Tuesday, December 14, 2010

news from New Zealand

Hi to all...hard to believe that I have been in New Zealand for a whole month.  It is very green and very beautiful here.  People are exceptionally friendly and greet you with a G'Day each time you pass.  There are only 4.2 million people living here so things seem very sane and low key.  We spent the first week after the boat and the boys got in just putting the boat back together after the passage and also doing some sightseeing in the 'Northland".  There were a bunch of activities at the Opua Marina for all the cruisers as most of the boats were also just arriving.  Bill was very involved in helping our friend Steve Brown (Curious is his boat and we cruised extensively with Steve and wife Trish from Tahiti to Nuie) deal with a very badly infected foot.  He took him to the hospital the minute he had cleared customs and when the antibiotic IV's were not doing the trick saw to it that he was transferred to a larger facility and watched over 2 surgeries to clean the wound out and get him back on his feet and infection free.  Steve was really lucky that they got in when they did as another day or two out to sea could have caused irreparable damage or even more far reaching infection throughout his body. We saw too many skin (mostly staph) infections during the last couple of months...something about the waters in Tonga and Figi is my guess.  The water is a few degrees warmer than usual this year (causing La Nina conditions) and maybe that plays into this..

After leaving Opua we have gone North to the Cavelli islands and then headed Southeast to make our way down the coast towards the Auckland area. We were able to spend one night at Motorua just outside of Opua and catch up with Curious as Steve brings his boat to Auckland and heads back to So. Wales for the holidays. Nice to have a dinner aboard and to see that he is A-OK. As we headed south we stopped at places like Mimiwhatanga Bay and Tutukaka just to give you a taste of the place names here.  I think much of the names are Maori and very hard to keep straight.  Had the luck of some very mild, settled weather to be able to anchor at the Mokohinau Islands.  That anchorage was one of the top 5 of the whole trip and we had a magical stay there.  We anchored in the middle literally of cliffs on all sides.  There were all these arches and caves and a great hike to a lighthouse on the nearby island. We even donned our wetsuits and went for a quick snorkel (our first time in the water since leaving tonga).  but even with wetsuits it was pretty cold so it was a quick dip but did spot some fish that were big and different than the ones of the tropics.  There are tons of Marine Reserves here so much of the land is protected and you can only land in certain spots.  Everywhere we have gone have been amazing sets of trails (they call them tracks) and lots and lots of hiking.  Everything is well maintained and marked and it has been so nice to not worry about getting lost! After the Mokohinaus we went to Great Barrier Island which is pretty much a wild place.  Somewhat reminiscent of Isle Au Haut or parts of Mt. Desert Island in Maine.  Did some hard and wonderful hiking including an all day excursion to the summit of Mt. Hobson (about 2000 ft).  We went to a few different bays and found the spots to be settled even in pretty windy conditions.  Before we left there we had a rainy day hike to a Hot Springs and a good soak in the pools.

From Great Barrier we had a really nice day sail (actually got some of that downwind sailing with following seas that was promised for the South Pacific) to the Coromandel Peninsula. Came to the Eastern coast and about 1/2 way down into an area known as Mercury Bay.  Apparently (previously unbeknownest to me) Gram has wanted to come here since 1995 when he started reading about America's Cup history. In 1988 Michael Fay challenged San Diego for the America's Cup from this area. Needless to say the region is steeped in nautical history and everyone sails or fishes or dives for mussels and scallops.  Speaking of which we have been fortunate enough to find the most delicious green lipped mussels a couple of times and had them as appetizers when we did. Mostly I am amazed by the amount of green pastureland and the lack of built up areas here.  The landscape is rugged but soft at the same time because of the green hills.  Lots of sheep and cattle and you can tell that farming is a prosperous entity here. There do not seem to be billboards on the highways and everything is clean and green. So far except for right in Auckland I have seen nothing but 2 lane highways that snake and wind their way through the countryside. We had thought we would ride our bikes alot more but with the narrow roads and hilly terain we are not so sure that is a good idea.  Have read of nothing but cycle deaths since arriving so it appears to be a dangerous sport.

Yesterday we spent the morning in a small town called Whitianga and happened upon a Christmas parade.  Pretty funny to be watching Christmas parades in shorts (and sweatshirts because it is not that warm to our tropical blood) but then again it is the beginning of summer here.  We have enjoyed being somewhat back in civilization and going to supermarkets again....the lamb and sausages are to die for and the fresh vegies very plentiful and affordable.  The absolute best however is the wine.  You can find really good bottles for $10-12 NZ which is $8-10 US.  We have also gone to a couple of vineyards and enjoyed the small boutique wines that are being produced in the regions that are not the famous ones (Hawkes Bay and Marlborough Sound much further south).  Today we are headed to Cathedral Cove which is said to be drop dead gorgeous and will spend the night if conditons allow.  Otherwise will have to find a more protected spot nearby before heading to Waiheke island tomorrow to meet our friends Ralph and Sharon who will cruise with us for awhile.  Gram will take a ferry from Waiheke to Auckland on Thurs. and then shuttle to the airport that evening for his flight back to USA.  He will spend a month at home visiting family and friends in Maine and Rhode Island.  Zak has just one more final next Friday and then will also head to Sierra's for the holidays and his Christmas break. Bill and I plan to stay sailing till just before New Year's and then bring the boat in to settle down to it's new home at Gulf Harbor Marina.  We hope to spend a few days in Auckland and may even do some other inland tour before I leave on Jan 8. Our very best Holiday wishes to all and we are really looking forward to seeing many of you in the not too distant future.  Cheers....and love   Jo

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