Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day 5 - Tauranga, New Zealand

Today we docked in Tauranga.  This is the largest port in New Zealand.  They export lots of pine timber and kiwi fruit from here.
We had the morning free so we took our time and had breakfast in the restaurant instead of the buffet.  An envelope offering a couple of new tours was on our door this morning. We found a couple that we liked better  than what we originally signed up for, so we when down to the tour desk and switched to the new ones.  Regent includes almost all tours in the base price, so there are no money concerns switching from one tour to another.

After getting a salad for lunch at the pool grill, we gathered our cameras and went our on the pier to meet our 12:15 tour group.   The tour bus first took us along the shore road so we could see the miles and miles of beautiful beach.  Our guide said this is the most popular beach in New Zealand.  From there we drove up to the Mills Reef Winery for a wine tasting.   This winery is sort of like the one in Leonardtown, MD.  It doesn't have it's own vineyards, instead it takes in grapes from Hawkes Bay and other vineyards on North Island for processing.  The big difference is that, in addition to the winery, it is also a restaurant on some beautiful rolling acres.  There is a lovely arbored lawn outside the restaurant were they hold weddings.  There was a garden of beautiful purple flowers surrounding the arbor.  These same flowers can be seen everywhere along the roads in this area.

From the winery, we continued up to the top of a hill for a panoramic  view  of the town and surrounding fields. New Zealand was formed from volcanos, so there isn't much in the way of flat land.   Everywhere you see a farm house built in a valley with sheep or cattle grazing on the steep hills around it. It is beautiful, but it's easy to understand when these farms raise livestock and not crops. 

Our last stop was at a historic mission called The Elms.  Guides in period costume took us around the various restored buildings, telling us about the history of the missionaries and the Maori tribes in the area.  It was a really interesting tour.

I think Ray & I were the last passengers to board. Our bus was a few minutes late getting back to the ship and we were the last in line going up the gangway.  The ship pulled away from dock a few minutes after we got to our room.

The captain's welcome was scheduled for 6PM in the theater, but we skipped that and went for dinner.  On the first night we tried the more casual Italian restaurant on the upper deck and the food was excellent.  This time we tried the main restaurant.  Ray had prime rib and I had a lobster tail prepared in an unusual, delicious brown sauce.  I had a no-sugar added chocolate cake for dessert that was fantastic.

Tomorrow the ship doesn't get into port until 11AM, so we'll have another easy morning.

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