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February 18, 2016 / cmfletcher

Pearl Harbor

Seeing Pearl Harbor was one of the main reasons we came to Honolulu. We were so disappointed, then, to discover that we were too late to book a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial (the white building above) which is erected above the still sunken ship. To see it you need to get a ticket. We certainly weren’t going to get up at 5 am to be out at the national park to try to get day tickets when the window opens at 6 am, and the commercial operators’ day tours were sold out. So, we decided that seeing the harbor itself and the visitors center was still worth a trip.

Not for us the air-conditioned tour bus, no sir! We are on THEBUS -that’s what the Honolulu buses are called. So off we go, packed like sardines, but we finally, 1 hr and 20 minutes later, get to the memorial park; and along the way we see lots of Honolulu and lots of residents who are riding the bus. (It costs $2.50 a ticket).

No entry with a bag or back pack, so off to that building before we enter. We get in and the first sight we see is a big sign saying that all trips out to the USS Arizona memorial are cancelled due to high wind. Irony.

217Tree of life

Tree of Life sculpture

The park itself is very well laid out and free. There are lots of explanatory signs, videos from Americans and Japanese with their memories of the day. The internment of the Japanese in the US was covered. The only quibble I had was that there was NO mention of British war efforts in the Pacific. Really?? We can’t mention our allies?? Ah well.

It will be the 75th anniversary this December 7th. Hard to believe.

217Spot Princess yacht

Princess yachts have dark blue hulls.

On our way home we walked around Waikiki and looked at the boats in the harbor — we play spot the Princess yacht — we found one!

Here’s why people come here — the beautiful sunsets and general wonderfulness of Hawaii! We loved our time here in Honolulu and are looking forward to the other places we will be visiting. Also getting sad to realize that the trip is almost over!

February 17, 2016 / cmfletcher

Kia Ora / Aloha

We are very confused; crossing the International Date Line is like being in the movie Groundhog Day. It’s déjà vu all over again. We left Auckland at 11 am Tuesday Feb 16th, and arrived in Hon0lulu at 9:30 pm on Monday February 15. So today was Feb. 16 all over again. We left the Maori (kia ora) and landed with the Hawaiians (aloha).

After a big flight, we try to have a relaxed day. We only saw a bit of the hotel grounds when we arrived from the airport around 11 pm, so we had a bit of trouble finding the breakfast place in our hotel tower (there seem to be at least 5 towers in the resort, Hilton Hawaiian Village, it’s huge). We decided to travel to downtown Honolulu today and Pearl Harbor tomorrow; leaving plenty of time for the beach or just relaxing.

The Iolani palace had electric light before the White House in Washington did! The Hawaiian kings, like King Kamehameha I and Lunalilo for example, sound like a very good thing; they supported the Christian missionaries, but that didn’t prevent takeovers by the colonizers. The flag is the only state  flag which incorporates the Union Jack, recognizing Hawaii’s time as a part of the British Empire.

Kawaiahao Church and the Mission house museum are close by and celebrate the coming of Christianity to the islands.

216waikiki beachWe had time in the afternoon to try out the beach, it is lovely. Very shallow, here which makes it very good for families. There is also a lagoon, which means no worries about waves knocking over little ones.

Downtown, we got caught in a tropical rain shower — 15 minutes of rain followed by bright sun. Lesson learned, always carry an umbrella. Did I remember when we went to dinner? No, of course not. Luckily the rain had stopped when we had to walk back to our room.



February 14, 2016 / cmfletcher

Day of wine and roses

Today was our last wine tour in New Zealand, and for this trip. This area is called the Central Otago region and is famous for Pinot Noir. We had a good group, couples form England, Canada, California and ourselves. Our guide’s full time job is selling for the wineries, so he really knew his stuff.

We started at the Peregrine Winery, the winery was an old sheep station and the buildings have been transformed. The cellar door (tasting room) has a roof that is reminscent of the flight of the Peregrine Falcon, a native NZ bird. The vineyard owner is active in charities protecting NZ wildlife.

We went up to the Carrick Winery for lunch and a glass of their wine which was excellent and then on to the Domain Road winery, a very small family operation. The tasting guide told us that the roses are planted at the end of the rows to alert the keepers of the vineyard of any plant diseases that might affect the vines. The roses will show the signs first, to give warning.

We finished the day at the Waitiri Creek winery which has its tasting room in a repurposed Presbyterian church. The owner asked us to toast news that her first grandchild was on the way! Hooray!

214Roaring Meg.jpg

Roaring Meg –  Korotio

On our way back to town we stopped at the Kawarau River Gorge where there is a hydroelectric plant named Roaring Meg — in Maori Korotio So Fletcher got me back for Grumpy Old Man (Korotiotio)! The dead trees you see in the background were purposely killed as they are not a native species and disrupt the ecosystem for the native plants.

Great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

February 13, 2016 / cmfletcher


213View frm apartment

Lake Wakatipu from our apartment

Today was another traveling day, from the west coast through the Southern Alps to the town of Queensland, the adventure capital of New Zealand. This is where bungee jumping was invented, and since that is too tame, they now have a canyon swing that is unbelievable, and other ways of trying to get your adrenaline pumping. Being boring old fogies we booked a wine tour.

213tree hugging

Tree hugging is serious here!

Most of the accommodation in town seems to be apartment rentals, rather than straight hotel rooms. This, of course, excludes the numerous backpacker hostels.

213Sunset over Lake wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu at sunset

Lake Wakatipu is just beautiful, as the view from our hotel shows. New Zealand is an amazingly unspoiled land with incredible mountain vistas, clear lakes, pastoral landscapes and great forests. The tourist dilemma comes back: I love seeing this, but I don’t want too many people to come here. Yet New Zealand needs the tourists for their economy. And everything that involves getting people to spend money is now in English and Chinese. When I get back to Benedictine University, I want to talk to the Chinese language instructors about getting our students placed over here.

We went to the Vigil Mass at the local parish, great experience. It is one of those things that turns a tour into a real visit to a town or area. The pastor gave a good homily on the temptations of Christ, lots to think about.

I can’t believe our visit to New Zealand is almost done. I am so glad we came here.

February 12, 2016 / cmfletcher

Ice, ice, baby

Today we were in Franz Josef and wanted to see the glacier. We booked a helicopter flight for 10 am, turned up and found that the company had booked us for the wrong day. But they had an opening for the 12:30 flight so we were set.

I had no problems with the helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, but today I was a quaking mess. I think the news about a helicopter crash on these mountains about a month ago had something to do with it, and sheer bloody panic explained the rest. I finally told myself that we had spent a bunch of money to do this, so just say an act of contrition and enjoy the rest of the flight. It worked. I even stopped clutching the seat.

I had no idea what to expect, and when you are flying you can’t really judge. We chose the trip that circled the Franz Josef and Fox Valley glaciers and then flew around Mt. Cook. It had been very cloudy in town so we were afraid we weren’t going to see anything, but we actually flew above the cloud line.

The trip to these mountains takes you to the divide of NZ: you can see both the east and west coasts.

The pilot told us that the crevasses were visible now, but in winter they are often filled with new snow and can trap glacier hikers.

As we were flying over the blocks of snow/ice he told us they were the equivalent of a 3 story building. Nothing made sense until we flew past the climbers cabin, a full size house that appears as the red dot on the photo above. AHA!  Suddenly I realized the ‘moss’ on the rocks we were flying over was actually full sized trees.

It was so much fun. Afterwards we had lunch and drove to the path to view the glacier from below. There are warning signs about how conditions may change, and a leaflet that has an idiot’s Q&A:  Q: “But I came all this way to touch a glacier” A: “Ask the families of the people who have died if it was worth going beyond the safety barriers.” They don’t really do risk management in NZ. They say this is dangerous, here’s how to keep safe and let nature take its course. Our favorite sign was the river flooding one.

We walked most of the way that was open, then I dropped out and Peter continued to get some better photos. It was really exhilarating to see the river, and the waterfalls and the glacier. And of course the beta-endorphins from a nice long walk. Altogether one of the best days of the trip!

February 11, 2016 / cmfletcher

The Coast Road

We left Nelson this morning to follow the coast road down the western coast of New Zealand. I know we are only seeing a bit of the country, but by driving instead of flying or cruising, we are actually seeing the landscape.

We came through the mountains to get to the coast and made for Punakaiki. This is the site of the pancake rocks — they are sandstone which have ridges that look like pancakes. The sea erodes them into fantastic shapes, and hollows out caves and inlets. There is a walk to get out to see them, and it was so worth it.

The spray comes from the surf crashing into the rocks, filling caves, inlets and surge pools and then the pressure blows the water high like a geyser. It was exciting, and we did get sprayed. OK for humans, not so much for cameras.

That was about half way to our goal for the day Franz Josef Glacier, in the southern Alps. On the drive down you see Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. 211MtCook

It is a funny town, primarily backpackers but also lots of oldies like us who are enjoying the scenery and masses of Chinese on vacation.



February 10, 2016 / cmfletcher

Weird Ash Wednesday

We had made a command decision before we left that Lent wouldn’t begin until we get home. It still felt a little weird to be somewhere where no one paid any attention to the day, and no one had ashes on their head.

So we went whole hog and did a wine tour of this region. It was run by one guy, CJ, who took us to local small vineyards where he knew the owners and may have worked in the vineyard. CJ was a native Kiwi, and clearly loved his home. One of the best sights was a rugby ball made out of grape vines in celebration of the 2011 world cup of Rugby, won by New Zealand’s All Blacks. The vineyard had actually named one of their Chardonay’s Big Balls Chardonay, but had decided to discontinue that label.

The day was a lot of fun, we had two Australians from the gold mining community in the west of Australia, one Canadian, two ex-pat Brits who now live in Sydney and their parents who still live in the UK. With us it made a good group.

We started at the lookout over the Tasmen Bay — beautiful. The weather was georgeous and altogether a fun day.