We didn’t see much of Picton, but boarded a bus for a ride through timber covered hills and vineyards to Blenheim – a small, quaint town. Our goal: Omaka Aviation Center, a small, but special display of World War I airplanes owned by Peter Jackson. Rick’s passion is aviation, and every time we pass a plane, he gives me the history. I balk at the mechanical details.
Jackson’s Weta Workshop put together the Omaka Museum dioramas, right down to realistic details of soldiers picking over the Red Barron’s plane and body for souvenirs, and another airplane hung up in a tree while a German and American pilot discuss surrender terms over a cigarette. We could have spent a day there. Alas! When you’re on a tour, you get used to the command, “Time to get back on the bus.” Aghhhh! (The good thing about a tour is you don’t have to wait in lines to see the highlights. You don’t get lost. The guide knows more about the area and what we’re seeing than we do – even after research – and the guide knows where all the ladies and gents room are located. Last, but by no means least, the boat won’t sail without you.
We made a stop at the Makana Chocolate Factory, started by a Hawaiian family and now run by a Scotsman. A nice lady gave us samples as we got off the bus. Smart marketing move! One taste and we all swarmed like locusts. I don’t think anyone left the building without a box of chocolate something-or-other under their arm. We bought “macadamian bark” and toffee brittle and gulped it down like seagulls, and we weren’t even on the boat yet.
Sooner or later, the time difference (we lost a whole day!) always catches us with us.
We arrived in Arakoa, crashed and burned. Our inner clocks caught up and clobbered us. We napped, went to the Horizon Court (=buffet) and read. Not a bad way to spend a day, especially when you’re supposed to be on vacation.
I still learned some new things. The book I was reading (Living Beyond Your Feelings by Joyce Meyer) summarized research done by Dr. Caroline Leaf in the field of learning, intelligence and brain research. She has found that thought, both positive and negative, is physical, not just mental. Thoughts can be seen as little trees with branches in the brain. Positive thought looks different from negative. Negative thoughts actually produce thorns, each of which is filled with a pocket of toxic chemicals. Negative thoughts (trees) can be changed by positive in four days, but it takes 21 days to establish a new (positive) memory to overcome the old one. Negative (trees) can grow back.
Gives a whole new understanding to why God gave us free will and wants us to make choices in how we think and what we choose to think about, He always gives us the answer. Renew your mind in Christ Jesus!
Our next port-of-call was Port Chalmers/Dunedin. I’ve been mispronouncing this city for years! It’s not DUN-a-din. It’s da-KNEE-din. We rode the Taieri Gorge Train which took us through beautiful mountains, around cliffs, over breath-catching latticework bridges and along cliff rails above the gorge and river. Then on to high plains where dogs rounded up and herded flocks of sheep – and local artisans spread their handmade quilts, scarves, and jewelry on long tables. Tourists poured off the train in a stampede.
The journey back was quicker, downhill all the way, with the weight of all those souvenirs to hasten our descent.
Next on the list of things to see was the neo-Gothic Larnach Castle with hilltop, panoramic views of the harbor. “The Camp” as Larnach called it, was built in 1970 and reputed to be the grandest home in Austrasia. Larnach was a Dunedin banker, but riches did not bring a happy life. His first wife, Eliza, gave him six children and died at 38. He married her live-in half-sister who also died at 38. When he was in his early 50s, he married a girl twenty-one year younger, before heading off to serve the government in Wellington. His favorite daughter died in childbirth. Soon after this devastating news, he received a letter telling him his son and wife were having an affair. Add to that, he was facing bankruptcy. The poor man committed suicide. The children fought over the estate. The eldest son had the youngest disinherited over the affair and took control of everything. He sold the house which became a lunatic asylum and later (WWII) a hospital for shell shocked veterans. The Barker family purchased the house for a measly $40,000 (giving you an idea of the condition it was in) and have poured millions into its restoration before opening it to the public. The guide said a ghost is in residence, but which sad life would remain? Larnach? His eldest son who also committed suicide? The proper girl who married the youngest son and forever became an outcast to her family? The daughter who died in childbirth? Real life is always more complex and interesting than fiction.
Oops. Maybe I shouldn’t say that.