It is common knowledge that sheep outnumber people in New Zealand. The actual numbers, however, may astound you. With a population of approximately 4.3 million people, New Zealand boasts a sheep population of 45 million – yes 45 million. It is easy to assume, therefore, that these 45 million sheep have been an important part of New Zealand’s development. Interestingly we haven’t seen any sheep but then we also haven’t travelled outside the cities. We were expecting to see then on the hill sides going into or out of ports, no such luck.
In the 1850’s the first large-scale wool producing operation was established in the Wairarapa valley on the southern part of the North Island. With the advent of refrigerated shipping, the first of which was a ship called the Dunedin that sailed to England in 1882, a booming meat industry began to replace wool as the primary export. Today both industries play a major role in the local economy. Because of the economic devastation that could result from disease, New Zealand has some of the strictest customs and quarantine laws in the world. Although sheep farming is a relatively simple process, turning grass into wool and meat via docile, easily manageable animals, the business has nevertheless come into the modern age. Breeds have been adapted to produce a variety of wool and meat types. Modern farmers often have flocks of over 2000 animals. To help manage the flocks, however, the shepherds do not turn to science. Instead they turn to the intelligence of their highly trained sheep gods. The ability of these dogs to manage the animals is truly amazing to see.
Every day that we are in New Zealand the passengers are reminded not to bring any fruit, nuts, vegetables, seeds, dairy products or meat of any sort onto the land (or from the ship). Bags are searched – it’s a very serious offense and the officials will impose on the spot fines for anyone breaching any of the quarantine laws.
Today we’re in Tauranga, New Zealand. Right behind our ship is the MS Volendam. This is another Holland America ship and one we sailed on to Alaska and our Asia Pacific voyages. It was just lovely to see a sister ship and recall fond memories. Many of the crew went aboard both ships to renew old friendships.
Tauranga is located on the western part of the Bay of Plenty and extends from Katikati and Waihi Beach to Papamoa and Te Puke on the coast and south to the Kaimai ranges. Captain Cook sailed into the Bay of Plenty on the Endeavour in October 1769, giving it its name, because of the number of thriving settlements of friendly Maori he encountered there as well as the amount of supplies they gave him. Tauranga enjoys one of the highest proportions of sunny days in New Zealand. As one of the largest ports in New Zealand, it exports produce from the rich surrounding region along with logs, woodchips and timber products.
The area has thrived economically and draws increasing numbers of retirees attracted by the temperate climate and a lovely city with every modern facility. It’s beaches are awesome, beautiful white sand and warm water. The surfers also love the area and we had just missed one of the major surfing events the previous weekend. Children were on the beach (summer holidays) and were learning to be life guards. It was lovely to see them in their little uniforms and hats playing at life guard games. Tauranga is a Maori name meaning the “resting place for canoes”, for this was where some of the first Maori to arrive in New Zealand landed. There’s an amazing number of cafes along the beaches serving some of the best coffee I’ve tasted so far along with some amazing spinach muffins.
I’ve met up with Wally and Jean today and we head to Mount Maunganui, meaning big hill. It stands about 750 ft. high. There’s normally a beautiful walkway around but because of the recent rains there’s been a couple of washouts and so it’s closed. Here Jean, Wally and I sit at one of the many cafes and watch the sea, sand and surf while at the same time looking up at the Mountain (Maunganui). I can’t believe how many people are walking around with bear feet, according to Jean and Wally it’s a common practice. I can’t quite get over it as the ground is both hot and there’s some gum – yikes!
We travel into Tauranga to visit with the friends Jean and Wally are staying with but Bev and Allan are at the hospital. Bev’s mom is ill. Jean makes lunch and we sit and have a lovely cuppa and watch the little bay across from their house. Bev and Allan have 2 lovely little dogs (Feeby and Chloe) – I just fell in love with them.
After lunch we went into town to do a little shopping then they drop me back to the ship. No sad goodbyes as Jean and Wally will visit their son Jeff in May and we’ll see then again then.