We sailed over night and woke up at the second port, Tauranga. We'd booked a tour where were to see the following - Te Puia Thermal Reserve, Maori Arts & Agrodome.
OMG WHAT CAN I SAY ABOUT THIS DAY, AND WHERE DO I START? I'd booked an excursion for the three of us there were only three wheelchair accessible excursions available. I remember saying to Mum that they'd be corny and touristy, however to just do it as it'd be easier. I had been told that I needed a manual wheelchair for all the excursions because the vehicle we would be in was unable to take the weight of the electric chair. It weighs 168 kg! So I bought a cheap chair online as I knew I'd never use it again. I got into the manual chair in my cabin that morning and off we went. I knew it'd be a difficult day as I would be losing my freedom to be able to zoom around and take photos when I wanted to, as well as It'd be difficult for Mum and my carer to be pushing me around. Plus I'd be grumpy because I'm not used to having to give up my independence and rely on someone else. I can't use my arms as I have problems with them and my hands due to the disease. Plus I need to protect them because I rely on them so much.
We arrived at the designated area on the ship where we'd been told to meet at in order to go down the ramp. I wish I'd been able to take a photo as it was unbelievable. There were two ramps I had to go onto in order to get off the ship. The first one was from the ship just to get onto the ramp that took me to the ground. That was about half a metre long, and at a gradient of about 30 degrees. There were three men from the ship allocated to assist the people that needed help going down. Two were in front of me, and one behind me. As I was balancing on the tip if the two ramp, I looked down at the long ramp to the ground, I remember just laughing, as it was total insanity, and if in Australia, this would never happen. However when overseas, all you can do is go with the flow. The long ramp was at least 20 metres long, and at a gradient of about 50 degrees! I went down this ramp with the two men in front, and one behind me! I'm sure that Mum was almost having a heart attack behind me as if it was not for my nature to see the funny side of things, I would have been joining her!
I got down to the bottom, safely on the ground, and felt so sorry for these three guys, as it was just madness. Anyhow we moved on and was introduced to this lovely lady Kate, who was our tour guide for the day. I spotted that we were going in a van just like the maxi taxi's I use in Melbourne, and asked her if her van could take electric chairs. Her reply was YES!! I asked why I couldn't come in mine, to which she replied "I could have". Mmmmmmm......I started to fume a little as this was the beginning of the day. I decided that it was to late and just to get on with the day with a positive attitude. The three of us were in the van together with Kate, it was wonderful as she was so knowledgable and lovely, plus it was easy for Mum and Peta to see out of the windows. I couldn't see much as the wheelchair is to high once strapped in, so if I wanted to see something, I had to lean forward and have a quick look. Consequently I didn't see much other than heaps of green grass and water. So for 90 minutes to the first main stop, I had a wonderful sleep.
We first stopped at an Agrodome, an educational sheep and beef farm where we were hurried into a barn for an hour long show that featured sheep and dogs in action, a sheep shearing demonstration and displays featuring 19 breeds of sheep. Before the show started Mum and I managed to look at the cute babies that were waiting to be used in the show later, (photos below). I know, it's not as though we hadn't seen that before, however it's wonderful to see other people from countries such as Asia or South America's reactions. Mum had a lot of trouble understanding the guy's accent for an hour. I just loved watching the 19 sheep as they were hilarious. They brought one breed out at a time. Each sheep had a certain spot to stand on, with a feeding bowl in front of them. Then the next breed was brought out and locked into place so as not to run amuck. The sheep would then not only eat the food in front of them that was in the bowl, they'd lean over the one on either side and eat their food. It was hilarious!. The next step for them was to scratch and rub their necks on the pole that held the food. They were gorgeous, and each one had such a personality. After eating and standing around, they all started to get sleepy and eventually fall asleep. You'll see that in the pictures below. After explaining all 19 sheep breeds, and sheering a sheep, there was a show with the dogs. The show was about how the dogs round up the sheep, however they couldn't use sheep as that's be pure madness, they used three ducks. They were so funny as it looked as though they were chasing the dog! (Photos below).
After that we were hurried back into the van and off through some pretty towns, where Kate showed us some beautiful buildings that are still affected by the aftermath of earthquakes and were being restored. Eventually we arrived at the Tamaki Maori Village, basically a gold mine for printing money as an absolute take (so I thought). We were rushed off to have a traditional Maori lunch called a Hāngī This is food that used to be traditionally wrapped in flax leaves, but a modern Hāngī is more likely to substitute foliage with cloth sacks, aluminium foil and wire baskets. The baskets are placed on hot stones at the bottom of the hole. The food is covered with wet cloth and a mound of earth that traps the heat from the stones around the food. The Hāngī food is left in the ground for about three to four hours, depending on the quantity being cooked, (picture below). This is what I expected to see and for us to be doing. But oh no, I reckon it was done in the oven! I was disappointed. We were all herded into a room set up just for cruise ship tourist groups. There was a buffet style set up with Hāngī food and salad. I was so disappointed, plus I wanted cooked vegetables and wasn't to keen on buffets, as there was a greater chance of getting ill. So there wasn't much to eat for me. Everyone else loved it.
After lunch there was a Maori chief and a nominated man from the group ceremony welcoming him and us to their land, then into a cute hall for some Maori singing and dancing. It was overly warm in there for me, as well as lovely with the singing, so I fell asleep again. Much has to do with the NMO disease as fatigue is such a big part of it, and I had been super busy for months before hand. We were then taken out to a little bus, like the one you see at the zoo for example that ferries people around. This was to take us around to the spouting Pohutu geyser and silica terraces, pools of boiling mud and steams vents. This one thing I was so excited about seeing on the trip. I asked the guide how we were going to get in there and he said "just to stand up and climb in". I advised him I was paraplegic and that wouldn't be possible. The other guy in a wheelchair was quadriplegic and another lady had knee problems so was all unable to do so. That idea was scrapped. The guide then wheeled me over to the lookout point, so the photos I took are really nothing other than steam. Then I got placed in this huge shed which was more food and people, and chatted to the person with the sore knee for an hour. Mum went for a walk to the geyser and waited 20 minutes for it to blow, but nothing happened. What a waste of time, however a lovely day with Kate and Mum. After that we got in the van to head back to the ship, and I slept most of the way back to the ship. We drove through Rotorua on the way back to the ship which was interesting to see all the steam and smell the sulphur. Rotarua has the nickname Sulphur City, because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions which gives it a name "rotten tomatoes". The especially pungent smell in the central east 'Te Ngae" is due to dense sulphur deposits. On the way back to the ship we drove through an area where there were fantastic huge Redwood trees. It wasn't on the agenda so we weren't able to stop and get out to have a look at these precious and magnificent trees.
When we arrived back at the ship, after saying goodbye to Kate, we did the reverse procedure of going up the gang plank with the wheelchair. Once we got onto the ship we had to show our ID tags and have our bags go through a scanner and searched. The minute I got into the cabin I got into my wheelchair and sped off for some freedom and independence, It was fantastic! Oh what a day for all.
It's amazing that I had given the head office all my wheelchair equipment information on the 25/07/17, and that by 15/01/18 they hadn't relayed any of that information to the excursion office on the ship! This is just one example of why we called the cruise the "faulty Towers Cruise".
It was a difficult day but fabulous to see some of the countryside in that area, and learn some new things. Click on the links below to see the Tauranga photos.
Again we cruised over night and arrived at our next port, GISBORNE. This was a port where the ship was unable to pull right into, so it set anchor in the bay. The orange boats on the side of the boat are called tenders, and some are lowered into the water to use to transfer passengers to and from the ship to the little town. This I spent the day on the ship. I had looked at the itinerary before we left, and booked in for a facial the day we were at Gisborne. Mum was going ashore and on an excursion for the day, so it was a great time just to relax. The ship was very quiet which was magnificent.
I landed up spending much time on deck as it was a beautiful day, filming the the water, the shore and the tenders.
Enjoy the photos. :)
In a wheelchair permanently since early 2010 due to a disease called NMO. I am loving getting out and about in my wheels. My blogs capture my journey.