Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dessert for Christmas Dinner, New Zealand Style (pavlova, yummm)

I did this blog just after Christmas and it describes our trip from Opua to Whangarei on the boat. I thought it worth posting.

We have arrived in Whangerai. We had a lovely Christmas in the Bay of Islands. On the trip we have discovered that Mom is not cut out to be a sailor. At eighty years old I doubt whether we can change this fact. I guess I should have known the first day, she took sea sickness pills when we were at anchor because the rolling bothered her!! Well to be fair it was rolling a lot and it was not very fun to be down below. Then Mom and I decided to go ashore and do some beachcombing. Mom got off the boat into the dinghy without a problem, she really is very spry and agile for an eighty year old. When we got to shore I put the dinghy up as close as I could get it to shore and then told Mom to get out. Well she got one foot out and then had a problem getting the other leg over the edge of the dinghy and in she went. She didn’t fall over she just gracefully sat down while still holding on to the dinghy. When I told Barry, he said “Oh, she pulled a Steve did she!” She was only wet up to the waist, rather than get her back into the dinghy and have to get out again, I just roared back to the boat and got her some dry clothes and a towel. Fortunately the beach was deserted so the process of changing clothes went on uninterrupted.
We left that anchorage the next day because the wind had come up and we were not very protected. Mom stayed down below and was alarmed as books that were not stashed very well crashed to the floor, and the glasses in the cupboards rattled away. We only went about 6 miles so although it was rough it didn’t last long and Mom did not get ill. The next day Mom and I went ashore and landed safely. We tromped up to the top of a hill and had some great views of the Bay of Islands.
Christmas Day found us in the cockpit opening our gifts under sunny skies with 20 + degrees. We spent the afternoon cooking the turkey and decorating the pavlova. Everything was delicious but we didn’t eat until about 8:00 P.M., it was still very light out as the sun does not set until almost 9 now. We spent Boxing Day playing back to back Scrabble games, non of us were happy in the first game with the letters we had picked, Mom and Barry had all vowels and I had nothing but consonants.
We headed south on the 27th, going to a wonderful anchorage about 10 miles away. We tacked right by a big tourist attraction the Hole in the Rock and got some great pictures. It was a spectacular day, bright and sunny, very little swell, enough wind to sail along at about 4 knots. At Whangamum Bay there is an old whaling station and Mom and I went ashore to explore. I was trying to get the dinghy as close to shore as possible when there was a loud hissing noise. There were some razor clams stuck to some rocks and I think I must have dragged the dinghy over them. I was trying to get the motor up, the catch was stuck and I didn’t want the motor to bang on the ground so I was not watching where the dinghy was going. Mom had safely got ashore but I suggested that she should get back in and we should go back to the boat before the dinghy was completely flat and would not hold us. It was pretty low by the time we got back but we made it. I guess our ventures ashore were just not meant to be. There is a 3 inch (7.5 cm for you youngsters) rip in the bottom of the dinghy which we will have to repair.
The next day we headed to Tutukaka, a famous New Zealand boat building town. I was very disappointed not to be able to go ashore and have a look around. Mom did not feel well on that trip and spent the day lying down on the settee below. The next day took the cake though. It was blowing about 20/25 knots and a swell had started building. We just had the staysail up and were beating into it. Mom’s system couldn’t take it and she spent the day lying on the settee cushions on the floor (hoping to minimize the movement) and throwing up, I don’t think she was having fun yet. When we started going up the river and it was calm Mom came up and looked around. There was an oil refinery and a big logging operation at the edge of the river. There was a ship that was loading lumber and one of the cranes was dangling a huge machine used for cutting timber, it looked so small dangling in mid air above the hold of the tanker. Mom got chilly and couldn’t get warm. I bundled her up with our down comforter and turned on the furnace and we got her warm eventually. I was pretty worried that I had done serious damage to her system and she would not recover. Imagine the SNAFU if she died over here!!!!!!! I guess her boating days are over, I don’t think I will suggest another holiday like this. If she comes to stay again while we are on the boat it will be at a marina, THE WHOLE TIME!!!! Oh well, I gave her some stories to tell her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Not many people can claim to have spent Christmas in the Bay of Islands, one of the favoured boating spots in New Zealand.
We are leaving the boat tomorrow and going on a 10 day trip around New Zealand. Mom and I did the laundry today and poured over the map and tourist books making a tentative plan. Barry headed back to Opua on the bus to get the car. We will head to Auckland tomorrow and then head south. We hope to make it as far south as Dunedin on the South Island but will have to see if our schedule is too ambitious.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We are safely back at the boat. We had a long drive yesterday, through all the traffic in Auckland and then up the windy road to Whangarei. The boat weathered our absence just fine. Today we are getting some passport pictures taken so we can renew our visa's (they only give you a 3 month visa when you enter, but they give the boat 6 month, go figure). I will be busy doing boat projects for the next while so unless something wonderful happens you probably won't here from me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We crossed the Cook Strait today. It was a great crossing, extremely calm. We had a real treat as we crossed, the Captain came to the main deck and asked if anyone would like a tour of the bridge. Barry and I jumped at the chance and it was a real treat to get a tour of the bridge of the inter island ferry. The Captain explained how they steered the boat and how they docked it. The docking procedure looked like someone working a video game. We spent the rest of the day driving north. We decided to head up the west coast and tonight we are in New Plymouth. The last part of the journey was through some prime surfing territory. The waves were huge today, but it was really windy so I don’t think it would be much fun surfing out there. I think we will make it back to the boat tomorrow. It will be a long day but we hope to get an early start.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We are in Picton now. We came here today and will take the ferry to the North Island tomorrow. We had a nice drive here after visiting our buddies in Nelson. It was great relaxing and visiting with them. I went to the Nelson Cathedral on Sat. night and heard a soprano and a tenor sing a varied repertoire. We got cultered and I really enjoyed it. Today we went and saw the ninth oldest boat in the world. It was just a hull but it was amazing to walk in the hull and look at how huge it was. It wa built in 1858 and was used to transport convicts to Australia, way back when. They even had a list of convicts that were onboard the ship and I looked to see if any of my ancestors were listed.
Barry and I saw the movie Earth. It has some marvelous footage in it so if you get a chance go and see it, wonderful stuff. We are at a backpackers hotel so I will not attempt to upload any photos today but perhaps the next time we encounter WIFI I will try.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We had a lovely last few days on the South Island. When we left of we visited the town Hokitaki. It was a very artistic town. We stopped and watched the glass blowers at work and it was a very fascinating art. These fellows were quite young, but very skilled at their craft. It was very hard to leave the shop not having purchased anything.
We kept going further north and stopped at the pancake rocks.These rocks resemble huge stacks of pancakes and the geologists have not come up with a logical explanation for their formation. We headed to Westport, it touted it self as a typical Kiwi town. It had a lovely town hall, huge wide streets and the best backpackers hostel we had stayed in. The room had a sink; this was a huge improvement on the last place we had stayed, where there was not even a bedside lamp (meaning when you are reading in bed you have to get out to shut off the light once you have almost fallen asleep reading, I hate doing that) Westport had a lovely big long stretch of beach which was empty, we strolled up and down searching for interesting rocks.
The next day we headed for Nelson.
It is a lovely drive through the Buller Gorge. In one spot there was long swinging bridge and a display about the earthquake damage that had occurred in the area. You could still see the effects on the hillsides, very interesting. The road wound around the side of the hills, very curvy and dangerous. In several spots the road would go down to one lane around the tight corners. There was one place where the rock actually overhung the road. The tourist pamphlet claimed this is one of the most photographed places in New Zealand.
We are at our chum’s home in Nelson at the moment. We are enjoying their company and the fact that we can be in one place for a number of nights. We are just visiting and going on walks with them having a rest from haring about the country looking at the sites. We will leave on Sunday to catch the ferry to Wellington on Monday from Picton. Not sure how many days we will spend getting back to the boat but I am getting anxious to be home again and have worked up some enthusiasm for getting some major boat chores done, cleaning and polishing the deck and doing the bright work.
It is the height of the summer here. People are swimming in the ocean, the fruit is ripening, and you can get strawberries, cherries and apricots at the road side stands. The sand flies are out as well and I find them particularly vicious. It has been hot and sunny for most of our visit so we certainly picked a good time to go traveling. Hope the winter isn’t being too vicious wherever you are!!
Note the poor sailboat, sitting on the mudflats when the tide went out!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

We have had an eventful few days. We are moving pretty fast, not spending as much time in each place. Today we drove from just north of Queenstown to the Franz Joseph Glacier on the west coast. We started the day driving along plains and then we went up through a mountain pass, drove along a stunning lake and then headed to the coast. It was a gradual transition but pretty soon we were in the mountains.

There were streams tumbling down the slopes with rivers which are still fed from melting snow in the high mountains. We went up and over and then all of a sudden there was the Tasman Sea with sand dunes along the water. The road led us a little bit inland and then we were in glacier country. We passed the Fox Glacier where 2 people were killed the other day and then we stopped at Franz Joseph Glacier, which is also the name of the town we are in. The place is filled with mountain adventure companies, offering sight seeing tours, heli-skiing, river jet boat adventures and glacier tours.

We walked up to view the Franz Joseph Glacier which is apparently one of the world’s only glacier’s that ends in a temperate rain forest, quite unique. It doesn’t have a patch on the Columbia Ice Fields or the glaciers we have seen in the Yukon, although I must say there wasn’t a temperate rain forest anywhere close to the ones I have just mentioned.
We stopped in Queenstown to find a place to stay and happened on a rugby game.
It was a pub charity event so the games were really short. I buttonholed a friendly Kiwi and figured out most of the rules. It was a beautiful day, beer, rugby, sun and gorgeous mountains just seemed to be a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. While we were in Invercargill we stopped at a museum and we got to see an exhibit on the World’s Fastest Indian and the life of Burt Munro. If you haven’t seen that movie it is well worth watching.
We are going to head further north tomorrow, perhaps getting to Nelson where we hope to visit with some friends.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

We drove to Dunedin, it was surprisingly like driving across the prairies, except once in awhile you would see the ocean. The area we were crossing was the Canterbury Plains, with the grassy flat plains reaching right out to the Pacific Ocean. As we got closer to Dunedin the hills reappeared and it we were in the foothills. The harbour at Dunedin is very protected and the city has a beautiful setting. Once we had found a motel room we set out to visit the railway station. It was absolutely stunning. There were very small tiles set in intricate patterns throughout the lobby floor as well as stained glass windows, wrought iron railings and a beautiful circular wooden staircase. The outside had fabulous granite pillars, as well as beautiful white and black rocks shaped into an outstanding clock tower, a truly magnificent building.
We headed to the Cadbury Chocolate factory to try and get a tour but it was too late in the day. I guess the secret of how they get the caramilk in the Caramilk Bar will still be a mystery to me.
Bright and early the next day we headed off to the Royal Albatross Centre. There we were given a half hour informative lecture about the albatross and then taken up to the viewing platform. From inside the building we were treated to a wonderful display of flying by about 5 your albatrosses. There were 3 faithful fathers sitting on their nests and we had been guaranteed we would see these but the 5 young guys were an added bonus. Some people do not get to see any birds flying and these characters soared around in the air for most of the time we were there. It was fantastic. You could see them moving their feet about at slow speeds and when coming in for a landing. They have more joints in their wings than most other birds, so they have a wonderful shape to them. We had fun trying to capture them on film. I got a pretty decent video and we got some great pictures of half of an albatross. We all agreed that this was pretty much the highlight of our trip.

We headed back to the train station and went on a four hour train ride up the Tieria Gorge. The scenery was superb, there were about 8 tunnels and 6 viaducts on the rail line that was constructed by hand with pick and shovel in the 1880’s and 90’s. We relaxed and had Devonshire Tea and watched the scenery unfold as we clicked shutter after shutter on our cameras. Aren’t digital cameras wonderful!!
When we got back to town Mom took us out to a celebratory dinner as it would be our last evening. We saw her off at the Dunedin Airport at noon today after we went to the world’s steepest street and she should be winging her way east across the Pacific, after landing in Christchurch before heading to Auckland. I hope she manages to get some rest on the way home.

Barry and I continued on our way south. We are now in Invercargill the home of the World’s Fastest Indian. On our way here we drove the scenic route; we stopped to visit a lighthouse, a waterfall and the most southern point on the South Island. Once again we were treated to some fantastic scenery and I loved the sign that was posted at Slope Point. I had not realized we were as far as 46 degrees South.
We are once again touring on a cruisers budget so instead of a snazzy motel with beds, a sitting area and kitchen complete with fridge, microwave, stove, dishes and utensils we are in a backpackers room which just has a bed and some end tables. We use a communal bathroom and there are no towels. Well at least there are sheets. Not sure what we will do tomorrow but we will head from here to Queenstown and then up the west coast. There should be some more great scenery as head through the mountains.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

We had a great look around Christchurch. Yesterday we headed over to the Antarctic Exhibition and learned all about the southern continent. It was very educational and interesting. We got to ride on the vehicles they use down there and went through water that was deeper than the vehicle. I thought we would just go along the bottom but the vehicle floated. The driver could maneuver the tracks in the water and the tracks propelled us through the pond.
We saw them feeding the penguins and learned a great deal about them. A bunch of penguins in the water is called a raft and penguins drink salt water and filter out the salt and then sneeze it out. Fish in Antarctica would normally freeze because the water temp. is below the temp of their body but they have enzymes in their blood that allows their blood to flow at minus 2 degrees Celsius (crazy). Mom and I went in a room to experience a snow storm in the Antarctic, once we were in there we wondered what the heck we were doing. Mom figured that she was just getting reacclimatized for Winnipeg on Sunday!!!. I wish I could have convinced Barry to come in because he may have figured that cruising isn't such a bad lifestyle after all.
Today we cultured ourselves. We hit a number of museums and strolled around an arty area that had a number of craftsman shops were you could speak to the artists and buy their wares. Mom had a great time in the quilting, weaving studios and I cruised the potters and jewellery making spots. I manage to resist a $7,900 sculpture of an albatross as well as a gorgeous red wool stole but could not resist a sweater made from possum's wool that was $100.00 off. It will be my NZ souvenir, it should keep me warm in Yellowknife next winter (maybe the waiting list for hips will be very short in the NWT and we will be back by this time next year).
The architecture in Christchurch is magnificent, we visited the Christchurch Cathedral as well as Christ's College. We did not go punting on the Avon although that would have been a great choice today as it is 30 degrees outside. We are planning on attending a Joan Crawford movie on at the Art Museum tonight. Hope all is well at home.
These are some sandstone formations we saw just north of Christchurch. We drove to Gore Bay which apparently is a surfing mecca. Could imagine Trish & Graeme enjoying themselves in this spot.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

As promised the Haka picture. Need you ask if we are having fun yet!!!

I actually loved Wellington, or at least the parts we saw. It is situated around a beautiful harbour on the side of a hill. There is a public walkway around the harbour and there are museums, restaurants and theatres all along the path, as well as sailboats and working ferry terminals it is a major port as well. The day we were there was sunny and I could spend the rest of my life there.
We did the tourist thing and took the Wellington Cable Car up to the top of hill. It was a great view from up there. There was a botanical garden there on the hill. You had to walk down the hill to see it though and we had bought a return ticket and Barry did not want to walk down so we said we would meet him at the top. That meant that we had to walk back up the hill, quite a steep climb and challenging for Mom. I had to stop occaisionly so she would and we made it without too much stress. Good thing I have been walking up that huge hill in Opua for 3 weeks.

Check out the waves, the wind was just howling as we crossed Cook Strait. This point in the southern tip of the North Island. Apparently this was a good day to go across, the wind was only 30 knots!!
When we got off the ferry in Picton we took a drive up Queen Charlotte Sound, the scenery was fantastic. I will have to see if I can convince Barry to bring the boat down here.
The further south we went on the South Island the dryer it got. It felt like we were in the interior of B.C. around Kelowna. This is wine country, with Mom not drinking because of her medications and Barry driving we did not stop at any of the wineries.
Salt being extracted from sea water in giant ponds. Don't you just love the colour of the water.

We are about 150 km north of Christchurch. On the agenda tomorrow is going to the Museum of the Antarctic. We have perhaps the worst room we have gotten yet, carpets are worn, chairs have rips in seats and the bathroom had toothpaste on the sink!! Wonder if they changed the sheets??? Oh well, there is a gorgeous view out the sliding doors, mountains with snow on them. I think it has been since May 2007 that I have seen snow!!!

Friday, January 02, 2009

We are in Wellington, NZ at the bottom of the North Island. WE had a great day yesterday at the volcanic area. WE saw gysers, and bubbling mud and there was a Maori presentation. We also saw some live kiwi birds in their habitat as well as a carving and weaving demonstration. It was pretty pricey but we got a 45 min. cultural presentation and then a 90 minute guided tour of the facility. I left with some mud for putting on my face. Last night Mom and I did a mud facemask and then did our impression of the Haka for the camera, lots of fun. I have pics. that I will upload later.
Today we just drove all the way to Wellington, we stopped and saw one set of falls and then Barry stopped at the National Trout Research Centre. They had the biggest rainbow trout I have ever seen just lazing about in the stream there. They started the hatchery in the 1950's, I thought that was pretty far sighted of them.
We also drove across a desert, at altitude. There were no trees, lots of sand, but it did rain the whole way across. We drove into the quay in Wellington before finding a motel. It looks like a wonderful spot to explore.
Mom is going to fly from Dunedin to Auckland on the way home so we don't have to hurry back. The ferry ride return from North to South Island in over $600 so we decided we would stay a bit longer and visit some friends. The trip is too expensive to do twice. All is well hope everyone at home is doing fine.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I wrote a blog all about our adventures sailing from Opua to Whangarei. It is on the other computer and we are now traveling and I did not get to upload it before I left. Suffice it to say Mom is not cut out to be a sailor, stay tuned for more details.
We left Whangarei on Dec 30 and our trusty little car has been hanging in their as we torture it on the windy NZ roads. Kiwis love to go boating over the Christmas holidays.

The first day of our tour we headed to Auckland to go up the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, the Sky Tower.

On the way, we stopped at Sheepworld, when you visit New Zealand you need to stop at Sheepworld. They had an animal farm and then there was the sheep herding demonstration. There were 3 dogs that took turns showing their stuff and then a little 9 week old puppy rounded up the sheep, that was very impressive. There was a demonstration on how to shear a sheep, it was a pretty big one and the guy had a little trouble controlling it but at the end he tickled it under it’s ear and the sheep just lay there.
The Sky Tower was very tall, we were in downtown Auckland, we had a great view of the whole Auckland Harbour and parts of Haraki Gulf where the America’s Cup was raced. It was fun watching people get ready to jump off the tower, you would never catch me doing that.
We headed up the Cormandel Pennisula the next day. We took a tour of a gold mine that was started in the 1870’s. They had a working stamper battery that would crush the gold. It was a great tour and the best bang for our tourist bucks yet. We headed further up the peninsula and stopped at the butterfly and orchard house. The colours on the butterflys were amazing. We drove across the top of the peninsula and went to the Hot Water Beach. At the beach the volcanic water seeps up to the surface. It is really hot, we dug our feet into the water and I almost burnt the tops of my feet. It was New Years Eve and there were tons of people on the beach. They had shovels and dug holes in the sand and then they would sit in the hot water. After, I headed towards Cathedral Cove, one of the most scenic spots on the coast. It was quite a climb up and down.

Today we drove from the peninsula to Rotarua, which is the area where there is lots of volcanic activity. On the way we stopped at an open pit gold mine at a town called Whahai. The pit opened in about 1875 an it closed down in 1952. The Rotarua area is known for its hot springs, geysers and bubbling mud baths. We went to the museum that used to be a famous bath house in the 1900’s. People used to come there to take the cure. They also had a great display about the volcano that devastated this area in 1886. It was rather fascinating to look at pictures of what happened. Tomorrow we are going to stay here and check out the hot springs. I am trying to convince Barry that a mud bath would do his hip a world of good but he refuses to even consider the idea. Mom and I are planning so quality time in the hot springs. We will head to the bottom of the North Island and visit Wellington. We have a reservation to cross by ferry to the South Island on Jan 5. We hope to make it as far south as Dunedin, Mom leaves from Auckland on Jan. 10. The bath house in Rotarua.