25 March 2017 | Another Bloody Atoll
It's been a bit quiet on the Blog front. I think my creative juices have dried out in the New Zealand summer heat. Either that or there's hee haw happening.
After eight weeks on the road, staying in motels, hotels but mostly in AirBnb's (probably keeping the black economy alive) when we saw quite a lot of New Zealand we are now back in the boatyard.
It's taking a while but we are slowly getting back into boat mode, confused and slowed a bit in our prep for the new season as we dabbled in selling and moving to two hulls, but that's a pipe dream now either extinguished or, perhaps smouldering.
There's loads of advantages to a cat. Speed. Patio as opposed to basement living. A cockpit you can walk around in and, perhaps best of all, the potential to have a hull each.
Recently we watched a TV programme about young couples living in "tiny" or even minuscule apartments, caravans and sheds.
Ee by gum. They 'av it cushy. Why, we live in't space no bigger than a budgie's feed box.
We had a possible buyer for Time Bandit but unfortunately they asked for an inventory. We then spent a couple of hours writing down all the stuff we had; wind vanes, heating, spare sails, new chainplates, anchors, chains and on it went. By the time we were through we thought actually, this board pretty well set up for what we want to do......and can I be bothered setting up a new boat, of whatever colour.
So, we're on Time Bandit for another season. A season that, Plan A, will take us to Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and on to Australia somewhere for cyclone period starting November ish.
So, if you want to hear about ABA's (another bloody atoll) stay tuned.
04 March 2017
Two nights in a motel in Fox Glacier Township. Only just got a glimpse of the Glacier through the rain and mizzle but it was there.
Remember Crossroads? The 60's, or maybe it was the 70's TV soap about life and of course, the tensions of running a cheap motel. I never watched an episode, but now I'm beginning to be a bit of an expert on motels.
New Zealand doesn't seem to have many B&B's or in fact, hotels. But what if lacks in these it makes up in motels.
They all have a sameness. Most, or at least the nicer looking ones have an illuminated neon "No Vacancy" sign outside. The ones we get, the ones with "vacancy" are rectangular, barrack like boxes subdivided into uniform rooms equipped with electric kettle, double bed and a passable shower.
Trying, but failing to see past the breezeblock walls, it has the feeling you mistakenly walked into a public convenience. Sadly the origami efforts of the staff with the towels still can't make a silk purse out the sow's ear.
An and Ivan's van is beginning to look attractive!
.......... I just got a slap. It's not that bad. It's in the centre of town and we're in the buzzing Stumpers Bar watching the super rugby with a lively local crowd. Not sure what the difference is between super rugby and ordinary rugby. I guess it's super when Scotland win.
It still seems funny to walk to a beach and the waves are crashing on the beach, all the way up from the Southern Ocean.
Double Churned & Semi-Soft
28 February 2017
That's what it says on the butter pack in front of me as we have a wee sundowner and cheese here in Wanaka, basking in the late evening warmth.
The sun has been over the yardarm for a bit. I know, it chased us down the hill as it sank in the west casting long shadows into the valley. The valley we should have been in hours ago.
The hill? It's a peak overlooking Lake Wanaka and it bears the name, "Rob Roy's Peak". Now, for no better reason than Anne's mum was a McGregor, not the nasty old git that chased poor wee Peter Rabbit, but, allegedly, the real McCoy. Or I suppose, the real McGregor.
Anyway, I digress. Given the name had a bit of a ring and, we'd nuthin' else to do anyway we thought we'd go at least part of the way up this towering peak. All the way to the radio mast if we could. Our highest point so far at 1,578m. The tourist advisory board said 16k up and down and 5-6 hours. It also said take warm clothing, food, a map, compass, flashlight (that's a torch to non American readers) and 2 litres of water per person.
We had 3/4 of a litre of old water we'd been carrying for a while and some nuts. But hey, we were old hands at this.
Five hours later, as our legs and indeed the rest of our bodies were feeling "double churned and semi soft" we finally made it back to the car park. Completely disjaskit and thinking that while we did New Zealand tourism a favour by raising the average age of those going up the hill, we may in fact, be over it.
Milford Haven Return Please
25 February 2017
Strange how things turn out. Our checkout port on leaving the U.K. was Milford Haven in Wales. And where we're we yesterday? Milford Haven New Zealand. So called because a certain Mr Grono thought it looked like home.
He must have been at sea a very long time!
It's been a bit of a dash around the bottom of the South Island. Dunedin and Invercargill ticked off without doing either justice. A bit like old Grono, it was a bit like home, passing Largs Street,
Stirling Falls and Dalry Road. All in sunshine so a real bonus ending up in Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound. This place is REALLY like home 'cause it pours with rain day after day. Something like 8 metres a year.
We scored though with Milford in all its glory joining the crumblies on a coach tour from the town and two hours each way to the Sound. Apparently there's something like one serious crash a week as tourists in their rental cars and vans fight for the centre line with tour coaches, 100 per day, which, driven by folk who know the road backwards, lash around the corners at breakneck speeds.
Being in a coach seemed like the safer option so, knitted cardies on, we joined the throng, shuffled aboard and drooled our way to Milford. Jolly relaxing it was too.
One Day Will Do.
21 February 2017 | Christchurch City Centre
That was the response when we said we had booked four days in Christchurch. However, months ago, some folk said we shouldn't bother with American Samoa; but then we liked it. We hoped for the same at Christchurch.
What we didn't realise was the enormity of the damage caused by the earthquake almost six years ago to the day.
Zoom in on the photo. This is bang in the centre of town. Every building in the picture has to come down.
Kind of annoyingly, the arty farty inverted steel cone beside the half demolished cathedral survived against most of the laws of physics, not to mention common sense.
However, like a Phoenix the city is rebuilding. It might just take a while.
So Good They Named It Twice
14 February 2017 | Sleepy Westport
OK. We've been doing the land touring thing for a few weeks now, so here's a few observations on New Zealand.
Firstly, the roads must have been built before straights were invented. The highways, and indeed the byways, are a never ending succession of corners, mostly in a range from "Oooh, that's tight" to "Whooaaa that's alpine hairpin". Most come supplied with a complimentary logging truck hurtling towards you, offside wheels on your side of the road.
Best strategy is to get behind a reasonably paced big campervan, or better still, another logging truck, suck up the fumes but have them clear the road for you.
Next up is that most places are named twice.
A bit like someone with a stammer trying to give you directions, Take-Take first left, then go straight-straight for two miles and head for Kaiteriteri then right at sign for Matakitaki. It's all quite confusing.
Post earthquake the main drag down to Christchurch is blocked so every bit of motorised transport, mostly heavy, is using the back road. The tourists in their lumbering camper vans most be loving it. More so Kwik Clutch & Brakes.
On the subject of lumbering, having been suggesting for weeks that, "wouldn't it be nice if we had a wee boat", we booked in for three days of a five day "Classic Kayak Tour" in the Abel Tasman national park. Now, obviously Abel had sails, and probably even a crew to row him around. He certainly didn't paddle a bucket of a double kayak upwind for more kilometres than my shoulders could stand.....and then camp on the ground in the bugs and rain. Well, maybe he had the bugs and rain. Tent as well I suppose.
Other than the aching shoulders and blisters it was a picturesque paddle with sea lions, cormorants and an impressive coastline. Just a shame it moved so slowly past. Fortunately they only had room for us for three days. Not sure we'd have lasted five.
Another observation is that jolly old New Zealand is pretty pricey. Now, while I'll confess to not actually knowing how much a pint of milk is back home, I did check, and a pie, the staple diet of most New Zealander's, is twice the price here. And remember that weeny bottle of beer for $9.50? Haven't had a drink for weeks!
We're now in the South Island heading for an appointment with Bruce Springsteen in Christchurch. Tonight and tomorrow night we're in Westport. I think one night would have done. While clean and tidy, it's a bit of a frontier look, one horse town and that horse bolted a while ago for the bright lights of Nelson.
However, one thing New Zealand has done well is inventing activities to relieve passing tourists of their hard earned cash. So, tomorrow we have a choice of surf lessons, try your hand at panning for gold, a visit to the old coal mine or, my favourite, a free walk on the beach.
A Tale of Two Brollies
07 February 2017 | Scots Brolly v's Power Brolly
Here we are in Wellington, bumming room and board from sailing friends from back in the "mother country", Rob(bie) and Linda Kent.
Rob moved out here about twenty years ago and, as an old Wellington "hand" warned us of the strong winds that the city enjoys. Windi Welli as I believe the locals call it.
Well, today, it showed some of its potential. It wasn't the 100+ knots of recent weeks but enough to make you take a wee non drink induced stagger. Little kiddies however were bowling over like nine pins.
Given it's windy status, an enterprising, experienced local, fed up with ruined umbrellas that didn't survive the first gust, designed and now sells hard core brollies to those who must brave the elements.
So, there we were, on a walking tour of the waterfront, enjoying the sights, the live music, gift vendor stalls and flying spume, from the wild breeze tearing across the bay, Anne with her wee Scottish brolly and me, and hanging onto the Power brolly for dear life.
One thing Mr Brolly didn't factor in is that with a conventional brolly, it effectively "self reefs", inverting and collapsing and thus de-powering in a gust. A bit like a Parasail for nautical readers. On the other hand, the Power brolly, being a superbly engineered product, designed for such winds, holds its shape, even in the strongest blow. Come that big gust that accelerates and whistles around the corner bringing pedestrians to a halt, loose clothes madly flapping and leaning into the wind at 45 degrees like pavement based Eddie the Eagle, you with your super brolly find yourself under full sail, flying backwards down the street like Mary flying Poppins.
I've never suffered from wind so much.
30 January 2017
Earlier this month, back home, we went on a whisky tour on the misty island of Islay, off the west coast of mainland Scotland courtesy of David and Caroline, the country's trialists for the new sport of outdoor slipping. Slipping granite stones along lengths of ice is called Curling. Plain "slipping" is when you fall on your bum trying to achieve the former. Anyway, on Islay David and Caroline treated us to visits to Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Bowmore distilleries where we sampled a dram or three. Happy days. (Hint.....if you get invited on such a tour, take one driver, one tee-totaller and a friend who's done the tour many times before. That way by 11:00 you're in a fine mood!! Where's the dancin'?!!
Back to now, here in New Zealand we went on another tour, this time a tour of a kiwi fruit farm where we got a slice of kiwi fruit and a medicine sized thimble of juice. Oh well......
New Zealand is quite a big place. As we are finding out. We've been on the road now for over two weeks and we are all of three or four hours from the boat.
We stopped after the first hour to visit/gloat at Colin and Izzy, sailing friends from Largs who were antifouling Endorphin. We stayed in our first ever AirBnB. Absolutely brilliant. For the very reasonable price of $40 we had a two bedroom apartment, lounge, bathroom and kitchen. And welcoming hosts. Our trip continued around the Coromandel peninsula arriving in the old frontier gold mining town of Thames where we parked up outside AirBnB number two, "Cozy Room" a single storey wooden house that might well have been the "Before" picture in a reality show for Fixeruppers". Good news was the owner obviously had a sense of humour asking us to remove our shoes before stepping onto the dirty horrible, manky carpets. Yuck. We should have turned around and walked out. After a cringing night we left only for the muppets to claim $10 insisting we'd stolen the cloth tie back for the single, worn, drooping, curtain.
However, the next AirBnB restored our faith with beautiful accommodation in a new build ranch style house just outside Tauranga.
En route we had the embarrassment of arriving at a T junction in Coromandel where, across the road, there's 50 Harleys, and their gorilla like owners, all long hair and bulging tattooed bare forearms and leather waistcoats straining over their well tended beer bellies.
Was this the Mongrel Mob biker gang we'd heard about? My only hope was they couldn't hear my iPhone music which was on shuffle and the bloody Carpenters were playing.
Onwards we went towards Taupo to meet up with, more friends from Largs. Popular place Largs! Taupo is one of the many adventure capitals of New Zealand. All bungy jumping, steaming volcanic lakes and hot waterfalls among some very pretty scenery.
As regards my drink problem......I simply can't afford it. $9.50 for a weeny bottle of Steinlager!!! I'd ordered this New Zealand brand as, in foreign places I like to support the local economy. At $9.50 for a thimble of beer it seems I'm supporting the whole flaming New Zealand economy.