More visitors- The kids were so excited to see their Grandma again. We haven't seen my family in almost two years. We all met Uncle Joe and Grandma at the airport after their very long and delayed flight (emergency landing in Hawaii - fun fun!) By now we know our way to and from the Auckland Airport like the back of our hand! Of course the kids got totally spoiled all over again with all the visitors bearing gifts.
We barely let Grandma catch her breath and get over her jet lag before we wisked her and Joe off on a road trip in the van to the Waitomo Caves where saw the glow worms and took a mystic boat ride through the black caves. True, our choice of motels was not the best, but it was an adventure (hint for anyone thinking of going to see the glowworm caves at Waitomo - do not book your sleeping arrangements with the Waitomo I-site before seeing the place and the Glowworm Motel does not have a playground, trampoline or pool that I would let my kids play on or swim in!) We also stopped at the Otorohanga Kiwi House and saw lots of native birds and a couple of kiwi in the nocturnal house.
Then we headed off to Rotorua where we tried the Zorb. The Zorb is a giant inflatable ball where you get in and start off by sitting in some very warm water, then roll down a hill sloshing and flailing about. We had read about this before we got to New Zealand and just had to try it. It was really fun, took about 1 minute max then it was over. Not too much skill involved as you just roll around and have no control of the ball. But hey we are tourists.
That evening we took in a Moari show at Tamaki Maori Village, the show was very good, educational and entertaining, however the buffett dinner left something to be desired. Quite frankly I don’t understand how they can get away with serving food of such bad quality but the place is packed every night and it is not cheap!
We walked through Kuirau Park, where there is a wooden walkway through lakes where geothermal steam rises and the smell of sulphur (or rotten eggs) fills the air. Prety much all through the town there is geothermal activity seething from cracks in the streets, steams from backyard hot pools, bursts from geysers throughout the area, and bubbles from cauldron-like mud pools.
Uncle Joe decided to head off on a helicopter ride to White Island where they dropped down and landed onto an active volcano. He said it was highly cool.
We went up the gondola for a spectacular view and did some luge rides, which is always a hoot.
On our last night, we stayed at a working dairy farm near Matamata on recommendation from one of our cruising buddies and it was fantastic. In the morning we went over and saw how they milk the cows. This particular farm is run just by the couple who own it, they treat their cows well, the farmer’s wife, who does all the milking, even has given each of the cows a name!
We then hiked up to the base of the Wairere waterfall. There are so many beautiful hikes with the trails very well maintained in New Zealand, it really is mindnumbing!
We took Grandma and Uncle Joe on a bit of a harbour tour to a few of the islands. We did a stop at Waiheke Island to do some wine tours and collect shells on the beach and then we stopped at the volcanic island of Rangitoto. Rangitoto is a volcanic island very close to Auckland, there is a causeway linking it to the bigger Motutapu Island. It is a scenic reserve however there are bachs (cottages) for rent. It felt great to get away from the city for a few days and be at anchor again.
Once we were back at our slip at the Viaduct, we took the ferry to Devonport to visit our friends, hiked up Mt Victoria to see the stunning views from there and the kids had fun sliding down the hills on pieces of cardboard (this seems to be what all the locals do). We spent one whole day at the Auckland Zoo where we saw pigs and elephants going for walks (but not together as the pig is scared of the elephant!)
All of a sudden it was time to take Grandma and Uncle Joe back tot the airport, where had the time gone? On our way we stopped at One Tree Hill. It is located in a beautiful park, has a stunning 360 degree view and boy was it windy! At the summit is the grave of John Logan Campbell who gifted the land to the city in 1901 but where was the tree? Up until 2000 a Monterey pine stood at the top of the hill. This was a replacement for a sacred totara that was chopped down by British settlers in 1852. Maori activists chopped the tree down in 2000. The land claims are unresolved at One Tree Hill. If you know the U2 song “One Tree Hill” that is where they are singing about.
We were at the Viaduct so long that we were able to watch the Team Vodafone Trimaran get her mast restepped and we actually followed her out of the harbour as they were heading out for a race. As we were leaving Auckland harbour for the last time, we were surrounded by the following boats: One of the America's Cup 45 World Series catamarans; Team Vodafone a 60 foot Trimaran; the huge Camper Volvo Open 70; an old style Tahitian or Polynesian sailing waka and the 110 ft luxury yacht “Imagine”! What a spectacular send off! Auckland truly is the City of Sails and is a splendid place to spend time.
Haul out in Gulf Harbour Marina
All was set, we had our paint, we had our time booked and we ran around like mad people in Auckland doing last minute chores. Gulf Harbour is about 12 miles North of Auckland and you can guess which way the wind was blowing when we were rushing to get there?- yep from the North. In one way it was good because we had a chance to check out our new sails, tacking back and forth, back and forth for hours. It is getting darker earlier and earlier so by 6:30 p.m. we were in the dark with still 10 miles to go. We decided to go for it and we made it to the marina with no problem. There were lots of lights and it was well marked and we knew where we were the whole time. Thank you to Paul and Gloria for loaning us their slip at the marina while their boat is out on the hard.
The day we hauled out it was blowing 40 knots, there were white caps in the harbour, I kept waiting for a call to say they were going to cancel but of course it never came so we went for it. Kudos for the captains’ skill at the helm or I’m not so sure we would have.
We worked like mad for those three days, sanding, painting, cleaning, waxing, scrubbing, the boat has never looked so good (sorry Don!). We got our dingy repaired as well. I have not helped with this type of boat work in years because normally I would be taking care of the children however now they are old enough to want to help themselves so I can’t get out of it anymore!! We all got our hands dirty and I think we deserve a big congratulations on a job well done. The staff at Gulf Harbour Marina were very professional and know what they are doing. There is a marine shop (Burnsco) and a cafe right at the hard stand which makes it very convenient and easy to keep working.
Whangarei Town Basin
It is very convenient here, walking distance to everything that a cruiser may need: laundry, playground, grocery stores, services and chandleries to fix your boat, lots of other kid boats, restaurants, pubs, fitness classes, a tv room, book exchange, haul out facilities; ice cream parlours etc. etc. The only downside is that it is down a very shallow river so the scenery is not the best considering the multitude of gorgeous anchorages in New Zealand. It’s all a trade off, but definitely it would have been better to come here on arrival in New Zealand than Opua in our opinion.
We know that we are getting back into cruising when we were invited over to Tyee III for Easter dinner, unfortunately a turkey could not be found but Lucie prepared stuffed chickens and all the trimmings and it was fantastic like everything she touches in the galley.
It is wonderful to catch up with our cruising friends again, everyone is talking about the passage to Fiji, the weather doesn’t look good for the next few weeks but preparations have begun! The kids are having so much fun playing with all their friends. It is great here because the way that it is set up , the kids can go off and play with their friends on their own.
A Final Farewell to New Zealand
As we sit in Whangarei waiting for a weather window and doing all the last minute preparations I am thinking back on our six months in New Zealand. We feel fortunate and are happy that we made the effort to tour around New Zealand, it wasn’t always easy, that if for sure. We just about circumnavigated the North Island in Stray Kitty (just short by 60 nautical miles as we didn’t make it back to the Bay of Islands). The weather is always in the front of your mind when sailing around New Zealand. It definitely is a challenge. This is what a typical weather forecast sounds like:
Saturday 30 knots from the North; gusting to 35 knots; switching to 25 knots from the South West on Sunday morning with rough seas. Sunday afternoon 15 knots from the South East, rough sea easing; Sunday evening; 10 knots from the North, calm seas. Then it starts all over again! The good news is that the weather blows through really fast so if it is really stinky, you know you just have to wait a few hours and it the bad weather will be gone.
We toured the South Island by land making it all the way down to Stewart Island. There is no doubt about it, New Zealand is one beautiful country!
We met lots of fabulous local Kiwis, and we are proud to say we can understand and had a lot of entertaining moments learning the vernacular.
Here is a Kiwi test. Please translate to Canadian English (5 marks each):
1. Kiwi: Grab your jandals and your togs and meet us down by the bach.
2. Kiwi: Come by for tea and bring a dish.
3. Kiwi: Sweet as, mate
4. Kiwi: Let’s grab some take-a-ways, preferably greasies and we can watch the All Blacks.
5. Kiwi: There’s going to be a barbie and bash in Welllywood on Saturday, good as gold!
(Answers at bottom of page)
1. Grab your sandals and bathing suit and meet us down by the beach house or cottage .
2. Come by for dinner (or supper) and bring some food.
3. Way cool, pal.
4. Let’s grab some take out, preferable fish and chips and we can watch the All Blacks (New Zealand’s revered national rugby union team)
5. There’s going to be a bbq and party in Wellington on Saturday, okay!