Monday, February 9, 2015

The Far Side Of The World

Map picture
Map picture

Lisa and I have travelled almost 8,000 miles from Kansas City, and in the process, we now find ourselves having crossed the equator to “Down Under” as it is stated, but also to “The Far Side of The World.”

New Zealand is now experiencing weather which is quite the opposite of what we normally have at home. The temperatures here are quite moderate with morning lows in the mid-60sF, while the daytime highs hover around 78F. Our passage this voyage is mostly to the North, so while we are now in what is known as “the temperate zone,” we will eventually make our way to the “sub-tropical zone,” and finally to the “tropical zone” around the equator. In fact, we will cross the equator before our cruise ends at Koror, Palau. This is but one reason that packing for this trip was such a challenge.

Today we are “at sea” where the weather is absolutely gorgeous. The winds are light and there are just a few scattered clouds in an otherwise sunny sky. So “why?” am I asking myself, is the ship rolling from side to side as if we were in heavy seas? Apparently the ship is much smaller than the Silver Explorer, our previous “expedition ship.” This coupled with its flat bottom design causes it to be a bit more unstable, and even with the stabilizers deployed, rolling is apparently a way of life. I have taken to using a walking stick to get around and holding on to the walls; in part because of my injury, but equally because the ship is really that unstable. I can only dread what it must be like in bad weather, and I hope we do not find out.

Yesterday the ship anchored in the northern most part of New Zealand in a picturesque area known as the Bay of Islands. This is culturally an historic site for New Zealanders. A scant 400 nm north of our location and accessible by an easy walk uphill was the National Landmark of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It was on this location in 1840 that the English and the local Maori Tribes signed an historic treaty which the New Zealanders celebrate as the founding of their country. Unfortunately there are nine different versions of the Treaty in existence, and they differ widely in their content. The Maori contend that they never agreed to cede their land to the English, and in fact, a recent International Tribunal has concluded that the Maori are correct. So where this debate goes is anyone’s guess, but it is an interesting piece of history. Some 3km south of our anchorage was the historic old town of Paihia. It was here that the English first settled in this area, and today it is a popular tourist site.

However, our outing was to take us to neither of these locations. Instead SilverSea had arranged for us to use the Zodiacs to go ashore where we were met by a local Maori Chieftain. DSC01772After some introductions to the Maori culture, we were given instruction in how to paddle a Maori War Canoe, and before long we set out paddling up the Waitangi River.DSC01777 Now I do have two things to share of a personal nature. Our greetings and preparation took so long that in the process Lisa’s back gave out and she had to abandon our adventure and with assistance made her way back to the ship. As for myself, I foolishly decided to move forward, but I could hardly walk on my bum leg, much less walk into the water and climb into a war canoe. Believe it or not, the crew acted as if this was no big deal, and with a great deal of compassion, and some strong people, I found myself seated safely in the canoe.

Our journey upriver lasted almost an hour before we turned into an historic Marae, or an ancient family home; this plot of land was the home of his Elders. DSC01801There we went through the traditional Maori greeting ceremony, and we were met by the Head Maori Chief of that area; he was, in fact, the direct descendent of the Maori Chief who signed the Treaty of Waitangi. While it turns out that much of the ceremony was in their language, when the chief spoke to us, it was in English. He was a strong and very articulate speaker who was both motivating and entertaining. In fact, he actually reminded me somewhat of Sean Connery. The Chief wore almost no clothing, but instead was covered from head to foot in the traditional Maori tattoos which are in reality a part of their formal written language. He was also accompanied by his wife and son, and this plot of land was the home of his elders. DSC01810I don’t have time to try to share the experience, but suffice it to say that everyone was somewhat sad to find that it was time to return to the ship. One point worth making is to make clear that while we were met and entertained in the traditional Maori manner, these people live very modern lives. Just above the compound were their modern homes and cars, so to some extent this was a form of entertainment; however it is an event on which they place great importance as a way of maintaining their traditional values.

Thus our last morning in New Zealand ended as we returned to ship which then immediately departed for our 500 mile journey north to Norfolk Island. So that is why we find ourselves with a day at sea, and perhaps before we reach Norfolk Island tomorrow morning, I can learn more about what makes that an interesting destination.


No comments: