Thursday, 12 February 2009

Day Thirty Three: Memories

It has been a funny old day really and one that has brought back some surprising memories for both me and Hilary. She was up bright and bustling around 5.30am I think – for I was still in the land of nod – watching our arrival into Tauranga New Zealand, not a pretty port for we docked in one of the commercial berths that are mainly used by container ships taking Kiwi fruit all over the world. And it was raining too, not drizzly rain but good old coming down reasonably heavily from the sky sort of stuff and you will see this reflected in some of the photos that we took during the day. Tauranga is as far south as we are going on this voyage and is some 37degrees and 38 minutes south of the equator, we actually entered in the Mount Maunganui area of the city and for those of you who know my business career I last visited here in February 1971. Just to recap on that I flew from London to Los Angeles on February 14th of that year, stayed overnight in Los Angeles and then boarded an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland via Papeete in Tahiti. The purpose of the visit was to have discussions with a small company that was in the process of being purchased by Ranco Australia but when I arrived on the Sunday I was informed by the two people I was working with that the takeover of Turner Controls as it was called would not be completed until the following Thursday, so “Sam please make yourself scarce until then mate. We suggest that you hire a car and take your time driving down to Tauranga and we will see you on Thursday at the factory.” And that was exactly what I did, spending one day in Auckland, then driving down to Hamilton, on to Otorohonga where Hilary’s cousin Tony lived, on to the bubbling mud town of Rotorua and from there to Mount Maunganui.

So by arriving in this port and then being driven on our tour bus to Rotorua and back meant that I travelled on the same roads that I had been on in 1971 and that Lilian had been on when she also visited this area on her world trip in 1967. That’s why I titled this “Memories” as it really did bring it all back to me and when Hilary kept saying “Wow, I can’t believe this, we are really in New Zealand,” it just confirmed all our recollections of what Lilian had talked about all those years ago. We saw the houses with the corrugated iron roofs, those houses also have oranges and grapefruits growing in their gardens and we know how much she liked going out each morning to pick her breakfast grapefruit. We saw the logging lorries on the roads just as when I cursed about them because I couldn’t overtake and as we reached the Rotorua area we smelt the sulphur in the air and saw the puffs of steam coming from the bushes by the side of the road. Pure nostalgia for both of us and for slightly different reasons.

It was a very early start to the day for Hilary and only an early start for me but we both had to be ready to go to the theatre to be allocated our bus at 8.15am and as I said it was raining. We made a cursory photo stop on the top deck just to get the “Welcome to Tauranga” sign on top of the loading sheds, then it was a quick breakfast which despite a small drizzle we had outside Al Fresco. The organization at the theatre was good this time and shows that the tour team can get it right when they try and we were allocated to Bus 3 driven by a Maori (or at least a descendant) called Frank. The first part of our drive was around 1½ hours and took us to the Rotorua area containing an active geyser which erupts at 10.15am every day, at least that is what is promised in the brochure. In practice they force the eruption at that time by putting in a cup full of detergent which lowers the surface tension of the water in the geyser and causes the steam to come up anywhere between 1 and 10 minutes later. We didn’t have to wait long before the eruption came and this was recorded to the sounds of hundreds of shutters being clicked and an equal number of camcorder drives being started up. With that event over we were then allowed to wander around the bubbling mud area and see the coloured lakes that are formed by a combination of steam, sulphur and numerous other chemicals.

Another short drive while Frank explained to us the importance of the Kiwi Fruit to this area of New Zealand as this accounts for 40% of the business in the Mount Mauganui area. The Chinese Gooseberry as it was once known was brought over by two little old ladies before World War II but it took a lot of development to get an edible reasonably sized fruit and then from the 1950’s onwards it gradually became bigger and bigger business and now in the Mount Maunganui area there are few cattle and sheep farmers as they have all turned over their fields to grow Kiwis. Our next stop was for lunch at the Skyway Hotel and to get there we had to take a cable car ride very similar to the one that we were on in Madeira except that this time it was raining and the views were very limited, however by the time we reached the top the sun was out and lunch was waiting. It was a buffet and we were very lucky to be in the first coach to reach the restaurant, we had virtually no wait and we were soon queuing up for our salad, prawns, trout and vegetables. This was followed by a selection of desserts including Pavlova! We both had that of course and in my case some carrot cake as well. The conclusion of the meal was a performance by Maori dancers and singers which included a song by Kiti Te Kinewa, who was born in this area, and then it was time to head off just across the road to the Rainbow Centre.

This was a short walking tour that showed us some of the indigenous but endangered species of animals in New Zealand; we saw parrots, ducks, geckos and finally the very shy Kiwi bird itself. In the case of the latter this was a very brief glimpse as it is a very shy creature and although in near darkness it still managed to detect the presence of lots of humans and so promptly hid itself away. And that was pretty much the end of our day, Frank loaded us all back on the coach for the drive back and we arrived at the ship around 5.15pm, too late to post our cards so they will not go until tomorrow when we have a free day in Auckland. We have yet to decide what to do as we have not booked a tour but our general thoughts are to catch a water taxi across the harbour to an area called Devonport! That’s it for me, enjoy the photos and we look forward to your comments.

Tiz I. What a fantastic day. I was up at 3.30am to check the view, I wanted to make sure that we were not passing islands or anything else. Then back to bed until 5.0am when I saw a mountain outside the window. A quick drag on of assorted clothes (sorry Jess nothing matched) and I headed to the outside deck to check out what was out there! We were inside the harbour and heading straight for the harbour wall by the cargo wharf. It was raining quite hard so after getting quite wet I decided to go back to the cabin and get the umbrella. Back to the deck we were even closer to the harbour wall – now I had to stay out there to see how they planned to turn the ship and avoid the small boats moored close by. Fascinating, somehow (probably years of experience on behalf of the pilot) we safely moored beside the harbour wall close but not touching the small boats and when I looked at my watch we had arrived 45 minutes early. I went back to the cabin dripping wet – but I did have dry hair – The weather was wet and windy but mild and it was still dark. As far as I was concerned the day had started and it had been pretty good up to this point. I jumped into the shower and took the wet clothes with me – there was nowhere to put dripping wet clothes in the cabin so they may as well get washed in the bath while I showered! As Sam has said already the day continued to be really super. I couldn’t believe that I was actually in New Zealand and treading the same streets and tourist areas that Mum had all those years ago. It was quite emotional and when they served pavlova with cream from the local dairy I had to have some and think of Mum eating Gaynor’s pavlova. I wish I could stay longer – next time you will all have come with me, I know you would love it. Now it is almost 10.00pm and I am weary but very happy. Take care, God bless.


Liz said...

Hi there,

Great pickies of the geysers, it sounds like you had a great first day in NZ. I hope you have another good one in Auckland. I'm glad you were aware of mum during the day, I bet she was with you every step of the way. I do quite envy you being there, as you say, next time we will all have to go together. Roll on winning the lottery!

I'm intrigued to know if Kiwi fruit tastes different when it is freshly gathered. See if you can taste one and let me know.

Only two weeks to go now before I finish at the clinic. Woohoo, can't wait!!

Take care of each other and have fun. Love Liz xx

Sharon and Georgia said...

Hi Aunty Hilary and Uncle Sam,

What a wonderful day you both had. I was quite emotional thinking of you following in Grandma's footsteps. I am sad that you didn't have longer to enjoy.

Thank you for your postcards. we enjoy receiving them and Georgia is excited to know she has a genuine Hawaiian shell lai and grass skirt (excuse spelling?)coming home with you.

Georgia wishes to write something now. So, over to her...
Hi Aunty tiz I and uncle Sam love you lots love from Georgia.xxxxxx

Georgia also says whenever she eats kiwi fruit now she will always think of you both!

Sam, have seen the pictures of you enjoying the snow festival in China. Extraordinary! What a great time!

Wishing you a wonderful time in Auckland and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy...Lots of Love to you both from us both xx

samw7 said...

Hi There
I know New Zealand was one of the places you were both so looking forward to visiting and am so glad that it has gotten off to such a good start. Dad - I remember you coming home from your trip and telling us about the smelly bubbling mud. I have always wanted to experience it. As you both said, next time!
Jess and I had a quiet day. She is teaching me how to upload photographs to Flickr and today I am going to learn more about how to use Facebook.Last night we had a nother great meal at David's pizza restaurant where the vegetarian pizza is called chicken fingers...his cousin who is not as fluent in English put together the menu!!
Love to you both. Off to Nanchang this eveningnd so will be out of contact for a few days as I'll be travelling back.
Love to you both. Sam