be able to get some good photos from some lookouts she had planned for us before we went back to our waiting ships. Our back on board time was 3:30pm so we needed to get going!

By the time we stopped for the first photo stop, the rain had stopped where were and I was able to capture the local countryside we had been driving through on this very twisty, narrow road!

Isn’t New Zealand beautiful? Its so green because of all the rain!

Gorgeous New Zealand countryside in Tauranga today.

And yes we did see sheep and cows today in Tauranga!

I really over edited this photo on purpose to ‘de haze’ it so you could see the two cruise ships to the right of Mount Maunganui today. The Princess ship is the larger ship docked to the left of the smaller Viking Neptune, far in the distance.

Jan let us off downtown Rotarua to walk around before heading back to the ship. We were both very impressed with her as a guide and would highly recommend her through Viators! We had little or no expectations of what we would experience in Rotarua/Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand as we had really never heard of this place before. Sometimes having no expectations is a good thing, because we were really delightfully surprised by our great day!

We would have loved more time in downtown Rotarua. What a hopping spot!

Off the Main Street there was a small alley way with shops and restaurants and live music. The bean bag chairs were being used on a lazy Saturday holiday weekend. All of the shops and restaurants downtown were independently owned. A really ‘high end’ spot, perfect for having a drink and watching the world go by….but we had no time for that today.

A Ford Fairlane; right hand drive too! A classic, downtown Rotarua.

Tomorrow is the big day! Finally my 60th birthday wish will come true, almost two years later. I won’t be blogging tomorrow as we have a huge upcoming adventure, and we are even leaving the ship for a night and catching up with the Neptune the day after tomorrow. Stay tuned for our Bucket list adventure in Napier, New Zealand, which I think will be one of the highlights of the entire World Cruise for us! The weather looks perfect and I am really getting exciting for this out of this ‘out of the world, I still can’t believe we are doing this adventure’!!!!

Peace out!

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