|Excellent Aviation Museum|
|Jo, Trevor and Anne with Domini aircraft|
|Rush Hour Traffic|
|Alpine Hike in Milford Region|
|Helicopter Tour Glacial Landing|
|Gertrude's Saddle High Country|
|Malarkey & Blue Rodeo Campsite|
|Pretty but Pesky Kea|
|Campsite Pizza Chefs|
|Beautiful Alpine Scenery|
As we write this, we are 400 miles south of Anatom (Aneithym) Island, Vanautu more than half way on our 940 mile passage from Opua, New Zealand. We realize it’s been many months since our last blog posting and we’re sure that our followers must be convinced that we’ve been abducted by pirates or sailed off the edge of the earth. The reality is that since sailing back to New Zealand in November of last year, we have been constantly on the move. At this point, we’ll do our best to recap the proceeding months and bring everyone up to date.
After returning to the same slip in Whangarei’s Town Basin Marina that we used last year, we hurried to prepare Blue Rodeo for a number of months of inactivity and enlist the aid of local friend, and fabricator extraordinaire, Steve Eichler. Our plan, while traveling home to the States for the holidays, was to get Steve started on several galley interior upgrades that we had in mind. We also arranged with a local sail maker to have a new mainsail built as a replacement for the one on Blue Rodeo that was beginning to show wear and tear from our many miles at sea. Before arriving in NZ, we had made the decision to divide our time at home in the States into two separate trips allowing for five to six weeks in January and February for travel around New Zealand by land. Good friends Trevor and Joanne, whom we’d sailed with in 2012, had sold their boat (Malarkey) and were raving about their NZ travel experiences with a car and travel trailer (caravan) that they had purchased. They were anxious for us to join them in a thorough exploration of the South Island before they returned to England. After returning to NZ from our first trip home, Mark hurriedly constructed a sleeping platform with storage underneath for the back of our Toyota minivan (dubbed the “Rodeo Mobile”) that we purchased last year. Into it we also piled camping and hiking gear and our new folding bikes and headed south to rendezvous with Trevor and Jo near the south end of the South Island. We had a lot of kilometers to cover and our plan was to head as quickly south as possible taking more time for sight seeing as we worked our way back to the north.
The trip began with two stops on the North Island to deliver our two SUP’s (stand up paddle surf boards) to new owners who had purchased them from us on Trademe, NZ’s version of E bay. The second stop required a diversion to the coastal cities of Tauranga and Mt. Manganui south of the Coromandel Peninsula. Along the way, we were treated to the variety of NZ’s terrain and beautiful scenery as the route took us through areas of green rolling hills, farm land and dense forests. From there we went to Wellington southernmost city on the north island and home to the Te Papa national museum. A visit to the museum proved to be very interesting with displays of NZ’s history, flora, fauna and culture. Of particular interest was a giant squid on display in a tank filled with preservative. It was caught by a vessel in the Southern Ocean, was over 23’ long and had eyes the size of volleyballs. It was definitely not something we would ever want to encounter while scuba diving! The museum also featured a portion of the World of Wearable Art (WOW) exhibits that are normally viewed at a museum in Nelson on the South Island. The creativity of design and materials used for the costumes was truly amazing.
From Wellington, a pleasant 3 1/2 hour ferry ride across the often treacherous Cook Strait took us to the town of Picton, gateway to NZ’s South Island. After a car camping overnight at a holiday park, we pointed the Rodeo Mobile south along the east coastal highway with the goal of reaching the city of Christchurch by late afternoon. It was there that we paid visit to NZ cruising friends, Chris and Irene from “Cuttyhunk” and John from “Awaroa”, who live there. John’s better-half Helen was in Australia visiting their daughters. After a night as guests at Chris and Irene’s home, we continued south, catching up with Trevor and Jo at their campsite in a park in the Caitlin region. For the next month we traveled in their company sampling many of the South Island’s delights.
We soon realized that even a month is not enough time to see and do it all but we did our best by making it to the southern most town of Bluff before zigzagging our way back through the popular tourist areas of Te Anu, Milford Sound, Queenstown and the Southern Alps. Along the way, we included almost daily hikes (called tramping in NZ) some bike riding and even splurged for a helicopter tour, complete with glacier landing, in the Milford area. Winding our way back north, our route took us to the quaint seaside community of Greymouth on NZ’s west coast and then back through the rugged interior for another visit with the “Cuttyhunk and Awaroa” crews in Christchurch. This time John’s wife Helen was there and our group of eight laughed and reminisced about the adventures and good times we shared during our 2012 Pacific crossing.
Before we were ready, it came time to say goodbye to Trevor and Jo and start heading back to the north island where we would check on “Blue Rodeo” and prepare for our second trip back to the States. We did take time though, before leaving the South Island, to explore the charming city of Nelson. Our last night before boarding the ferry was spent at a harbor-side hotel in Picton where we were pleased to meet up with good friends Bob and Ann from the yacht “Charisma” who had just arrived to begin their South Island exploration. It happened to be our anniversary, so we happily shared our celebration with them over dinner at a nearby pub. The next day, before boarding the ferry, we all hiked to an overlook with a splendid view of famous Queen Charlotte sound.
Back on the North Island, with the barn door in sight, we hustled north to Gulf Harbor, on the north shore of the Harauki Gulf, for an overnight visit with another couple of wonderful friends, Bev and Robbie of the yacht “Mersoleil” who had spent nearly a year there having their beautiful Hylas 46 rebuilt after the failure of a boat yard jack stand caused it to topple over doing a tremendous amount of damage. It was a pleasure seeing them and hearing that repairs to their floating home were nearly complete.
Looking back, we realize that we just skimmed the surface of the wonders that New Zealand has to offer and that we could spend years there before feeling content that we’d really seen it. Alas, even more interesting and exotic places are calling to us and we feel motivated to continue sailing west. New Zealand will, for us though, always be place that was beginning to feel like home and one that we’ll return to in the years to come.