Mon., Jan. 18th

I’ve written this same post about 3 times now.  Just when I get it finished, I click on “publish” and away it goes out into space.  So now I’m writing it in my word processing program, hoping I’ll be able to copy it to the blog.  The internet connection on this ship is not good.  Especially when we’re out to sea.  In port it’s pretty good, but the trouble with that is we’re never just sitting around here in the room when we’re in port–we’re off on excursions.

Yesterday we rode in a bus (along with a million other people from the boat) over to the Rotorua area (last stop on the North Island).  We stopped at Wai-O-Tapu, a geothermal hot springs area something like Yellowstone Park, except without all the bears, moose, bison, pretty much without any animals except a few birds here & there.  It was really pretty, though, & we got lots of good pics.  (I tried to load them on the blog, but they all disappeared off into space too.)

After that, we drove over to Mt. Ngongotaha (a large hill, actually) where we rode a nice 6-passenger gondola up near the top, where there was a pretty big restaurant/convention building.  We were served a buffet lunch and entertained by a group of 6 Maori people singing & dancing.  Their dances are a lot like Hawaiian dances.  They all derived from the same Polynesian ancestors.

Everywhere we go there are photographers forcing you to be photographed just so that, by the time you’re done with whatever the activity is for that particular place, they can sell you the photos framed in nice tourist packages that tell you all about what you just saw and did.  Every time it happens we are adamant that, no matter what the photo looks like, we are NOT going to buy it.  So far we’ve bought three.  The last time, we finally got smart & refused to be photographed.

After the Maori entertainment, we drove over to Rainbow Springs, a nearby area that had a bird aviary, a rainbow trout fish hatchery (the fish in the streams were enormous–almost as big as my leg), and a building where they care for kiwi bird eggs and chicks.  The kiwi is about the size of a football on legs with a long, curving bill.  It is also nocturnal.  They wouldn’t allow us to go into the chick area, but we did get to try to see a couple adults in a darkened glassed-in pen.  We could barely see one hovering around near the back of the pen.  The kiwis are almost extinct in the wild because of the introduced possums & rats (I think the possums were introduced by Europeans, & the rats were brought over by the Polynesians), which eat the eggs and the chicks.

We walked along a meandering path with a tour guide, who told us all about the other birds they had in large caged pens (I got lots of pics), the fish, the trees (some huge redwoods & other native NZ trees), silver ferns, etc.  It was very interesting, & the guide was a cute & informative Maori girl.

Today we have been at sea all day.  Finally, I have had time to lounge around & read my book.  It’s Beautiful Boy by David Sheff.  He’s a father writing about his roller coaster of a life with his drug-addicted son, who has been addicted to meth for 6 years.  It’s really hard to put it down, but it’s sad because the kid keeps relapsing.  I’m not finished yet, though, so hopefully it has a good ending.

Tomorrow we make our first stop on the South Island at Christchurch.  We get to see the International Antarctic Center.  No more lounging for the next few days!