Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Uluru - Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock is most commonly known by its Aboriginal name Uluru. Uluru is one of the great wonders of the world, the world's largest monolith and is a very recognizable icon for Australia. The rock is one of the reasons I wanted to go to Australia. Since all of the pictures I have ever seen of the rock are views from one side, I was shocked to learn the extent of its actual size. I scanned in this drawing from one of the brochures we got so you can get an idea. It rises 377 yards above the ground and has a circumference of 5.5 miles.

Uluru is located in the Northern Territory southwest of Alice Springs. We stayed in Yulara, which is very close to the rock. During our walk around the rock, we look into the Mutitjulu cave where drawings are still visible on the rocks.

You can click on the images for a larger view and then close the image window to return to the blog. The upside down U refers to a person sitting and the circles within a circle represent waterholes.

From a distance the rock looks very smooth, but it has an interesting and varied surface. To me it resembled bark on a tree.

Viewing the rock at sunset is a very popular activity as the rock appears to change colors.

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta Nation Park is of significant cultural and religious significance to the Anangu, the Aboriginal tribal members of the area. We visited the park's cultural center where we watched a tribal member make tools out of natural materials found in the park. What an amazing experience!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Auckland, New Zealand

The ship got into port in Auckland too late for Susan and I to catch a flight home that day, so we booked a tour in the afternoon that took us to the rain forest and one of the black sand beaches.
One of the first stops on the tour was to see this waterfall. Susan walked to the base of the falls to take this picture.

Next we went to the Arataki Visitor Center where we saw these stunning views.

These are the leaves of the Kauri tree. The Kauri is one of the largest trees in New Zealand. It grows between Te Puke and Kawhia. The bark is shed in large flakes to discourage vines and perching plants from clinging on. Both male and female cones are produced on the same tree and following pollination a small winged seed is produced.

Our next stop was to Piha Beach, well known for surfing championships, in fact one was being held while we were there. The sand is black due to the iron concentration, which also makes the sand get very hot, very quickly when the sun shines.

Our guide had a magnet that we could put down in the sand to see the iron concentration.

This rock formation on the beach is called Lion Rock. The surf was high the day we were there and we watched some people taking surfing lessons. To us, they did not look like they were making much progress.

Next we went for a short walk into the rain forest from a national park. The trail we walked on was part of the Hillary Trail. This trunk shows the size of some of the trees that grow in this region. We were told that the largest tree still living is twice the size of this one.

Susan is inside the same trunk taking a picture of me taking a picture of her.

We really enjoyed Auckland and would have liked to spend more time there. The area around the city is just absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Great Barrier Reef

We are home now and getting adjusted to the routine again.  There were plenty of computers on board the Diamond Princess, but Internet access was very slow and sometimes did not work at all or would just stop working in the middle of a project.  As a result, I could not post from every port of call. This happened at the Great Barrier Reef and since this was one of my favorite places I wanted to share a few of the images.  
This is a view from our hotel room at the Sebel in Cairns. Cairns is a popular city for boarding boats that take you to the Great Barrier Reef.  It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the reef from the harbor.

Once we arrived at the reef, we moved onto the platform seen in this picture. All of the equipment for snorkeling, diving, etc. was on the platform as was the buffet lunch.

I had so much fun snorkeling that I could have stayed here for another day. I am with Wally, a Maori Wrasse. The large lump on their head grows with age, the larger the hump, the older the fish. They prefer off-shore reef systems with steep slopes and drop offs, which describes this portion of the reef perfectly. This water was too deep to stand so if you wanted to rest you had to go back to the platform.

This is a parrot fish, one of the most colorful fish in the reef.
It was a surprise when an entire school of fish would just swim into view.
This was such an incredible experience that it is hard to describe.  I would love to do it again. 
We are pretty pleased with the pictures we got from our inexpensive, disposable underwater cameras.  They were much smaller than some of the equipment other people were using.  I would not have wanted to take something very expensive out there, because if you drop it, it is gone!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 22 Tauranga, New Zealand

Today the ship was docked just outside town.  We went on a shore excursion to a Maori Village.  The tribe held a traditional welcoming ceremony where our "chief" had to prove we came in peace.  Then we toured the village and got to ask questions about their way of life. The second picture is of a food storage hut. Notice the carvings in the wood.   They showed us tools they use and how their ancestors lived.  We sampled food cooked in an under ground pit and watched a traditional dancing and signing ceremony.

We took a picture of these very interesting pine trees because we have never seen them before.  Notice the space between the branches and the length of the needles.

Tomorrow we get off the ship in Auckland and the next day we start our journey home.

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20th Akaroa

Today the ship dropped anchor in Akaroa Sound and we used tenders to go ashore.  They had four tenders going at one time, so we never had to wait.  The first picture is of the bay with our ship.  The second picture I took from inside our tour bus as we were coming back from our tour.

We went to a sheep farm where we watched a sheep dog demonstration.  The owner used a whistle to signal which way he wanted the dog to run.  The second picture is after the dog brought the sheep down from the hills. The house was built in 1907 and the owners have restored it to beautiful condition. There are also great gardens as you can tell by the picture of the flower.

The view from the top of the hill is of Christchurch. We did not get to go into town because of the earthquake damage, but at least we got to see what it looks like. The gothic sytle building is a restaurant.

Tomorrow we are at sea.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 19th Dunedin, New Zealand

Today we arrived in Dunedin, New Zealand.  The ship is moored at Port Chalmers, approximately 8 miles from town as it is too large to go into the other port.  Our tour started with a visit to Olvestin House, a 19th century home that has been kept in original condition.  Look at the size of the Fuschia plant growing in the gardens.  We were not allowed to take photos inside the house, but I did buy a postcard.

The next stop was to the botanical gardens which were very pretty.

You can see how hilly the ground is around town. 

Susan got a picture of Baldwin Street, which is the steepest street in the world, even beating out San Francisco.

We also got a brief look at the old railway station. The stained glass window is on the second floor and when you look at the window it looks like the train is coming right at you.

Cadbury is based in Dunedin.  We did not go on a tour, but we took a picture of the factory and our tour guide treated us to a piece of chocolate.

There was a ship next to ours today, the Radiance of the Seas.  When the tugbosts position the ships up to the dock, the paint is disturbed and when we got back to our ship, Susan took this picture of the workers painting over the marks. They don't waste any time.

Tomorrow we use the ships tenders to get to town, which is always an interesting experience.