Bluff/Invercargill – Terra Firma


Container ship in Bluff

My day started a little earlier than intended when Ira decided to get up at 0340 to edit some photos. Over the course of the next two hours he was in and out of the cabin so often I was about to suggest he have a revolving door installed. As predicted we sailed through the night, but being in the lee of Stewart Island the whole time it was a very smooth voyage

The pilot came on board at 0500 and I re-awoke just before 0600 when we were settled into the port. I looked out the porthole and the first thing I saw was the word Italia. “Shit,” I thought, “they’ve taken us to the wrong bloody country.” Luckily it was merely the name of the ship tied up beside us.

We had breakfast and just after 0700 the customs and immigration people came on board. Until they had cleared the ship and the passengers, no-one was to leave the ship. Much to the annoyance of Helen Mawson’s husband who was pacing up and down the dock. (I found out who he was later, until then many people were wondering who the dodgy looking character was. Most suspected a drug dealer.)

Once we were free to leave the ship, we had a group photo on the wharf and the first of many goodbyes. Not just goodbyes from many people, but many instances of goodbyes.

We of course said goodbye to the crew and staff on the ship, but many passengers said goodbye to each other. Then promptly all got on the same bus to go to town or the airport.

At the airport there were more goodbyes. Although my flight was not due until 1810, I went to the airport to try and change my flight. There were only two earlier flights. The Air New Zealand desk was unattended, but as soon as someone turned up, a queue quickly formed. I was second in the queue. Ann Mac was ahead of me and got her 1400 flight changed to 1000, getting the last seat. I simple then said, I’ll have her seat on the 1400 which is now vacant. Voila!.

“The Spirit of Enderby” in Port of Bluff

I still had about four hours to kill and decided to go into Invercargill.

Of the people who had stayed on the bus for town, some were staying overnight and some just wasting time until their flight.

I found Doug Mawson (having been unceremoniously dumped at the airport by his daughter and son-in-law) and we caught a taxi into town to the museum. It was about 0920 on a public holiday and it was an absolute ghost town. The first person we saw was Bonnie, walking toward the museum. We found the museum didn’t open until 1000 and decided to walk back to town to get a coffee and find an ATM. At the ATM a car pulled up and three people from the ship got out. Fifty metres down the road we saw another two. Turning the corner we spied a Starbucks. We ran into another person from the boat on the way and found four more inside Starbucks. Apart from people in cars, the only people we saw on the street for the first half hour were people from our boat.

We finished the coffee/coke and by then the museum was open and we headed back that way, running into Janet on the way.

The museum was very good and had a variety of displays, the first room was full of Torres Strait Islander Art and the next room had a very comprehensive display on the life of Ann Frank.

There was also a display of Tuatara a rare lizard native to New Zealand. One of the males in the display was 110 years old.

Other rooms contained Maori artefacts and a reproduction of a (very cluttered) Victoria era living room.

On the top floor was a display entitled “Beyond the roaring ‘40” all about the sub-Antarctic Islands.

It was like a flash back to the past four weeks. The entrance to the floor was like the entrance to a ship complete with video of a rough sea through a porthole. You then went into a darkened room decorated like a Rata forest. On entering you tipped a beam and a mechanical sea-lion jumped out and growled at you. Further inside were displays of the birds , sea-mammals and plants of the islands and many historic photos of places we had visited. There was a wall dedicated to the people who had contributed to the knowledge of the islands and there was a picture of a very young Rodney Russ in a Zodiac at the exact spot on the Snares where we had watched the penguins washing.

To top it off, in one corner was the bow of a ship that you could climb onto as it rolled in the sea. Although from the floor I could see the deck moving, once on board I could hardly feel it, as I still had my sea legs.

At one point there were about 10 people in the display and all of them were from our ship.

We finished at the museum and saw an airport shuttle bus outside. Since it was too early we arranged for him to come back in an hour and went for a leisurely walk through Queens Park.

It was then an uneventful return to the airport where I sat on the plane between two of the Francophones.

I am now in the hotel at Christchurch. The radio is playing, there is a TV, internet access and most importantly a bath.

The room is also possessed of large mirrors. For the last month I have only seen myself in a shaving mirror and now I can see what my body looks like after three meals a day (two with desert), 2-3 beers a night and days of absolutely no activity. The diet starts…… soon.

Despite all these modern conveniences, I have not been able to get in touch with Sue. Global roaming on my phone won’t work (I found later this may have been  a fault with Telecom NZ) and I can’t seem to ring an international mobile on the hotel phone. I would be able to Skype Sue but only if she was logged on.

I couldn’t even message her through WhatsApp as my phone wouldn’t connect, even when I linked it wirelessly to my internet connected laptop. In the end I put out a plea on Facebook for someone to ring her and ask her to Skype me. I thought I could SMS her through Skype, but this required credit. Just as the credit came through, she Skyped me and we finally had a good chat. She has kept a diary while I have been away so we can compare notes.

The goodbyes are not over yet as Ann Clarke is staying at my hotel and we are going to have dinner.

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