After leaving the Fjords yesterday, we headed south, rounded the bottom of the south island, and headed back up the east coast towards Dunedin. We never made it there. A dense fog blanketed the harbor, and visibility was close to zero. The port was closed. We sat at anchor from 8 am until 2 pm, before the Captain declared that our “docking window” had passed. We crept away without seeing a thing. We are very familiar with this type of fog that can linger for days, from life on the ocean in Maine. It happens frequently in the Fall, when colder air passes over warmer water. Dunedin is almost the same latitude as Portland, just on the other end of the world, and, it’s early Fall here now and subject to the same conditions.
I did pout for the rest of the day, but in reality, we have been really blessed on this voyage so far. Very often, ships cannot dock due to a a variety of weather conditions, and this is the first time for us. I just wish it had been some blistering hot tropical island we missed… not cool, green, gorgeous, New Zealand. it is so very far from home, and it is unlikely that we will visit again anytime soon. Sigh.
Dunedin has a population of 130,000 and was founded by Scottish settlers in 1848. It is the second largest city on the south island, after Christ Church. In December 2014, Dunedin was designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Literature. It is home to the first university in New Zealand, the University of Otago, established in 1869.
Here’s the silver lining… the $330 we saved by not going on the shore excursion has been properly reallocated into “Cynthia’s Jewelry Fund”.
This morning we successfully anchored in the harbor at Akaora, just up the coast from Dunedin, on the south island. We had the option of going to Christ Church to see the destruction from the two massive earthquakes that hit the city in 2010 and 2011, but decided not to. The 4 hour round trip bus ride was part of the reason. We were curious, like everyone else, but it’s like going to see a train wreck. I have seen the pictures. Most of the historic buildings were destroyed, and the recovery has been very slow.
Because Dunedin was a total loss, this is our only landing on the south island, and we wanted to soak in the countryside and visit the legendary “Giant’s House”. The little town of Akaora is adorable too. It is the only French settlement in New Zealand. Back on 1838, a French whaling captain acquired the peninsula in a dubious land deal from the residing Maori tribe before returning to France to set up a trading company and bring the first settlers over. They returned a month to late.
The British had just signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori Chiefs, to claim it on behalf of the British Crown. The 300 French immigrants produced the paperwork that proved they owned the land, and refused to leave. Given the circumstances, the Brits reluctantly let them stay. The Maori shyster who signed the deal could not be found.
The permanent population of Akaora is only 632 people. The town is built on the side of an ancient volcano. It is a popular “second home” and summer destination for the city slickers of Christ Church. Both French and English are spoken here.
The Giant’s House was built in 1880 on a steep hill above the rest of the town by the first bank manager in Akaora. Soon after it was built, a little girl who lived far below was heard to exclaim “It’s so big, a giant must live there!” The name stuck.
In 1996, Josie Martin, (Painter, Sculptor, Mixed Media Artist), bought the home and turned it into a work of art, inside and out. We met Josie, who is quietly effervescent, and refuses to have her picture taken,. We toured the inside of the house, where no photos are allowed. Josie matched her artwork with vibrant blue hair, jeweled shoes, and a neon dress that made us squint. Her artwork is awesome. She created everything you see in the photos below. Many of the mosaic chips and china fragments in her sculptures were obtained during the Christ Church clean up after the earthquakes. I LOVE that once treasured shattered pottery and glassware now has a new home in her garden spreading joy. It is a really happy place. We spent two hours here. I could have spent all day.
Next, we stopped by a delightfully old fashioned, musty museum, that focused on Maori history. Of particular interest was the exhibit on tattoos. Maoris did not have a written language, and the facial tattoos of the men told who they were, and where they came from. Each one was completely unique. For women, it did the same, but they were only permitted to tattoo their chin and lips. Written language did not start until the missionaries showed up in the 1800’s. Here are a couple of examples…
Next, we took a drive in the countryside. Here are some of the views we savored.
Next stop, Wellington, New Zealand.