From Wellington we headed north. Stopping in Taupo; a resort community on the Great Lake Taupo. The lake exit had an exciting fall of water we had to see. That was what Cetacea told us. We’ve not seen Tony and Gail in 3 years. Not since we left French Polynesia. They had recently returned to NZ and were starting their auto adventure to the S Island. We would rendezvous here, share some places we stayed and visited and hear of their adventures. The sailing community is akin to a small US town with the only difference being we’re spread across the globe.
Heading back to the Glaciers. W/ and I wanted to hike on one. We’ve lived in the tropics and sub tropics for so many years, glaciers were an oddity. But, 70% of the flights / hikes on the glaciers have been canceled this year. We’re going to take one more chance, two more days. It wasn’t that far out of our way. The road north from Christchurch was closed by an Earthquake a few years ago. This closure ensure we needed to cross Arthurs Pass to Greymouth anyway. From Greymouth is was a short days trip to Franz Joseph.
Arthurs pass was an easy adventure. A hundred years ago traveling across the Southern Alps was a true adventure. Each trip risked life and limb taking upwards of 10 days to 2 weeks. That time schedule was only once the route was known and the weather clear. Today; for us, it
required less than one days drive to clear the Summit and see the Tasman Sea. We stopped near the peak at the Department of Conservation (DOC) station and did the tourist thing. The DOC station actually tells people how to die: 1) Don’t tell anyone you’re are hiking up here, 2) Avoid checking on the weather, 3) Take minimal gear/supplies, and finally 4) die in a lower elevation. The fourth note is to ensure that they can find and return the body to next of kin! The blunt language is refreshing.
On the way down we came across the ever inquisitive Kia parrot. They too know very little fear and will pick at and destroy most anything they come across. We spent a few minutes enjoying their boldness but neither of us wished to test our fortitude. Offering them an arm to climb upon or even the car to walk on. They might well have decided a piece of our skin or clothing, or worse even our ear lobe was something to be picked at and absconded with.
We arrived in Hokatika early afternoon. The tourist station; an iSite, was open and we hoped to make a new Heli-Hike reservation. I-Sites are a wonderful asset to traveling NZ. They assist in reservations and information. With reservations made we set out to find a new accommodation and some jade. Yep; W/ hasn’t forgotten. Our AirBnB host in Nelson had suggested a Mauri artist that had a shop by the river. Andrew grew up in Hokatika. That shop / store / artist studio would be the place to eliminate the middle man and find a piece that “spoke to” W/. Jade is said to find you, not the reverse.
I don’t know if W/ heard the jade or just decided on a a couple of pieces. But we left Hokatika with more goodies and less money than we had arrived with. On to the glacier.
By now the tourist season was winding down and we were able to score a nice motel just outside of town. The two restaurants we came across in Franz Joseph were AWESOME. One in town; the Blue Ice, and the other at our motel: the Franz Joseph Oasis, a short drive out of town.
The following day with baited breath we entered our Heli-Hike headquarters. No guarantees…yet. We did receive a verbal list of the fine print: If we make it to the Helicopter pad but don’t go – full refund, if we fly but don’t land, 50% refund; if we land but don’t hike, 10% refund. Were we alright with that? What choice did we have if we wanted to hike… on the glacier? Ok. But; we still waited. Around noon they called us up and gave us our final clearance. We filled out more forms. Next of kin. Dr’s numbers. Meds we might be on. general medical issues, height, weight, etc . Then the final interrogation; can you walk with gear for a couple of hours. Duh! We were lead back to the changing room. They provided all the supplies, water proof jacket, pants, warm gloves, and the most important; cramp-ons. The clothes were designed to aid in surviving a night on the glacier should the weather turn to crap. We changed and then moved at a fast walk to the heli pad. Time to get going. W/ was a wee bit nervous never having been in a helicopter before. As expected I was re-assuring…. It’s easier than an ocean passage, smoother than a car in a parking lot, etc. She worried until we lifted off. Then I was vindicted and found correct. A man of experience. 🙂 I rode in a helicopter once as a kid! 🙂
On the glacier we looked down on the world. We entered a Lord of the Rings universe when the fellowship had crossed the mountain heading to Mordor. Here too; we could see the Tasman Sea 40 km away. Only a few 1,000 years ago the glacier had stretched all the way there. Now with Global Warming it was receding every year, the face only a couple km away from our landing pad.
Eleven of us were in this group, eleven and a guide. After donning our crampons we received walking instructions. Away we went competing with the average snail. Footing must be solid and the crampons driven into the ice. To make it through the crevises we needed to walk foot to foot.
Our guide called it pin stepping. One crevasse was so narrow and had a slight bend I thought I would get stuck. I wiggled and turned, moved up and down, at last able to get my legs through the opening. I could feel panic wanting to rear up. Patience, deep breaths, and the saving thought was that our guide carried a pick and most likely he could enlarge the opening allowing me through. Yet I was still fearful. I didn’t like the idea of a pick swinging close to my knees. I love my knees! Minutes later I and the rest of the group made it through. An hour or so of walking and sliding along the blue ice we took a break in front of a mountain cliff. I say in front but we were still an hour hike away. We filled our water bottles with ice cold glacial run off and zero contamination. No life lives up here. We are intruders. W/ put together a short slide show of our trip to Franz Joseph.
We moved back down the 100 meter thick sheet of ice witnessing some of the magic of mother nature. She creates caves and crevasses as water turns from a solid to liquid state. Back at the helipad we remove our spikes (helicopter pilots are not fond of having them inside the bubble) and prepared for the descent. Another smooth ride and we’re back at Franz Joseph returning our gear. Everyone is full of smiles.
For our post mortem W/ and I head to our favorite Franz Joseph restaurant, the Blue Ice. We forget how many calories burn hiking in freezing temperatures. For me a succulent lamb chops awaits and W/ looks forward to salmon. We return to our lodging and sleep well. The following day we head north. North to home. North to warmth; for it is getting a mite chilly here on the S island. With one long days drive we expect to be in Picton and the following day cross the Cook Strait to Wellington . There we will visit John and Penny; Frodo and Pippin (Hobbiton) before finally reaching our floating home.
ps I know it has been awhile since I last posted. I am sorry. I hope it’s only the cold weather here in NZ that is causing my body to want to hybernate. Once we return from the trip I will mostly be posting once / month untill we are out on the water again.
The day was overcast. We were hungry. We had just returned across the lake. Time to move. Time to head north.
But; first things first, get the car, find food and then drive. The trip was about 5 hours. We hoped the roads would be a little easier on the East coast. We were leaving the southern Alps and heading to Dunedin, NZ. The only restaurant we could find was a smallish cafe. Entering where half the crew we just travel with had already arrived. Not fancy, no china, no silver, good down home filling food. We stuffed our faces and left contented.
The drive was uneventful. Arriving in Dunedin was eye opening. A big city, a University town. Traffic lights and yes; traffic. We climbed up the side of a mountain to our new digs. AirBnB’s have been the main source for our overnights. Here we would spend a couple of days to explore this Scottish settlers town.
The following am we began walking into town. Our host said it was about 45 minutes. NOT! By the time we got down the hill (mtn) we were already 15 minutes into it. The wind was brisk and right in our faces. 15 minutes later we came upon a sign indicating that the town center was 7 km further. We turned around and took the car.
Parking in Dunedin was a challenge. We drove around several blocks and 20 minutes later found a spot, parked and paid for our time. We grabbed a snack and wandered to the train station and checked out the day trips.
At Dunedin station we took a step back in time. Beautiful brick, mosaic floors, and stained glass windows. All this with the passing of trains just outside. We picked a 4 hour tour for the following day. Out and back through some of the most remote scenery in NZ. We would travel over huge trestle bridges, hug steep mountain sides, and cross multiple rapids. We enjoyed the trip and were glad it was only a few hours. It would have been wonderful to cross the entire S. Island by train; but, we didn’t know what to do with the car then.
Back in Dunedin we wandered around. There we discovered beautiful murals painted by graffiti artists. There are close to 30 of them around the town center. We came close to seeing 20 or so. We hiked what is said to be the steepest road in the world: Baldwin Street. We’ll miss this city, vibrant, energetic, and beautiful. But we must continue on; winter is coming and the S. Island is much colder than the N.
We drove to Christchurch. Home of a most recent “big” earthquake”. While it was close to a decade ago, people talked about it as if happened last year. And for them and their experience it may have seemed so. Having lunch in a local restaurant our neighbor started up a conversation with us. Asking about America and then telling us of his experience during the quake. Some people lost everything. Others with insurance came out ok but had a lot to deal with. Some businesses that had replacement insurance came through smiling. But the people, they were still affected. On NZ’s public radio station they discussed some recent earthquake research. The results indicated that problem solving skills years after the event were often deficient. In other words; they were not yet back to “normal”.
In the afternoon we headed up the gondola for a panoramic view of this coast. Rising up through the clouds we were lucky enough they cleared in time to provide a perfect view of Littleton and Christchurch. While on the mountain peak, some parasailers came up the gondola. They walked out to the side of the mountain and ran till their sails filled. They made the trip down to Christchurch at speeds up to 100 km / hour. A couple of minutes later they landed, packed up their sail, and headed back to the gondola ready to go again. They purchased year passes for the gondola. Whenever the weather is right they ride to the top, flying like the birds back down. Not a bad way to adventure. But on this day there were no women and one member told me that there is only one in the club. Not sure if the women were too smart for this adventure or simply; cautious.
Afterwards we drove to Littleton where the earthquake epicenter was closest. A large part of this town’s center is now comprised of holes in the ground. Holes where the buildings had stood. We played tourist and walked the local marina. Marinas on this coast are small to non existent. We’re so far S, that the weather is getting to be rather extreme and the boating season short. We still find pleasure in seeing other boats and talking to other “yachties”. After a simple lunch on the water we headed home to our evenings rest. Tomorrow we head back towards the glaciers. We haven’t yet given up on the heli / hike. That and W/ hasn’t found a piece of jade that speaks to her. She’s hoping; in Hokitika she will.
Wendy has put together a photo essay of our time in Dunedin and Christchurch.
We left Blackball having had a wonderful three days rest. Blackball is home to one of the worst coal mine disasters in recent history. and is often described as the birth place of the labor movement. Here coal laborers fought for a guaranteed 15 minutes to eat their lunch during the work day. About the same time educators have today to eat lunch! 🙂
We drove S to Hokitika; jade capitol of New Zealand. W/ was planning on acquiring a new piece of jewelry here. Elysium has physical limits on the nicknacks we purchase. To compensate W/s conned me into accepting jewelry. It is small and stores in the smallest places. As with anything purchased in exotic places we still have stories for each item. Luckily this time we were moving through the Jade capital
and not stopping. But I knew, somehow a new piece of Jade (or two) will make it’s way on the boat. 🙂
The trip form Hokitika to glacier country had grandiose views, narrow roads, mountain climbs and drops, all with hairpin turns. Luckily W/ consumes enough caffeine in the am to remain alert for most of the drive. As it wears off I am called to the driver’s seat for the rush to the finish line.
Glacier country was inspiring and disappointing. W/ had scheduled a helicopter glacier stomp (hike in
US terms). We were to fly up to the glacier in a chopper and with a guide wander around the area for a couple of hours. We arrived at the desk: No flights this morning! We rescheduled. We drove the few minutes to the Franz Joseph car park and walked to as close as we could get to the base of the glacier. We walked past beautiful glacial water falls, over freezing cold creeks, and small glacial moraines. The hills of rock would often be a
challenge stomping up and down. My activity app for the day ended up indicating we had walked up and down 50 floors and strode 20k steps.
Returning to the heli/hike office we tried to check in for our rescheduled afternoon flight. Cancelled! Damn! We put ourselves on the list for the following am and then drove to Fox. The Fox glacier stomp brought one closer to the glacial base. We walked the entire way engulfed in a cloud of
white. Yeah, it was misting all around us. At this point we didn’t have high expectations but being stubborn we stomped on. We arrived at the observation platform 400 m from the glacier’s base. Hidden by clouds very little of the glacier is visible. Another hiker said 10 minutes ago she could see nothing of the glacier. Now a few parts were showing. By all indicies the clouds were clearing. We waited. We chatted others up and we waited.
An hour or so later the majority of the cloud had moved off and we had a
great view of the massive ice sheet. So massive that in places it is over 100 meters thick. So heavy that chunks of mountain are ripped away and
carried for km. Thousands of years ago the glaciers reached all the way to the Tasman sea 40 kms away. In recent decades the glaciers had been static. Near the end of the 20th century they began to recede further; a result of global warming .
That evening we stayed in Fox and planned for one last chance at a glacial hike scheduled the following am. Sadly it was not to be. No helio flights for the last two days. Disappointed we drove on. But first a
stop at the Lake Matheson. If you are lucky the snow covered Southern Alps will show as a backdrop. We met Frank on the lake stomp (a Kiwi) who has been here dozens of times over the years still looking for that perfect picture. We enjoyed the hike and the views. We did not get the “perfect” picture. Milford and Doubtful Sounds were next on our list and several hours away.
Fiordland is a World Heritage Site. Both Milford and Doubtful are listed as must-sees by world travelers. While most days I feel I’ve seen enough water and mountains W/ had a real hankering to visit here. We arrived in Te Anau after two days of driving. We passed other tourist places like Queenstown and Wanaka but stayed only to rest. In Te Anau we would
be the farthest S. we’ve ever been…in our lives. Closer to the S pole than the equator. The temperatures seemed to reflect that position. Most evenings I had on all the warm clothes I had brought. Well too, all the warm clothes I owned.
We signed up for a day trip to Milford and an overnight to Doubtful. Both fiords have an abundance of National Geographic views and waterfalls. Overhanging cliffs created by ice freezing in cracks and breaking huge chunks of rock away. Water depths were in the 10’s of meters right up to the shore line. Anchoring is only possible in a couple of the bays. In one such bay they have created an observation barge dubbed the “Discovery Center”. There is a mini museum atmosphere with a viewing deck 20 meters below the surface. As well as for tourists
this platform is used by scientists to study the underwater environs of the sounds. To populate the trays with life they filled them with sand from the sounds bottom and left the trays on the bottom for a couple of years. There the local life forms found a ready environment to inhabit. After established they raised / moved the trays to the Discovery Center. I loved being able to see the underwater world without donning a wet suit and jumping into 15º C water. A wee bit too cold for my bones.
Two days later we were on a trip to Doubtful Sound. People described the sounds (actually fiords) as being dramatically different from each other. To my untrained eye they are quite similar. Again the high cliffs, overhanging ledges, cold water, various bays and numerous waterfalls (all dependent on the amount of rain). This was an overnight cruise; a smallish boat with 11 guests and two crew. We would motor out to the fiord entrance, fish for Blue Cod, Kayak, dive for Lobster (not us), and marvel at the scenery. In our group were three traveling physicians from England who felt the need to bring a case of wine. With everyone well lubricated via alcohol, conversations and stories flowed. Real or imaginary the stories were fun. Much of the food we ate had come from our day’s fishing and diving adventure. Fresh sashimi, baked cod, and steamed lobster ruled the evening. On a mooring for the evening, bug free we slept till the crack of dawn. We awoke when the captain started up the engines to begin our journey back.
Oddly, while I found this leg of the trip interesting I’ve most missed the tour of the Manipouri power station. The power station is underground. The lake is 400 m above sea level and supplies a large percentage of power to NZ. But the station is closed for repairs / maintenance and would be for few months. Once we reached the dock we returned across a mountain divide and then had another boat ride across Lake Manipouri. There we located our car and hit the road ….again. Heading this time up the coast to Dunedin (not the Fl city).
We left Wellington in the early am to reach the car / people ferry in time. We joined the queue and
waited for directions. The ferry was expect to be full. Full of cars and people. Today we would cross from the North Island of NZ to the South. The trek would take about 4 hours by boat. There are no bridges nor tunnels from one to the other. As this is an active tectonic area I doubt either would last long. The previous major earthquake a few years ago moved the S. Island 5 meters (about 18‘) closer to the North Island. I imagine a tunnel or bridge would have become non functional and resulted in many deaths. As it was, Highway 1, one the NE coast arteries on the South Island became impassable and six years later it is still out of commission. The community it feeds remained isolated for quite some time. It required a couple of months of work to open a smaller service road.
We parked as if Tuna in a can. Getting out of the car was a squeeze even for us and we made our way to the passenger decks. There we discovered more tuna, oops people. After walking the decks looking for a place to lounge we were a wee bit put out. There was no comfortable looking place left. However, we came across a ticket upgrade that allowed us access to a lounge with plenty of seating. And for only 15 bucks! The upgrade gave us a $10 commissary voucher. We would have indulged in food anyway, so for 5 extra bucks we could travel in comfort.
We arrived in Picton ready to roll. Squeezing back into the car we left the boat and never turned back. Like a line at Disney one doesn’t leave feeling that getting back into it would be easy. Leaving Picton we flowed with the other vehicles all heading to the S island and never stopped.
Passing vineyards after vineyards, some with grapes covered in 1,000’s of square meters of netting we navigated tight turns and narrow bridges to Nelson.
The bridges in NZ are of two types. Those we are all familiar with and those not; one lane bridges. For one lane bridges the roads approaching narrow and one side has right of way. Signs are posted before the bridge and directions painted on the pavement. If two cars approach at near the same time one car can continue while the other waits. I know it sounds a bit confusing but the system works well.
We arrived at our AirBnB mid afternoon. The weather wasn’t looking good. We were planning on hanging here for a couple of days anyway and schedule more of our trip S. Luckily; Rena and her partner Andrew our, AirBnB hosts, was born in the South Island and offered suggestions for our stops. First on our list was the Center of NZ hike. It was a smallish mtn in Nelson. While W/ and I huffed and puffed our way up the hill for a sweet view of Nelson, Andrew put together another 20 some stops we might enjoy on our way S. As we only planned three days at a time he suggested stops for the next 3 days.
Returning from our hike (called a stomp in NZ), we cleaned up and Andrew made a presentation using Google Earth and Apple TV. He pulled up the route he worked on and talked about the various stops with a few Google Earth Images. Then we copied them to a thumb drive and the following am set about for the drive S. Oh how sweet technology is.
Using his routes as a guide we made our way to our another scenic overlook. New Zealand if famous for it’s variable weather. At one iSite (NZ tour guide information centers) the booking agent told us NZ has every season every day. The comment is not quite fair. We’ve not yet had snow on a daily basis but I would agree we often have had all three seasons in a day; rain, fog, Sun, cold and warm. Our first scenic view was all white. 🙁 A cloud had settled in around the lookout.
Never daunted we drove on. And as predicted by the iSite agent the day began to warm and the clouds cleared. Not wishing to do a blow by blow of our stops I will say we had plenty to see and do. For our three day journey we walked a swing bridge and I rode a wire rope crossing a river. (W/ decided not to try that adventure.) Later; Seals were abundant and the vistas with emerald colored water artistically inspiring. There were rocks stacked like Pancakes and huge chunks of the Earth pushed upward over 2 meters. We stomped a few trails and witnessed the ever continuing results of tectonic activity.
We found some rest from the daily grind in Blackball. There we hung with some Kiwi friends we met in Fiji. Lauren and her partner Neil live here. Lauren has cruised extensively with her family in the Caribbean and crossed the Pacific with them. Neil is a Caver, photographer, and they publishing a book Cave Exploring New Zealand. I do believe they offer some discounts yet for pre – orders! Currently I understand it is being printed now. They worked and we played. One day we took the sweetest Black Lab (Kaha) on a stomp to a waterfall; which we never found. Of course Kaha didn’t care. He was happy to be out nosing through the brush as opposed to lying in wait on the back porch. Before we smelled of aged fish we moved again. Saying goodbye is never easy and cruisers are always saying good bye or in the french version; Au Revoir….until we met again.
While there is some downtime in our car trip, I am working on the display of the blog. Looking for one theme I am satisfied with and presents “my way”. 🙂 Thus in the next few days or weeks; depending on how fast or lucky I am, you will see changes in how and what I say is presented. Not to worry. I know, and I guarentee; it will not be perfect! – Cheers
We were at one of the Riverside’s cookouts when it struck us. We had purchased a car 3 weeks ago. We opened a bank account to use for our boat projects, we’ve played tennis and been getting back in shape. And we forgot about seasons.
In the tropics there are two seasons rainy and dry – otherwise known as the cyclone season and not the cyclone season. Here in NZ we have 4 complete seasons with a significant change in the weather. And that change means we will need to see the South Island now or face a cold trek in the middle of winter. After having spent the last few years in the tropics neither of us Bolooked forward to a cold adventure. We had enough of those cold outings coming of age in the midwest US.
So…we began to plan. Bob and Linda had made a similar trip last year and we invited them over. We want to pick their brains and hear of their adventure all the while taking notes and looking for ideas. A few hours later we had enough info to turn a few week trip into 6 months.
With brochures in hand and an idea of what to do W/ began to put some dates down and make reservations. Two ideas were foremost in our thoughts as we started this road trip. First we would circumnavigate the S. Island counter-clockwise. This sets our car on the inside lane of the highway, away from the cliff edges. Driving in this lane around and through the Southern Alps is much safer. Second, we would make reservations up to a week in advance allowing us to change and adjust as needed.
We left Whangarei heading to Auckland. Matt was there. After college and sailing with his family he moved to NZ. He’s sailed across the S. Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and made the trek from the S. Pacific a couple of times back and forth. He had kindly offered to be our evening’s tour guide in the “City of Sails”.
We are still getting used to driving on the left side of the road with the driver on the right side of the car. The trip to Auckland was uneventful in general. Specifically, it was a bit o’ a pain. The weather was not pleasant. A Nor Easter was soon to arrive. We were racing it to Auckland hoping to beat it there by a few hours. Settled in at our AirBnB we decompressed waiting for Matt to finish work. I say decompress but for me I was setting up a NZ tollway account.
There are few toll roads in NZ. Actually there is only one and it is in Auckland. There are no toll booths. New Zealand uses cameras to record auto license plates on the toll road and sync that with who owns the car. Then the car owner is either billed or pays on line. Billing costs more if one fails to pay on time. Failure to meet the deadline escalates the toll 1000%. Thus the need to set up an account.
While the setup is pretty straight forward the log in requirements are not. It’s the little things that can frustrate me. OK, I’m use to PIN numbers. But this PIN needed Letters as well as numbers. 🙁 OK, most everything has a User name. However, with user names you get to choose it. This account gives you a User Name and it’s several numbers long. Finally after jumping through the site’s hoops I have the account setup. I added money, the easy part. Now I just need to wait for the bill and pay. I checked it the next couple of days and never saw a bill. Finally a week later I noticed that money had been taken from my account. I checked the history and they did see the car ( I never doubted it for a minute) and they did then bill the car. A week later our account NZ debited the account. Check that off the list.
After a good dinner Matt took us on a tour of the city. With not a lot of faith in our driving yet, he drove. 🙂 That was fine by us. But Matt informed us to get out of Auckland with minimal traffic we needed to leave at; get this, about 5 am. YUCK! And he needed to work in the am so we cut the evening short. Auckland is a unique city and we will return. Luckily, it is not far from Whangarei.
By 5 am we were on the road. The Nor Easter had blown through but the tail of it was still around. Fortunately an auto isn’t effected as much by the wind and rain as a boat. We soldiered on. For the most part the views here were same ol’ same ol’. The mountains and forest while majestic had no majesty. We were using Waze to guide us south and soon discovered while NZ is a first world country the cell connections are not country wide. Throughout NZ the Department of Conservation (DOC) parcels we had no reception. No reception did not mean nothing to look at.
We came across the Makatote Viaduct. It was a railroad bridge spanning a gorge. And WOW! While it would have been cool to walk out on it I wouldn’t want to face a train coming down the tracks. You could save your life by jumping but that then would shorten your life by the landing. This railroad track opened up settlement to the south end of the north island and while the new European immigrants took advantage of that day I am sure the Maori (local residents) might well now curse it. To complete the bridge the company actually built a steel mill on site. They found the production and transportation of the steel beams to be more problematic than building a mill locally. I can only imagine how one might think today of our international manufacturing and shipping now!
We stopped in Bulls for lunch at the Mother Goose diner. An avant guard restaurant stepped back in time; all except for the prices. The food was satisfactory and there was one surprise. I’ve had egg on pizza; in the Caribbean, but never had egg on a steak sandwich. Here I had an egg; sunny side up on my steak sandwich.
After switching drivers several times we arrived in Wellington. We changed for the most part because; driving for us on the wrong side, was tiring and we needed to stay ultra alert. Too when I am included in the equation that means more driving for W/. Driving seems to put me to sleep faster than any other means, and sleeping is not advisable on any roads.
We arrived in Auckland during rush hour and wove our way through the streets to another AirBnB. Discovering the AirBnB residences are a challenge for us. But Waze has no difficulty as long as we are connected to the internet. And in most cities and towns in NZ we’ve had internet. Our Wellington host is gracious and directs us to pick up some items we’ve neglected to buy and need. Additionally she tells of a great place to have some chow.
In NZ we now have a 3rd connection for wall outlets. In FP and Fiji, the wall outlets were double post. In the US they are parallel blades and NZ has angled blades. I needed some angled blades for our computer / tablet / phone chargers. Luckily we found the Apple connections at a Harvey Normans store. We did bring most of our electronic gear. We snap and back up hundreds of pics of out travels hoping to have a few memorable ones. And too, the technology tools enables our bragging to the rest of the world of our adventures south.
In many ways Whangarei has been; un-eventful, in others the events are more personal. We’re settling in here. We’re getting use to the “big city”, many restaurants, plentiful boat parts, a plethora of services, and all the necessities life has to offer. We bought a car, joined a gym, joined a tennis club and I have ended up with tendinitis in my knee.
The car came from another cruiser and previously from the used car place in Opua “Cars for Cruisers”. It’s a ’99 Camry which for the most part we are happy with. And the differences between the US and countries we visit are fascinating. In NZ to transfer a car title you go to the Post Office. The seller filled out a form (free) and the buyer (us) filled out another
with a fee of $9 NZ. Boom. The car is now ours. Every 6 months we need to get a service check called a WOF (Warranty of Fitness) and we are good to go. We have third party insurance for a year at approx $250 NZ. Of course this does not cover any damage to our car but it does protect others and by extension us. The car has a key lock where even with the right cut dime store key the car will not start. Yet, I am sure there are ways. The car has some minor issues we need to address. But it sure is nice being able to travel farther, faster, and carry more than we can on foot. Our US drivers license is good for a year. We expect to sell the car next Dec before our license expires. Hopefully to the next generation of NZ sailors.
Somewhere in our extensive walks I felt a little pain in my knee. I followed the recommended procedure RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression -lax
on that one, and Elevation). All was going well, too well as a matter of fact. I was feeling good and at the gym which we walked to I did a full body work out including jumping rope. My knee was a little sore. We tried a massage therapist there and it was W/s turn. My knee felt good. I figured I could walk back to the boat, ice my knee, drop off our gym bags, and return to pick up W/. About 1/2 way back my knee was talking to me. I slowed down and strolled on. On the boat I grabbed the ice and elevated it for 10 minutes. Time to return. I was in mild pain but hey! I am strong, I can handle it. Again at the 1/2 mark my knee started talking to me. Well, more like yelling at me. I actually took one step and sat down the pain was so bad. After rubbing it for a few minutes and figuring it was as far back to the car as it was to the gym I could make it. I was a man with a limp. But I made it. And at our fitness center an employee had some anti inflammatory meds. I took two. I would live. W/ appeared much too soon and I would need to walk again. But I hobbled to the restaurant where we met Lewis, Alyssa, and her mom for lunch. Had some more stories to share and then returned to the boat. I was now reduced to the speed of a crawl. Stupidly I didn’t want W/ to get the car. I could make it. Almost an hour later (normally a 15 minute walk) I was on board with ice on my knee. We got the IBProfin out of our medical kit and I began the descent into a pain free world. It was not to be. While I’m sure the anitinflammatory helped keep me from self amputating my leg I was NOT pain free. That night for me was miserable. My sleep would be best described as almost passing out. Finally the dawn broke and I returned to my rehab routine. Ten days later I am almost back to full motion and 90% of the time pain free. I look forward to Tennis this coming week.
The day before this major faux pas we joined a Tennis club. We had walked to Kamo, a nearby town that was only about 8km away taking about 20k steps to get there. That is where my knee began talking to me. But then it was in quiet whispers. We didn’t find the club but found the address of the club secretary. After a brief introduction she offered to give us a ride back into Whangarei. On the way she showed us two closer Tennis clubs. Anyway, we joined Mairtown Tennis. Five all weather courts (astro turf) with 12 tons of sand brushed in each court. Tennis balls they have, a ball machine they have, hoppers with balls they have; and all those included in the cost of our membership. They don’t have any clay tennis courts in NZ. The good news is that it doesn’t get slippery when wet and it is easy on the body. Not as easy as a clay court but much better than asphalt. W/ was able to play right away and I expected to play in two days as my knee was almost healed. That was until I abused it further. Now a week later I’m finally able to feed some balls to W/ and volley some. But running was still problematic. So I wait. I hope, hope, that this Tuesday I will be able to play with the Veterans (retired players) that play in the morning. Some things just don’t change. At Innisbrook and River Crossing (our old clubs) that was the situation also. (I have a problem here) One characteristic of NZ is our language differences. The language of the country is English but the words often have slightly different uses. W/ and I chuckle with every new one. Minnow; not a fish, a young boy or girl. Cheers! A way to say hello or goodbye and sometimes thank you. Kid Sharing; when separated parents have custody of children and they live with one one week and the other another week. Jandals; we call them flip flops. Stomping; more of what W/ does when hiking. Bach; a summer cottage and we don’t know where this permutation came from. Driving; we drive on the wrong side. Take away, a doggie bag.
With our car the most egregious thing we’ve done is hit the curb- twice. The turning ratio on the Camry is so different from our other cars I ran over a curb once and another time W/ brushed a curb. We tell each other to look right and stay left. That is our mantra driving. When entering any roadway; traffic from the right will nail us first and we need to stay left to avoid head on collisions. When leaving one place we had visited in the country I naturally took the right side of the road only to come upon a resident driving on “my side”. Fortunately neither was traveling at any speed and all I got was a smile and a finger wave not to drive on the wrong side. Whew! While we drive on the wrong side the steering wheel and driver is on the “wrong” side too! This makes life a further challenge adapting to the new perspective. Fortunately the accelerator and brake are in their correct positions but the indicator blinker lever and windshield washer lever is reversed. More than a few times have we indicated a turn by turning on our wipers. We are getting better at everything. Luckily we are not in the big metropolis of Auckland and the traffic isn’t hazardous to our driving, nor visa versa. I look forward to the time when while driving I can see a little more of the country side. Now I am focusing only on staying centered in the left lane.
Ah…the boat. Just to be clear we are NOT moving here. A few years ago immigrating to NZ would have been easier. Now the bureaucracy makes it quite difficult for retires to become permanent residents. Not that we would want to, we’ve not experienced a winter here and from what we understand Winters are not fun. Winter fun is in the S. Island. Thus we’ve been looking for a Home Sitting experience. During the winter months we hope to watch someones pet(s) and take care of their home while they travel. House sitting will solve our “freezing butt” issue. Thus if the water is close to 0º C (32º F) the boat will be ….. FREEZING! and if anyone has stayed on a boat during cold weather knows, it gets damn cold inside a boat. While you can warm the air up some, the water temperature becomes a huge heat sink. The boat temperature moves steadily towards the water temperature. Additionally we can leave the boat a mess while completing a few needed changes. We expect to haul the boat out of the water during this time.. staying on board then is not our cup of tea.
Oddly enough I seem to mix up my directions in this hemisphere. In the US I always knew N from S, E, from W. Even in Panama and the top of S. America. But here, W/ often asks me to confirm if I mean S. Some times she’ll even want confirmation of Port and Starboard. More than I wish to admit; I point to Starboard and say Port. So far we’ve never been in a situation that the extra minute or so for her to check and confirm my direction has not created any issues. But I do feel weird about it. Maybe the magnetic field in my brain hasn’t adapted yet.
And so we head S. In this hemisphere South is where it is colder. For the most part this will be our Summer / Winter home as we expect to do some major projects on the boat. Thus we go S, where it is colder.
As I mentioned in our last entry the oil pressure alarm went off as we left the marina. For whatever reason I don’t know but am guessing it has to do with some diesel dripping on the wire running to the oil pressure sensor. The diesel dripping occurred while I re -bled the engines fuel. For now, all appears to be working. I didn’t do anything. The pressure switch started working again. We leave Russell and head out the Bay of Islands with plans to anchor at the abandoned whaling station or at the bay on the edge of this island group.
Nearing the first anchorage we noticed that it wasn’t as described. A ground swell ran through the anchorage. Since the winds were calm we thought it best to keep motoring and we headed out and
around Cape Brett. With light winds we were able to navigate through the narrow opening. For a powerboat it would not be a problem. However, on a sailboat with any sea I wouldn’t have taken a chance. With water smooth as glass we had no difficulties. The light house on the side of the mountain was spectacular! We had heard there was a hiking trail to it from the harbor we were heading for. Being on a bit o’ time schedule and the hike to the
lighthouse and back was about a 5 hour trek, it looked like a skip this time. We can make excuses with the best of them. First: our dinghy wasn’t in the water and would take time to put everything together, and second, we expected to move the following day – if the wx was cooperative. The only down side of the harbor was lack of internet. Ironically years ago we wouldn’t have cared. But in the Pacific 90% of our anchorages have had internet availability. We have gotten use to it and begun to expect it. The up side is that the anchorage was completely calm and the bottom excellent holding. Without internet we would use the Ham – Pactor setup for weather information.
The following day’s wx prediction had a tad bit of wind which was to increase as the day wore on. We left after breakfast and had a lovely sail to Whangaruru Harbor anchoring in Puriri Bay. Again we had great holding and the guide book indicated that this anchorage was good for gales. We hoped to avoid staying that long but it was nice to know. Too, we had internet here so getting weather, updating our family, all was good.
Two days later we motored out the entrance and turned south. It was another luxurious sail averaging about 2.5 kts with little to no seas. There we contacted the Marina at Tutukaka and were lucky enough to secure a berth for a couple of days. While this is summer here in NZ it seems we have one nice warm day with NE-NW winds and then 3 days or so with winds howling out of the south. South winds bring cold weather. There was a storm a brewing and the marina looked inviting. We were also running low on goodies as we had only expected a week for this trek and we were at the end of that time now. With the dinghy still stowed on deck and neither of us wanting to set it up, as well as having no gasoline for the dinghy engine the marina looked inviting. Eric (the marina manager) was a wonderful guy telling us what was where and we made ourselves right at home. This is not a transient marina so we were enjoying the NZ boating atmosphere. Two days ashore was enough. we motored out to the anchorage and anchored for one more night. In the near frigid water (for me) I dove in and checked the bottom of the boat before making our final trek to Whangarei. Again in two days wx was to be nasty. We planned on leaving in the later am as the winds predicted would be a lovely 15-20 kts from the stern by the afternoon. But, neither of us wait well.
We left after breakfast and the winds were light. Averaging 4 kts we made the entrance to Hatea River in about 3 hours and turned to head for our final anchorage, the Nook. I hauled in the jib and a minute later the winds clocked around to the NE nearing 30 kts on the nose. Howling! It was a wet ride up the river. Local knowledge is that the Nook is a nice quiet, beautiful anchorage. But with the winds out of the NE it would not be comfortable. We anchored on the other side, in the lee of the peninsula in calm water with the winds blowing over the top of the trees. The following am was a different story.
The winds had switched to the S and SW and blew like hell. We were having up to 1/2 meter chop coming into our anchorage. If that wasn’t enough we had some odd currents swirling around, pushing the boat side on to the chop. There were times we actually had spray on the boat at anchor! It was Sunday and the marina said they would have a slip for us Monday. While we were able to tolerate this for 24 more hours the anchorage was NOT fun. The gribs indicated that the winds were to ease off as the day lengthened. But Mother Nature does not like being told what to do. She blew all day long. By evening, as seems to be the case in NZ the winds eased off and we were able to get some sleep.
In the am life was again good, We filled our biological gas tank with a great breakfast and cleaned up. And as not predicted, the winds began to blow again. However now we would leave. The tide was flooding and we needed to pass a shallow spot of about a nautical mile before entering the channel to Whangarei. We wanted to cross that bar near high tide. We motored out across the bar into the channel and headed up river with a the wind singing in the rigging sometimes and others the wind was as quiet as a night in doldrums. I was fascinated by our speed in the river with the various currents and winds. With constant engine rpms we went from 3- 6 kts. We finally decided to slow down after calculating when high tide was for another shallow spot near the marina. We only spotted one other anchorage we would have been better off in had we continued up the river two days ago. The chart wasn’t clear and we didn’t want to head up the river and take a chance we would need to head back down. Now I know, we can hide from most all winds up near Whangarei.
By 3 pm we contacted the bascule bridge and crossed our last barrier. With the marina up ahead we were ready to give the boat a good wash and sleep like babies. The dock crew assisted us in tying up. In many marinas here in NZ they don’t use cleats. They have rings driven into the docks and you need to either tie a line to the ring or run it through the ring and back to the boat. With several people assisting the process went
without a hitch. Soon we felt like back home, at our old marina in Tarpon Springs, Sail Harbor. There people were always around to assist. They had dock parties every week, and advice is worth what you pay for it. 😉
Leaving Momo bay and traveling out the main channel we had an issue. I didn’t think the channel would be all rough as we had an incoming tide and a light breeze in the same direction. Was I ever wrong. We travel about 6+ kts when motoring in calm waters. In this pass the current slowed us to 2+ kts and we had a short steep chop. So much so that we knocked another board off the bowsprit platform. Concerned a wee bit about potential damage we diverted to Robinson Crusoe Island. There we’ll check for any damage. We can always leave the following day.
Other than Elysium’s ego damaged we did leave the following day. The pass to Robinson was easy to navigate and shortly we had our sails up and were heading towards New Zealand. Well, almost towards NZ.
As in my last post the idea was to head SW on a reach and then once we made our Westing turn SE and reach to NZ. We could head SW but it wasn’t a reach. At times maybe, but for the most part we were close hauled. Not our preferable way to sail, at least not in the ocean. We started out with a single reefed main and a reefed Jib. At the time we were making 6 kts +/- . The seas were; rough. We had multiple swells rolling in from the S quadrants. Swells out of the SE, S, and SW. This made the rides at Disney feel bland and boring by comparison. There were often times when we would fall down one wave just to have the bow crash into the next. Over the next few days we lost two more teak platform pieces off the bowsprit. The anchors are now cleaner than when new from the constant pressure wash.
For the first few days this was not a comfortable trip. We set up one of the dinette seats inside the boat to wedge ourselves into and that place was a saving grace. The weather turned chilly with the winds out of the S. Yep, in the Southern Hemisphere winds from Antarctica are from the South. We would do our watches in the “rocking chair” and every so often stick our head up and check the horizon. While we needed to know what was going on outside we never saw another ship until we sighted NZ. For the most part this area of the world appeared to be devoid of life. Some days we never even saw a bird!
I checked the GRIBs twice a day. The (High) that was to fill in shrunk a bit and stayed stationary for a bit. This meant we stayed on the wind for longer than we would have liked. Finally we hit the (H) and turned on the motor. Motoring in the calms sleep came easily and our watches went smoothly. We motored S traveling up and down some nicely spaced swells. We motored through the tail end of a stationary front and then the (H) just seemed to evaporate. Again we fought a new onslaught of winds from the S and some new southerly wave trains. Notice the plural! A new (H) had reformed to the SW of us giving us more wind out of; you guessed it, the S.
The motion of the boat went from comfortable to “Holy Crap Batman”! With the iPhone sitting on the table I noticed every so often the gyro in it thought someone was picking it up to use it. It would come on and sense that indeed no one was using it and promptly shut off.
One may wonder why we had the phone sitting on the table in the first place. The iPhone is NOT a satellite phone and there are NO cell towers in the middle of the ocean. Before we left Fiji I spent some time downloading podcasts. We like “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, Freakeconomics, Snap Judgement, PBS News
Hour, Politics Monday, and a smattering of others. That and books kept us entertained for most of the trip. The rest of our time was eating, sleeping, and caring for the boat. We never had the large drifter out but we finally used the staysail. I believe this was the first time in the Pacific I actually had it out under sail.
On this trip we ran with a double reefed main, Yankee Jib heavily reefed to all the way out and the staysail. Winds were never over 30 kts and for the most part in the 20’s. We used various combinations depending on the the sea state – current winds and the winds we anticipated coming. We never hove to although I watched for a time when that might be to our advantage. One boat that left the same time we did hove to for two days waiting for the Westerlies to set in. Personally, I never looked two days out.
I was a wee bit concerned when Dirk (part of our shore support team) said a Tropical Depression popped up in Fiji. By then we were 3 days S and for the most part well away. We were heading S too but depressions and cyclones can move faster than we do. Luckily for us it fell apart. But in Fiji they received enormous amounts of rain and the resultant flooding. We just squeaked out of Fiji in time. Four boats left within a day of each other on this passage. Yet with those four only one (us) checked into the Pacific Seafarers net at 14300 mhz at 0300 zulu.
Golden Age left the day after we did and arrived on the same day as we did with a broken head stay. He had secured the mast with two halyards and the rigger I spoke with later said his baby stay too had about half the wires broken. He was lucky to have arrived with the mast still standing. Herbert is a single hander and it appears he did a lot more motoring than we did.
Serge on Spirare; another New Zealand veteran, had said to maintain a minimum of 5 kts and “burn that diesel”. We averaged well over 5 kts and burned about 500 l of diesel. motoring close to 100 hours. Some of the motoring was motor sailing but for the most part if we could sail we did.
A Fuji 45 ketch left the same day we did and arrived without an engine. He is the boat that hove to for 2 days. Pedro (the owner) had picked up two crew in Vuda for the passage and for the most part he had reported a rather nice trip. He headed farther West than we did and parking the boat for two days may have made it more comfortable. Our track worried me that we were getting too far west and I didn’t want to beat E to get back to NZ. As it was we were about 150 nm more West than I had planned for. In this part of the ocean no one says to just “hang out”. Three bodies of water and three weather systems met here creating a “mess”. We were in that mess.
The last boat that made this transit during the same period was Hello World. Sailed by a single hander who has already circumnavigated she did not do well. We had been in about a week when we received the news. While close to land she had a safe course set with the wind vane and thought she could get some shut eye. As she slept the winds shifted and as a wind vane steers to the wind the boats course changed. While asleep the boat ended up on a reef just S of Opua. Rona ended up in her dinghy rowing and rescued by some fishermen. She’s fine but the boat is no more.
Just off the Northern coast of NZ the winds lightened up. Then they started heading us up, forcing us to take a more easterly course. Once we were heading farther from, not closer to our destination, we tacked. Now we are heading back towards NZ but not on our rhumb line to Opua. Late in the am we made our first sighting of land and by late afternoon the winds had died enough that we needed to again run the engine.
Before we left Fiji I serviced the engine, changed the Racor Fuel filters, checked the transmission fluid level, changed the oil. All was looking good. The engine was purring like a kitten. However, I neglected to change the final fuel filter on the Perkins. That filter is a PITA to change. The engineers that designed it need to seriously suffer! That said I also had bought into the idea of a cascading filtering system. My Racor was 20 micron and then the Perkins filter was whatever it was …..finer. Now after 50 hours or so bouncing and running the engine it was acting as it did two years ago, starved for fuel every so often. Damn! I will be switching back to my old style of running a 2 micron in the Racors and extending the life of the Perkins filter. It is much easier to change the Racors than the Perkins filter. Much easier. So we are running the Perkins and every so often the engine revs a little. When the engine ever miss behaves it creates anxiety. We do count on that getting us into harbors and out of tricky situations.
I am constantly amazed that with a 12 hour daylight target in which to make landfall I seem to miss that daylight more than I would like. We could motor like hell and maybe arrive at our harbor entrance an hour after Sunset. If we putt along as slow as possible we will be entering the harbor at Sunrise. We choose the later and with the engine ticking over we scratch our way to Opua.
When 12 nm from land as requested by NZ I call on SSB NZ Maritime and inform them that we are in their waters and expect to be at the custom dock tomorrow. Later that evening with a better understanding of when we will arrive W/ calls on VHF and gives them a more accurate time.
I love making landfall in daylight. We make our way slowly up the river and the smells and sights are refreshing. Not realizing there was current at the marina I tried to tie up to a midship cleat and use the engine to pull the boat to the dock. The current was not having any of that. We ended up doing a 180 near the dock and docking the opposite way we intended. It was a lousy landing at the customs dock. I feel like we are boating for our first time. Oh well! Any time you dock and there is no damage and no injuries is a good experience docking.
A couple hours later Customs/Immigration and Biosecurity came. NZ is “extremely cautious” with diseases and pests of all kinds. First we had our wrist slapped because they didn’t have the “pre arrival” form. I had emailed it from Fiji but neglected to check my email after I had sent it. It didn’t go through. Fortunately I had it on my phone to show the Customs officer. She also informed us that upon receipt they send out a confirmation email. Fiji didn’t do that. I wasn’t expecting to receive a reply believing this was just another hoop or formality they want, but they never check. I guess I was wrong. 🙂 While we’ve had the iPhones now for a few years I need to be more aware of how some things work. I heard the “whoosh” of an email sent but the whoosh occurs when it is sending, not when it has been sent. Live and learn.
After the wrist slap Customs and Immigration went smoothly. Some forms to fill out and more forms to fill out, stamps in the passport and then we were legal. The boat was still another story.
The Biosecurity officer came and he had fun. We had two dozen eggs and had hardboiled some believing that killed anything dangerous. He said “Oh the hard boiled egg trick, nope those go”! 🙂 The eggs went, then the frozen meat, after that it was into checking lockers. He had the flash light out to find things we didn’t know about but he did. Popcorn- gone, fruit- gone, fresh vegetables- gone, honey- gone. He checked other lockers wanting to see one that opens to … the bilge. There in sits a 200 l diesel tank. Ok! He checked other lockers asking about do we have this or that. Finally, as an after thought he asked about vacuum bags. Yep, we got rid of our vacuum bag and all that was in it. All told, we lost about $100-$150 US in food supplies. Other boats we had talked to didn’t have quite the same loss. Some boats had frozen meat that the officer let slide, others not. It appears our guy followed the letter of the law and we don’t fault him for that. He actually presents some of the seminars in Fiji and Tonga for cruisers. Those attending know what is allowed and what not. We never seem able to be in the right place at the right time and have missed every seminar presented.
I asked him what now happens to the items he removed. He indicated they go to incendirator. The contents are heated to 1000º C destroying everything.
Once he completed his tasks we were good, free to go. Monica from the Marina stopped by to let us know what slip we were heading to. We like to clean up the boat and rest as soon as possible. However, moving the boat to its final Opua resting place we heard one of the engine alarms sound and then silence. Uh-oh! The good part is it did not remain on, the bad part is I didn’t know which alarm it was. I just thought it was the water alarm and I would investigate it once docked. By the way, it turns out it is the “Low Oil Pressure” alarm. A big “UH-OH” ! Once secured W/ and I look forward to doing…. nothing. With the lack of boat moment after 10 days at sea we have a new experience and need to adjust…by doing nothing. Tomorrow we will wash the boat and begin the process of identifying what will be repaired / improved after 3 years crossing the Pacific.