Monday, March 9, 2009

Day at Sea

It’s our third day at sea and when the ship is still, I miss the rocking. I’ll have to eat those words along with a round of little pink pills if the waves pick up but for now it’s true.

We’ve been in Fiordland National Park on the southern island of New Zealand since early morning –Sunday for us. We went to the bow to watch the sun almost rise. This little area gets something over 23 feet of rain a year. That is not a typo. There’s so much rain that it runs off the rock cliffs and into the water rapidly so that there are a few feet of freshwater supporting an entire ecosystem above the salt water life.

Spencer, our naturalist, joked that NZ is the land of 4 seasons in one day. Off one end of the ship is the sun while the other is crushed under clouds. The wind is brisk and between an announcement about some rock formations and beautiful weather, clouds rolled in over less time than it took to grab cameras and go down 3 levels. People were already rushing in, shaking off rain that was pounding in at a 90 degree angle.

This, Spencer chortles, is great because the rain causes nearly instant waterfalls off the cliffs. One little waterfall spouted nicely this morning looking near enough to feel the mist and seeming a few feet high. It was a couple of miles away and 500 feet tall. One’s sense of scale is blown to bits by an ocean.

I went to a couple of cooking demos this morning and learned that the mashed potatoes are made with cream, butter, milk, cheddar cheese, nutmeg, rosemary and thyme. Rick was a bit headachy and stuffy and never thought to suspect the potatoes as a source of nutmeg. The demos, for me, aren’t so much about cooking as about finding what I can and can’t eat. There’s food everywhere and we are admonished never to let ourselves feel peckish.

Keeping peckish at bay required recipes that start with “peel 40 pounds of potatoes and 40 pounds of onions.”

There was also a fruit and vegetable carving demo. What that guy could do with a watermelon, 10 minutes and a sharp knife. Amazing. He made flowers from beet and/or turnip slices, from carrot chunks, sweet peppers and onions using celery stalk leaves and nesting it all into a vase made from a cantaloupe. (Aussies, Brits and Americans have different names for all sorts of stuff making conversation interesting.)

The library on board is something out of a BBC production. People – all gray-haired if haired at all – sitting in chairs, playing scrabble, reading the papers or books or snoozing in soft recliners. The voices curve words with a charming British lilt. What am I doing here and what if someone realizes I don’t belong?
Dunnedin NZ tomorrow.

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