Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Schweikert Tour of NZ Part 2

New Zealand

For Part 1 Click Here

Monday marked Day 5 and didn't start out that well. About an hour south of Ralph's (beautiful drive as you can see on the left) as we approached Warkworth, my car overheated. I pulled over right away...let it cool a bit, checked the coolant level (fine), and tried to drive again to see if we could get into town. About a mile further (1 km to town) it overheated again and I pulled into a parking lot and called AA (no, not the alcoholics, the Automobile Association) for a tow.

In order to avoid a long delay Dad and Wendy headed into town to find a rental car and I waited for the Tow Truck. About 2.5 hours later we were back on the road and headed south. We lost our chance at a day's activity, but arrived in Rotarua in time to have an early dinner and head to the Polynesian Spa for a hot mineral bath soak.

In the morning we headed to Wai-O Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, and a wonderland it is! This shot is of the near boiling pool and is an intense emerald green with very bright orange rim. Depending on the wind visibility can drop to nothing or become brilliant as the steam from the 70-80 (C) water fills the air. We started with the short walk of about 45 minutes before heading off for the scheduled geyser show. The geyser would go off on its own every 24-48 hours, but to allow visitors to see the spectacle they seed the geyser with soap powder every morning at 10:15. About the most touristy thing we did the whole trip but pretty cool non the less. We loved the geothermal hike so much that we went back so we could see the other two trails through the park. The other two loops are not quite as spectacular, but quite interesting and very beautiful. This is a stop well worth making.

From there we headed off to Lake Taupo for a picknick lakeside and some serious duck feeding. By the end of lunch we had about 25 ducks quacking after our scraps and one kiwi teenager asking for a cracker (we guessed it was on a dare). After another nice lunch we headed to Hukai Falls where an amazing amount of water flows down a waterfall. I don't remember the flow rate, but it was something like 80 Olympic swimming pools every second. From there we drove down to Napier, where we found a great hotel room and even better restaurant. Pacifica is run by a Mauri Chef and "European" (i.e. white) kiwi wife who acts as sommelier and hostess. Dishes are appetizer sized and look like something straight out of Top Chef with great presentation, flavor combinations, and unique preparations of primarily local seafood. It was a long (almost 3 hour) dining experience and not one we will soon forget. Before we left we asked the hostess to suggest some vineyards for us to visit the following day...one of our better ideas.

In the morning of day 7 Dad and I took the Art Deco Architecture Tour while Wendy had a "lay-in". Napier was hit by a devestating earthquake in 1931 followed by fires that leveled the city. When rebuilt, Art Deco was in its hayday and most of the city was rebuilt in this style. Luckily in the 1970's and 80's when people started looking to tear the old buildings down and rebuild, only two buildings were lost before a local trust saved the rest. We had a great tour and by noon were having a cheese tasting at Te Mata Cheese Company. We followed that with a wine tasting at Te Mata Vineyards before heading to Craggy Range for a tasting and then lunch. This large and very impressive vinyard is the recent investment of the children of the founder of Waste Management, one of the largest trash services in the US. Apparently the trash business is quite profitable as this is a very nice vineyard with an outstanding restaurant where we had a too long but very tasty meal after our 7-flight wine tasting in the "cellar door". After that we were a bit whipped which probably didn't help our disapointing tasting at Esk Valley. Overall we were very impressed with Hawke's Bay vineyards, especially their ability to make some truly great reds. Dad brought home 3 bottles from Craggy Range (and a polo shirt), two of which will wait at least 5 years before opening when we plan to come together and remember our trip over one of bottles.

In part 3 we will head to Wellington and the South Island.... Stay Tuned.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Schweikert Tour of NZ - Part 1

New Zealand

I wasn't able to blog about my travels with Dad & Wendy while on the road so this is going to take a few parts to catch up, but we mite as well start at the beginning.

I picked up Dad & Wendy Thursday morning (3 March). I had hoped to offer them a shower aboard Curious, but she got hauled the day before so I just brought towels & toiletries and we utilized the free showers at the airport (small, but not too bad -- just leave a deposit at the flower shop).
We then headed to One Tree Hill for a beautiful view of Auckland. This is quite a lovely park that deserves more time than we had, but it was off to the Viaduct for free parking and a walk around downtown. We had a fabulous lunch at EuroBar including a dozen of the best oysters I have ever had. Approaching 0-nap-thirty we got in the car and drove up to Gulf Harbour, stopping at the Auckland Fish Market along the way for dinner fixings. and settled onto Tanaya for a few naps while I checked in on some boat details with the yard.

For dinner we started with Green Lip Mussels in white wine, garlic, and green onion. This was followed by salmon with lemon and dill, a fabulous dinner.

Friday morning we got going fairly early and headed north. First stop was Whangarei Falls for a nice walk and great picknick of cheese we had bought north of Wellsford at the Kiawaka Cheese Shop. From there we took the coastal route via Tutukaka where I had to stop at Sail Cove Vineyards, probably the most beautiful vineyard I have ever been to. This was a surprise visit as I hadn't realized we would drive this way but luckily the owners had just returned from vacation and quickly put away the closed sign that was up and welcomed us in. We had a tasting, bought a bottle of Rose and Port and were on our way to the lovely beach in Matapouri for a few hours of swimming and a game of beach cricket. I am not sure if this bay has enough draft for a monohull, but there was a nice cat in there an it was a fabulous bay and beach, among the best I have seen in NZ. We then drove up to Paihia.

Saturday I had planned for us to go for a sail, but between the high wind and driving rain we decided to hold off and had a nice relaxing morning in our hotel room. I got caught up on the insurance estimates that Chris had sent on Friday and by 11:00 things had cleared and we decided to heat out. We settled on a visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and I showed them around having taken the tour when we arrived in the spring. By the time we were ready to leave the rain had returned so we decided to skip Russel and headed up to Kirikiri. Unfortunately on a saturday afternoon the entire town shuts down, so it was a bit of a wild goose chase, but we tasted some chocolate and then some wine at Cottle Hill Vineyards, a nice little vineyard started by California sailors who never left. The Syrah is particularly good as is their white port.

Sunday wasn't perfect, but the forecast was nice enough for a sail, so we packed a picknick, headed to the docks and borrowed a 28' sailboat from a friend of a friend. Quite the trusting guy to let me take his boat out having met me 5 minutes before he said goodbye. The wind started light, but built quickly. We headed out to Roberton island, but the anchorages were on the windward side and I wasn't comfortable anchoring a boat I hardly know on a lee shore so we dropped sail on the leeward side, left the engine in neutral and hung out for our lunch before turning back upwind towards the bay in 15-18 knots. By the time we entered the mouth of the inner bay, the wind was a steady 25 gusting to 30 and we were getting a little wet, but Wendy did a very good job on the mainsheet, dumping just enough in the puffs to keep the boat on her feet without loosing too much way. I headed us towards the shore to try to get into some protected waters which worked long enough for the strong wind to calm down to 15-20 with a few higher gusts. Three long legs and we were close enough to start the engine, and lower sails, just as the sun finally came out. We go to see Opua Harbour in all her sunny splendor before putting the boat away on the dock before our drive to Matakana. Sharon was away in Australia researching birds, but Ralph Kast was kind enough to invite us for dinner and an overnight at their beautiful home.

More soon as time allows.