When it comes to scenic, New Zealand exceeds any description you will find in a guidebook. It is jaw dropping, eye popping, OMG, take your breath away, beautiful. Upon our early morning arrival into Opua we just kept saying to each other over and over "omg look at that". We repeated it dozens of times as we travelled up the channel to the marina because the 360 degree view was beyond any other words, especially since we had seen nothing but water for days.
Happy to be on our way to Whangarei, our "long term" New Zealand port!
One of the beautiful islands in the Bay of Islands.
Famous "Hole in the Rock" at Cape Brett
Jagged peak at Bream Head
We checked in at the quarantine dock and waited for the officials to inspect our boat and finish the obligatory paperwork. They confiscated far less food than I thought they would but I was surprised they took the meat that was frozen and fully cooked, a full brisket of beef, bags of hamburger and chicken breasts. That pretty much left us meatless until we could get to a market. That is unless we broke open that can of spam that has been stowed behind the settee since San Diego, ugh. Is spam reeeally meat?
I was on such an "arrival" high, happy to be at our final destination for the season and feeling an accomplishment of really making it to New Zealand that I was wired with energy. I set out to see what was nearby. A laundromat with oodles of washers and dryers, a big counter to fold clothes on and piles of gossip magazines to read . . . (Hooray! Jennifer Aniston is finally getting married and Kate is having a baby);a café and espresso bar next door, woohoo!; a beautiful modern bathroom with mirrors and perforated toilet paper (oh yes, perforated is exciting!); wonderful showers with all the hot water you want for $2 per four minutes. First run at it I happily put my coins in the slot and just stood under the cascade of warm water doing nothing until the time ran out. So much enjoyment for a just a few dollars! There was a well stocked little market on the waterfront near the ferry landing that had all the essentials, fresh baked bread, chocolate candy, potato chips, cold drinks, beer, wine, pizza to order and good ice cream cones. I loved Opua! My arrival high lasted about three days, I couldn't sleep and I had this constant grin on my face. As I walked around the marina I could spot the new arrivals by that same look on their face.
We were happy to meet up with our cruising buddies on the sailing vessels Desolina, Black Dog and Kindred Spirit. Steve on Desolina single handed his boat from California and now has it up for sale. He bought a minivan, put a foam mattress in the back, towel curtains in the windows, and he is going land cruising for a couple months and then back home to the working world (he's 54).
Deb and Drew on Black Dog are very familiar with NZ. Deb is a citizen and has lots of family here, so this was a twofold adventure for them - cruising the South Pacific and coming home. They bought a car and a motorcycle to do their inland traveling. Sadly, someone stole the motorcycle (five days after purchase) while parked and locked at the marina. We know how that feels. Grrr! They too are putting their boat up for sale and will return to working for The United Nations when they tire of land cruising. (They are 50 somethings.) We will miss them and Steve but will stay connected via internet and have lots of pictures to help us recall the memories.
SV Black Dog in Rangiroa
Steve, Deb & Drew in Raritonga
Our friends Cyndi and Rich on SV Legacy thoughtfully took our title of "last ones to leave" an anchorage (Tonga) and gave us a chance to cheer on friends arriving in port after us. Rich and Cindy both have an irreverent sense of
humor & dry wit and keep us laughing! We met them in Papeete and have shared some of our best times with them.
Cyndi & Rich (SV Legacy), Dean & Sabina (SV Local Talent) and us - at La Pallea Restaurant in Vava'u, Tonga
Our friends on the sailing vessels Mersoleil, Blue Rodeo and Charisma were all about two weeks ahead of us and had moved on to Whangarei when we arrived in Opua. We left Opua for Whangarei on December 8.
On December 10th we arrived at the marina in Whangarei (fon-gar-ay). Although it has only been a couple weeks now, it feels like we have been here for months. The Whangarei Town Basin Marina is actually on the Hatea River, eleven nautical miles inland. It has a similar look and feel to Olympia, AND the weather so far has been a lot like Spring in Washington; grey skies and intermittent rain. Everything we need is within walking distance but we did buy a car, a 2001 Nissan Maxima, so we can do unlimited travel on both the North and South Islands. Driving on the left side of the road is very unnerving. Bob gets a little disturbed with me sucking all the air out of car every time we turn a corner. I've found keeping my eyes closed is a good solution. Ha! Something else very hard to get used to, pedestrians have no right of way. Drivers absolutely will not stop if you are in a crosswalk. You are fair game if you even step off the curb. We feel like human bobble head dolls when we try to cross the street, right, left, right. (In the U.S. you look left to right). We never feel 100% safe.
The Saturday markets are really nice. The produce market is from 6:30am to 10am and has gorgeous and tasty fruits, veggies and specialty foods. We have had the most delicious strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes. The tomatoes smell like tomatoes, are bright red all the way through and actually are full of flavor . . . amazing! The artisans market on the covered bridge is fun, friendly and has a wide variety of high quality foods and crafts for sale. It is a five minute walk from our boat.
Bat Girl at the Market
Artisans Market on the Hatea River Pedestrian Bridge in Whangarei
Ripe, sweet strawberries, RED all the way through!
There is just so much to see here it is overwhelming. We have gone on a few afternoon road trips and are still in awe at the scenery. Green, green, green, lush valleys, meadows and hills. Sheep, sheep, sheep, & cows, cows, cows, everywhere! New Zealand actually built its economy on sheep. There are currently eight sheep per person, down from 22 (70 million total) in recent years due to an end to government subsidies and the lure of higher profits in the dairy industry. Not only are cows not as cuddly as sheep but I read cows have a much larger carbon hoof print. The methane produced by the seven million strong herd makes up a large portion of NZ harmful greenhouse gas emissions - leading the former government to consider a "fart tax". Really?
The spectrum of outdoor activities here is mind boggling. Besides the usual camping, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, fishing, kayaking, surfing, scuba diving, caving, etc., there are a few unique activities. New Zealand invented bungy jumping (I didn't know that), black water rafting, and zorbing. Black water rafting involves getting dressed in a wetsuit, sitting in an inflatable inner tube and traveling through limestone caves with a guide, your wits and glowworms! It requires some agility and guts to jump backwards down some small waterfalls as you make your way through the tunnels. You finish the trip drifting through tunnels looking up at the glowworms with your headlamp turned off. Stay tuned, this is definitely on my NZ bucket list!
Zorbing is being strapped inside an enormous clear plastic, air-cushioned ball as it rolls down a long grass-covered slope. You spin around in a virtual anti-gravity form of weightlessness like an intoxicated space traveler. I think I'll pass on Zorbing. Well . . . maybe not?
The weather this month has been much like Washington - a little too much rain. I do truly miss the warm, sunny days we had while cruising in French Polynesia and Tonga. We still wear shorts, T-shirts and sandals, but now with a sweatshirt or coat.
There are a bazillion walks and hikes close to town so we are getting plenty of exercise. Yesterday we walked along the river and through the mangroves on a raised wooden walkway. Then we got this brilliant idea to take the "Lookout" trail. It was beautiful and much like the Rainforest in Washington, but this was non-stop switchbacks and steps. Bob would have hustled right up if he hadn't been waiting for me. Too many steps and not enough benches! As always, the effort was rewarded. The canopy created by the enormous Kauri Trees, Huge Fern Trees and Evergreens was amazing. We must have seen at least 50 different kinds of ferns and bushes. I think "snapshot Bob" has a photo of each one!
A walk through the mangroves on the Hatea River
Some interesting things hanging from a tree by the river.
A colorful Pukeko bird by the river
On the trail to the Lookout - "Oxygen, PLEASE!"
A very large fern on the Lookout trail
Another large fern along the trail
The view of Whangarei from the top of the Lookout
We are having a good time learning the Kiwi expressions and getting used to their accent. English is a very different language here! A cooler is called a chilly bin, a bar is a boozer, judder bar is a speed bump, snarler is a sausage, hiking is called tramping, ute is a small truck, a long drop is an outdoor toilet, and when someone says "lunch is my shout" they mean they are buying.
We are slowly adjusting to this new way of "life with conveniences". I have been immersed in New Zealand travel brochures trying to plan a sightseeing itinerary. We would need years to see everything here!
There is no frenetic, hustling Christmas activity here in New Zealand. There are no malls in Whangarei. The stores are slightly decorated and close at seven o'clock on weekdays, five on Saturdays and are closed on Sunday! Downtown is decorated but there are not many outdoor lights and parking is always available. We have seen very few outdoor decorations or lights in residential areas, either. We are told most everyone plans a meal on the barbie and spends time outdoors (if the weather allows). It is so relaxed . . . and amazing!
A Merry New Zealand Christmas to you all . . . . relaxed and casual. We have received your gifts of friendship, love and memories, each unique and special. We carry them with us all year long to amazing foreign places "duty free". The perfect gift! Thank You.
Love, Linda & Bob