SVs Saraoni and Sundari

30 June 2020 | North White Cliffs, Sandy Strait, Queensland
12 June 2020 | Raby Bay, Moreton Bay , Queensland, Australia
23 May 2020 | Scarborough Marina, Redcliffe, Queensland
10 May 2020 | Scarborough marina, Redcliffe, Brsbane, Queensland
07 April 2020 | Westin Hotel, Brisbane, Queensland
28 March 2020 | Paihia, Bay of Islands, NZ
24 March 2020 | Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
06 March 2020 | Waitangi, Bay of Islands, NZ
25 January 2020 | Scarborough marina, Redcliffe Peninsula, Queensland
16 January 2020 | Christchurch
22 December 2019 | Christchurch, New Zealand
16 December 2019 | Christchurch, Canterbury, NZ
28 November 2019 | Christchurch, SI, New Zealand
19 November 2019 | Picton, Marlborough, NZ
04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
29 October 2019 | Nelson, South Island, NZ
22 October 2019 | Christchurch, Te Waka o Māui, New Zealand
15 October 2019 | Scarborough, Queensland
05 October 2019 | Scarborough marina, near Brisbane, Australia

K'Gari

30 June 2020 | North White Cliffs, Sandy Strait, Queensland
Alison and Geoff Williams | Cool to cold, south easterlies
Dingo on the search for tucker along the coast of Fraser island near Garry's Anchorage

We are anchored on the west coast of Fraser Island / K'Gari, more or less footloose and fancy free on a jaunt along the Queensland Coast. We could sail to New Zealand and put up with 2 weeks quarantine, but it would have to be a direct passage, as all the Pacific islands are out of bounds until 'travel bubbles' are set up. But Saraoni is still unsold and the chance of being allowed back into Australia until the border is open again is slim.



Slowly sliding with the tide towards North White Cliffs on the west coast of K'Gari - Fraser Island.

At present, Victoria is the only state or territory in Australia that has community transmission of the virus, and it's not looking pretty. All other states and territories are now in NZ's position of having effectively eliminated the virus, apart from people flying back from other parts of the world and testing positive in quarantine. Until Victoria is able to squash the virus problem they have, borders will remain closed to Victorians and the concept of a quarantine free travel bubble between NZ, Australia and the other virus free Pacific islands will be on hold.

Getting out of Moreton Bay in the middle of winter, even on Sundari, took some time. The bottleneck is the Wide Bay Bar, the shallow and often rough and dangerous crossing that allows passage into the Sandy Strait between Fraser Island and the mainland. If the wind is up from the predictable South, it's good for sailing, but the swell is then up as well and the bar becomes increasingly dangerous. In the end, we had almost flat conditions in lovely sunshine as we crossed the bar for our seventh time, twice in "Corsair" and four times in "Saraoni."



Coochimudlo Island South of Brisbane in Moreton Bay has a lovely walk around the perimeter of the island and a laid back vibe.



Wide Bay Bar was tranquil today, but dangerous the next! If you miss the bar you can still sail north around the east coast of Fraser Island, but it's an overnight passage, or wait in swelly conditions behind Double Island Point.

Past Wide Bay is the windy passage between sand banks, the Fraser coast and mangrove covered islands. After floods, the passage changes, but the buoys and charts aren't always adjusted. The lowest depth in the middle of the Strait is about 0.6m at low water springs. Sundari has a draft of 2.1m, meaning that we need a tide of 1.6m+ to get through without bumping the bottom. Even though it was the seventh time through the Sheridan Flats, this time it was more nerve wracking than ever, especially with a howling 30 knot wind whipping up the whitecaps from a passing trough.

As always with the weather, everything has now calmed off and we have the west coast almost to ourselves and a few others. The diaspora of yachts from southern states hasn't happened because the Queensland border has been closed and foreign yachties are either marina bound because of restrictions on their visas or stuck back in thei home countries with their boats still here in Oz.

We don't really have any plans over the next few months of the sailing season. We have always had to rush along this coast, so we now have time to dawdle just where we want to, although we wouldn't mind some warmer weather and warmer sea!

The Light at the End of the Tunnel?

12 June 2020 | Raby Bay, Moreton Bay , Queensland, Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams | Fine with cool to cold nights.
Photo shows the old Brisbane to Gympie rail tunnel in Dularcha National Park.


We are out and about again in Moreton Bay, currently anchored in a light southerly in Raby Bay. With the number of active and new Covid-19 cases in Queensland dropping to near zero, the state government has opened up travel within Queensland almost without restrictions. There is still a little community transmission in Victoria, but it appears that Australia is to follow New Zealand's recent declaation it has eliminated the virus from within the country, allowing just about everything to go back to 'normal'.



Ka Pai! NZ has eliminated the virus, after decisive leadership and just a bit of luck. Jacinda and the NZ Labour Partys's poll ratings are sky high. The election is in 3 months time and it's hard to see Labour in a position to control the Parliament without the more progressive Greens or the more backward looking NZ First in a MMP environment, even with Jacindamania, but who knows? 100 days is a long time in today's troubled times. We just hope the NZ Labour Party has something more exciting to say in its manifesto other than more neoliberal gibberish.

Of course, nothing is completely normal. It's a bit like looking out from the eye of the storm at the mess that much of the world is in. The prospect of not being able to travel to all but a few favoured 'virus free or near free' countries for the forseeable future is not a very inviting one, although realistic at present.

We have been lucky to return to our 2 boats, something that has been denied to thousands of Aussies and others who have boats stranded in Queensland and elsewhere because of state and international border closures. We have also been strangely isolated from economic disruption, as those invisible clients of ours have been asking for online work in almost the same quantity as before the nasty virus emerged from its bat origins.

We have a reduced cruising plan for this year, with the Pacific Islands still closed to inbound yachts, although that might change after July. When the weather is right (!) we will sail outside Fraser Island to the southern Barrier reef and islands, as far as the Keppels and Whitsundays. It is a route that we have plied several times before over the last 30 odd years, but normally we have never had time to hang around, always under pressure to hasten north or south in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

The NZ / Aus transTasman virus free bubble, already mooted, is likely to be ready by September or October, so we will probably be Aotearoa bound by then.



Lovely sunset at Raby Bay tonight. It is getting dark before 5 p.m. here in SE Queensland and is not light until after 6.30 a.m. It would be nice to be somewhere a bit warmer where we can go swimming!

Going Batty in Scarborough

23 May 2020 | Scarborough Marina, Redcliffe, Queensland
Alison and Geoff Williams | Cold and grey, westerlies
Photo shows a red backed flying fox (fruit bat) in Redcliffe's Botanical Gardens

We're going steadily batty here in Scarborough marina. Queensland is slowly easing Covid-19 restrictions as the risk of contracting the virus is now near zero. The Labor led state government has been very cautious, as there are still infections cropping up further south in NSW and especially Victoria, although even there the virus situation is almost non-existent compared to many other parts of the world.

Like the other (almost) virus free states, the Queensland state borders are closed to interstate vistors. This has gone down like a lead balloon in Coalition led New South Wales, where many people want to escape the cold and head north. There's a possibility that Queensland will form a "trans Tasman bubble" with NZ before it lets people from NSW and Victoria into the state!

(update: Oops, might have got that wrong)

We can now go 150 km away from 'home' and return in the same day. This may change soon to 250 km, but we are waiting for the magical "you can stay away" declaration before we exit the marina and hot foot it up to... .well somewhere at least a bit hotter than here. It's bloody freezing today. Our original plans for 2020 have like everyone else's come to a shuddering halt, but there could be worse places in the world to be stuck.

We've hired a car for a few weeks while we are here to stop us from going completely batty and have gone for walks, bike rides, kayak trips and wildlife hunts, as far as we can get in a day. We've also fixed the freezer, the fridge, the desalinator, hauled up our new furling genoa, installed a new solar controller, inverter and wind generator, gone to give Saraoni a spruce up, eaten too much, drunk too much red wine and have been tapping away on our computers as the demand for online work hasn't diminished.

Here in Scarborough marina there are many other boats and their owners, still waiting for a chance to leave, or a miracle cure for the nasty virus. There are people here we knew from the 2008 Sail Indonesia Rally and others we have met at odd times in more exotic parts of the world. There are also other marina residents: hundreds of swallows that are intent at making nests inside our sail bag, a family of ospreys that land on the mast of the abandoned ketch next door and dismember their fish lunch all over Sundari, the pelicans, herons, shags and fish that like to munch on the weed that's begiining to grow on Sundari's hull.



photos top row: purple swamphen, corellas,lily
2nd row:kookaburra, turtles(2 diff. species)
3rd row:grass tree, red backed wren, fruit bat
4th row:male grey roo, willy wagtail, pelican
5th row:white heron, D'Aguilar track, shags
bottom: Glasshouse mountains from Wild Horse mountain

The Bubble Down Under

10 May 2020 | Scarborough marina, Redcliffe, Brsbane, Queensland
Alison and Geoff Williams | Warm, cool nights, variable winds, dry
Photo shows Deception Bay, just north of Scarborough. It's a muddy, shallow bay wih mangroves, moorings and birds.

We have been back in Scarborough marina for about 3 weeks now. Australia, like New Zealand, has largely supressed Covid-19, but at a price. International travel is basically non-existent.

Each state and territory here is shut off, and regional travel, at least here in Queensland, limited to day trips of no more than 50 km. The limit is going to be extended to 150 km next week and probably lifted altogether in a few weeks. The extension will allow us to get down to Saraoni, with several people already lined up for a viewing.

There is the possibility of a trans Tasman 'bubble' and an extension to other nations that have been relatively succesful with combating the virus. Of course, that could all change if there is too much complacency here in Oz. The success of any pre-vaccine regime depends on low case frequency, good testing, contact tracing and maintenance of physical distancing. It looks as if it is the latter that is gonig to be the problem world wide as each country experiments with an esacpe from lockdown.

Meanwhile, we have used the time to make some improvements on Sundari. We have tried to fix the desalinator, which has suffered from rusty springs in its high pressure valve, the fridge is yet to be fixed, a new wind generator is already in position, a new MPPT solar energy controller diverts the sun's energy to a new battery bank.

We now have 2 totally new sails and are keen to see how they look and work. We have paid up at expensive Scarborough marina until early in June, so hopefully we can escape north towards the Keppels and Whitsundays then. It's hard to plan anything more meaningful past July or August!

Quarantined!

07 April 2020 | Westin Hotel, Brisbane, Queensland
Alison and Geoff Williams | warm and sunny
Sign along an almost empty Highway 1 on the way to Auckland

Stay Home! is the message, but hundreds of thousands of people can't get home, or have to hunker down somewhere in the world that is definitely not home. We have made it across the ditch in an effort to save our two boats from who knows what, but the price is two weeks 14 storeys up in a Brisbane CBD hotel.



Coronabandit in lockdown mode

We are not allowed to leave the room and can't open the window. 3 meals a day are provided and we can get extra stuff delivered to the door from Woolworths, so it's not too uncomfortable, just boring. Fortunately, we seem to have just as much, if not more, online writing work to do so that should keep us busy in our little guilded cage.

We've only been away from 'home' for five weeks, so we are sure the two boats are fine. Queensland doesn't have quite the same strong lockdown rules as New Zealand, but even so, life looks like it might be very constrained for the forseeable future. We still have the chance of sailing Sundari back to New Zealand later in the year if we can get our rigging done and the weather is right. By the time we arrived, we would have completed most of the two weeks 'quarantine' needed for entry.

Just as an aside, We have been sailing around for more than 30 years. All that time we have had a yellow Q flag on board and have hung it up the starboard spreaders frequently. We've only just realized the very real historical signifcance of that flag, as in years gone by the main way a new pathogen was introduced into somewhere new was when an infected sailor unwittingly brought it ashore, often with devastating consequences.



Our 5 star quarantine jail house at the Westin hotel

Lockdown in the Bay

28 March 2020 | Paihia, Bay of Islands, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | Warm and sunny
Photo shows the inner Bay of Islands from Te Tii Beach. In the far distance can be seen Tikitiki Rock (the Ninepin), the natural marker every yacht rounds entering or leaving the Bay of Islands

Stay at Home! Break the Chain! Be Kind! So goes the mantra while NZ tries to eliminate SARS-Cov-2. Whether it does or not depends on everyone adhering to strict lockdown rules, anathema to some. The idea is that as it takes 2 weeks for the virus to go through a cycle in the respiratory system of those affected, the 4 week lockdown should eliminate the virus from within the NZ population. There is no certainty that's going to work, as the virus may still lurk within the population and reinfections could occur once the international border opens up again, whenever that happens.

Across the ditch, the situation is more complicated, not least because each state and territory is making up its own rules, the country is further down (or up) the infection rate curve and the strategy is more of a 'stepped up', rather than a 'lockdown' one.

Whatever happens, it's unlikely that the world, including this small part of it, will ever return to what it was before.

What's making it even more surreal is being in the Bay of Islands without a boat. We have spent more time than we care to think about around here, more often than not in one of the outer bays, but rarely, if ever, marooned on land. It was from here that we anchored before departing across the Tasman 3 times in a row. The first was directly from Paihia, only a stone's throw from where our motel is, in 1987, outbound for Noumea.

The rules about boaties in the lockdown period are confused. It hasn't occurred to the Govt. that people actully live on boats (and caravans, garages, park benches etc.) and therefore may have no other homes. There's even a write up in one ofthe papers about a guy who lives in a bus stop. He says it is remarkably peaceful without buses! Locals come by and offer him free hot meals and stop for a chat, 2 metres away of course! The 'Stay at Home' rule doesn't really apply to anyone who is not a nice, middle class family with a home that resembles a house.

There are also supposedly around 100,000 tourists trapped in NZ too, many of them on 1 or 2 year holiday work visas. 20,000 Germans are due to be flown out courtesy of their government, but the 20,000 Brits are stuck here. Some we spoke to are secretly glad they are staying here, and not returning to Blighty any time soon!

Tutukaka marina is closed and boaties have been told not to go out in boats. We've seen a few yachts skulking around in the distance here in the Bay of Islands, but whether they are breaking the current lockdown law or not is hard to know.

There are similar issues in Queensland. The Queensland border is closed to anyone driving or sailing across the border from NSW (unless you want to go through a 14 day quarantine). After that is anyone's guess. Whatever is the rule today could change tomorrow at any rate.

We go on a 'local' walk every day along the waterfront, doing the 2 metre dance around others and making jokes without getting too close. The weather has been glorious, with clear blue skies and calm seas. The Bay's dolphins and other wildlife are no doubt relishing their new found serenity with human traffic reduced to zero.

Everyone around here seems to be obeying the rules. There are 2 supermarkets within easy walking distance, which is the only time we get close to anyone. If we are here any longer we might just contemplate buying a third boat and sticking it in our empty marina berth at the Penguin pad!



Looking out to Motumaire Island and the Russell Peninsula. Anchor to the north of Motumaire - good anchorage in southerlies. Anchor to the south - good anchorage in northwesterlies. Not a boat to be seen today. Weird!



Te Tii Beach looking towards Waitangi. Favoured anchorage in westerlies to get to the supermarket just inland from here. One ketch has been anchored here since the lockdown.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

24 March 2020 | Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Alison and Geoff Williams | Cool nights and warm days
Photo shows the Hokianga Harbour from Opononi, half way through our cycle trip.

We are in a cheap motel in Paihia in the Bay of Islands after a sometimes gruelling cycle trip around Te Tai Tokerau / Northland. While puffing our way up and down Northland's ups and downs, the nasty virus was hatching its plot to conquer the world and teach humanity a sharp lesson. We are now a day away from New Zealand's lockdown, with numbers of infections here beginning to follow the same exponential growth curve as elsewhere in the world, albeit somewhat later.



Discarded bikes on the entrance way back on the cycle trail at Kaikohe.




Wairere Boulders at the end of the cycle way.




Pakaraka (extinct) volcano above Lake Omapere.



The Harrison Reserve on the cycle way on the way to Horeke.



The Warawara Range in the distance as we wind our way out of the Hokianga. Ex Ranch Saraoni was not far north of here in the Takahue Valley.

Whether the NZ Government's move will stop the spread of the disease or just keep it at bay until a vaccine is developed, or antivirals prove both safe and effective, is in the lap of the gods. Mind you, talking about gods, the religious have become strangely quiet all of a sudden!

Thanks to all our NZ friends for offering assistance and accommodation when the barriers to travel were first announced. They will be just as affected as everyone else in the world as the crisis escalates, so stay safe everyone and see you all at the other side!



Long finned eels in the Kaihu River, near Dargaville, oblivious to the human madness elsewhere.




Tane Mahuta, Northland's largest kauri, in Waipoua Forest, will probably be glad to see the back of people for a few months.



Grafton was the small NSW town where the Christchurch mosque killer was brought up. Residents stuck up this sign after the slaughter and subsequent aftermath. The billboard has gone up again after Aussies look across the ditch once again for leadership.

Hopefully, if there is one thing that comes out of the current global madness is an awareness of the link between some of the nastiest viruses that have emerged so far and humanity's impact on nature. Ebola, SARS, MERS, Swine fever and now SARS-Cov-2 are all thought to have made the jump from wild animals to humans. SARS-Cov-2, the so called novel coronavirus, is thought to have originated in the Huanan wet market in Wuhan, just one of many markets where wild animals, both alive and dead, are available for sale and consumption on the spot.

SARS-Cov-2 has horseshoe bat and pangolin genetic markers within its RNA strand. Whether it really did jump from pangolins to people is neither here nor there. People have intruded so far into the habitats and existence of wildlife that it is inevitable that this sort of transmission is more likely as George Monbiot points out in the Guardian.

We have just had our first day under lockdown. Hardly anyone around, although we did drive aimlessly to the supermarket.

The Bay is looking beautiful in the autumn sunshine and we saw at least 6 yachts sailing out, presumably to hide away in one of the outer bays. We have heard that the Queensland Police are clamping down on boaties trying to move around there but whether it is just in marinas we are not sure. Tutukaka marina is closed except to liveaboards and they are not allowed to leave in their boats. Welcome to the new reality!

Number 8 Wire at Waitangi

06 March 2020 | Waitangi, Bay of Islands, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | Damp and warm
The 2 Giant bikes bought in Whangarei in 2005, pulled out of storage. They needed a bit of no. 8 wire work on them to get them roadworthy.

We are camped near the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands after recovering our two old Giant bikes from the storage shed we loaded up with useless goodies nearly 3 years ago in Opua. It feels a bit weird being back in the Bay without a boat, but it's partly a business trip for us here, as well as a chance to get some exercise puffing up and down Northland's hills. We have rather reluctantly had to sort our pensions out before getting too decrepit and will go and measure the marina berth in Tutukaka to see if Sundari can fit in anywhere, before abandoning the Penguin Pad altogether.



The westerly anchorage at Paihia in the Bay of Islands -strange to be here without a boat!


Auckland Airport was heaving with everyone from everywhere and to judge by the number of tourists in this campground and little tacky, nearby Paihia, wories about COVID-19 haven't dented the tourism industry in NZ, except possibly the numbers of Chinese tourists are way down.

Northland has supposedly been in deep drought, the worst ever. Whangarei has been the driest since WW2 and the normally lush green cow paddocks of the Waikato are (or were, brown). Of course, it has been raining every day since we arrived. Perhaps we could sell our services as drought breakers!

Northlanders of course are happy about the drizzle. We heard kiwi calling just behind our tent last night, first the shrill male, then the harsh female. Apparently, Northland brown kiwi have been stumbling out of the bush during the drought looking for water.The dry ground has made it difficult to probe for worms with their long beaks.

Our 2 bikes were in a bit of a mess when we eventually extricated them from the treasure trove they had been squashed in. They had aready survived nearly 10 years chained to a non existent shed while stored up at the Saraoni ranch while we were circumnavigating, even being danced upon by happy cows. We have had to use a bit of No. 8 wire tactics on getting them in suitable shape to ride on with all our gear, with help from the friendly bike hire guy in Paihia.

We will cycle over Northland's new bike path that goes from Opua to the Hokianga, ride through the kauri forest to Dargaville, over to Whangarei and down to Auckland before checking out the marina at Tutukaka. We should be back in Scarborough on Sundari by the end of March, ready for whatever adventures we get up to this year.



Pou Herenga Tai - the 85 km cycle path that links Opua to Horeke on the Hokianga across the Northland peninsula from east to west coast.

Homes Sweet Homes

25 January 2020 | Scarborough marina, Redcliffe Peninsula, Queensland
Alison and Geoff Williams | Hot and humid
Saraoni obviously likes a nice, safe marina berth!

We are back in Scarborough marina, near Brisbane, on Sundari. Australia has always been a land of extremes, getting worse, of course, because of CC, but it always surprises us when the weather suddenly changes so quickly. We landed at Gold Coast Airport in typical hot, humid summer weather and drove back to Scarborough just before a 300 mm deluge that flooded Gold Coast and Brisbane streets - more in one day than we saw in NZ in three months, (probably because we avoided the South Island west coast!)

Fires are still raging down south, but here in SE Queensland, the drought is definitely broken, although farmland and the bush out west beyond the coast is still only just recovering from being bone dry. Hopefully, with the Indian dipole returning to neutral territory and the arrival of the northern monsoon, a tad late, bringing more moisture into the continent, the worst of the bush fires are over for this summer.

Saraoni is unsold at present, but looking good. Obviously it likes sitting doing nothing in a secure marina berth! Everything was as we left it a few months ago but there has been some marine growth on the unpainted propellor which will need cleaning off before we shift the boat anywhere. Every time we drop the price a bit, we get a flurry of interest, mostly fender kickers.

We drove 200 km west to Bunya Mountains, through parched farmland and patches of gum forest. We got overtaken by huge thunderstorms and had to stop and pull over because of the ferocity of the rain. The Bunyas is a lovely area, 1,000 metres up. with one of the last patches of bunya and hoop pine rainforest left in Australia. Unlike the rainforest on the Border Ranges further south it was saved from the 2019 spring bush fires that swept through rainforest last year.

Bunya pines are weird looking Araucarias, in the same family as Chilean monkey puzzle trees, Caledonian araucarias like the Caledonian pines and kauris. The last time we were up this way was 2007, after teaching in and around Bundaberg. It was reassuring to see and hear so many birds around and watch the campsite filled with wallabies as the daylight faded.

We won't be finally leaving Scarborough with Sundari until April and have to fit another trip to NZ into the time between now and then, but we may still look for weather to do some diving across at Moreton Island or sail up north to Lady Musgrave at the bottom end of the Barrier Reef or into the Sandy Strait.



Sundari, looking good too!



Bunya pine



Strangler fig



Red necked wallaby - note the green grass on the campsite - tasty tucker for dozens of wallabies as daylight fades.



Personal stories bring the recent bush fire drama to life. We first heard Harry (pictured) on the HF radio net in the Med. when he was on his boat, Malua. We caught up with him twice recently in Noumea, still on Malua. He was on his boat on his berth in Bermagui, Southern NSW, when one of the big, recent, bush fires came close to the town. He had a heart attack, he thinks, because of smoke inhalation, but survived because of drugs on board. He then drove all the way up to Canberra before the highway was cut off, where he has a second house, and was admitted to hospital. He is pictured here at home in thick bushfire smoke in Canberra after being released. Harry's home in Bermagui and boat are O.K.

No Cat Astrophe in Christchurch

16 January 2020 | Christchurch
Alison and Geoff Williams | sunny, dry and warm
Photo above of Elle, looking a bit sinister, but in reality just blinking in the camera flash.

We are back in West Island, the land of fire, drought and flooding rain. Before getting into the story of our homes coming (to our 2 boats that is) we had better fill in the picture of our stay in NZ's second largest city, Christchurch.

We aren't great city enthusiasts and try and avoid them like the plague most of the time (O.K. we have spent many months in the Gold Coast, but that was almost obligatory), but rather than brave the holiday crowds around the South Island, swelled by thousands of visiting everyones from everywhere, looking after 2 nicely behaved pussies in a comfortable Christchurch pad seemed tempting.

Of course, given Christchurch's recent history, there was aways the prospect of some catastrophe happening, even if there was no cat-astrophe. As it turned out, everything went smoothly and we got to explore much more of the Banks Peninsula, the wetlands around Christchurch and the nearby Alps and their foothills.

Christchurch has become the NZ epicentre (Wellingtonians may disagree!) of everything revolving on healthy, outdoors activity. Cycle lanes are mushrooming everywhere and there are literally dozens of good walking tracks within close reach of the city.

It seems that Cantabrians like their leisure facilities, as they are seen cycling, jogging, surfing, swimming, walking and skiing (in season) everywhere. A lot of the eastern suburbs are near sea level, so the shit could the fan in years to come with projected sea level rises, but the same goes for a lot of other cities, too.



Tom, trying to get out. Sorry, not allowed after dark! Miiaaoow!



Pegasus Bay, near New Brighton, looking towards the Banks Peninsula




Akaroa harbour - one of two extinct craters on the Banks Peninsula. Akaroa village is on the eastern shore.



Gendarmerie? Akaroa was settled by the French and of course, locals now exploit this little piece of history for the tourists, including it seems, the local cops!




Totara tree, about 2,000 years old, near Akaroa - one the settlers didn't chop down



Alison on a path in the foothills of the Alps on New Year's Day - smoke in the air from the bushfires in Oz.



SH 73 on the way towards Arthur's Pass from Christchurch



Lake Pearson on Highway 73 out of Christchurch



Looking up the Waimakariri River towards the Alps near Arthurs Pass

Season's Greetings

22 December 2019 | Christchurch, New Zealand
Alison and Geoff Williams | calm and sunny
Photo above of pohutukawa tree flowers - NZ's very own Christmas tree.

O.K., so that's another year gone down the gurgler, then. It wasn't exactly a stellar year, was it? The whiff of fascism just got that much stronger. The tendency for people, and particularly governments, to ignore the science that seems too inconvenient to them continues to be baffling, depressing and increasingly frightening. Those at the top of the world's heap of 9 billion have again used everything in their arsenal to stay at the top (no surprises there). Too many towards the bottom of the heap have given up understanding what's going on, or blame those even less fortunate than themselves for their woes.

It would be easy to ignore all this, but unfortunately you can't. The ramifications of the reign of Trump, the election of reactionary governments in Australia, Brazil, Britain and elsewhere, the failure of international bodies and governments to tackle the looming calamity of climate change affects all of us. We are unlikely to be the only ones to wonder whether humanity has created such a monster that it is incapable of controlling it.

As we all roll into 2020, a new decade, we hope that we are not being too pessimistic. This is no time for complacency and retreat into individual self-gratification. It's time to become aware of the alarming situation humanity and this beautiful planet and all that live in it and act. Vote, march, shout, argue, defy and denounce fake media stories and lies, live within the planet's means and think of others as much as you can, especially those who still have a lifetime left to live. Us old farts have had a bloody good innings. Those born today should be able to look forward to the same.



Australia's Prime Minister explains his government's climate change policy clearly after he was discovered hiding in Hawai'i during his country's worst ever bushfire crisis.

Tiki Tour - South of the South

16 December 2019 | Christchurch, Canterbury, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | wet and cold!
Photo shows the Cook massif and the Hooker Valley, South Canterbury high country. Mt Cook is on the right of the photo. All other photos can be seen here in the gallery

We are back in Christchurch after a tiki tour* around the bottom half of the South Island. Our attempt to complete another multi day walk was thwarted by the weather. Basically, as soon as we had left Christchurch a few weeks ago, the forecast was for a huge storm that would barrel its way across the Southern Ocean below Stewart Island and expected to dump large amounts of rain on the west coast and the high country - more or less where we wanted to choose a walk.

The forecast proved correct as we ascended onto the Mackenzie Plateau and passed the three large green Alpine lakes of Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau. The sky looked tortured and black to the west. Because of the rain shadow effect of the Southern Alps, we have learned before to keep East when the wind is from the West (and more rarely vice versa). We explored the Otago coast and the tussock country of Central Otago as the rains poured elsewhere, swelling the rivers, and causing floods that broke the two main western and eastern highways - NZ's one lane 'motorways.'

The Otago coast has plenty of marine wildlife to goggle at. Sealions on the sandy beaches, fur seals on the rocks and Hector's dolphins in the surf. Little blue and rarer yellow eyed penguins were nesting, as well as shags of three species, gulls, terns, waders, ducks and black swans.

Central Otago is getting invaded by the dreaded pivot irrigators and dairy herds, a matter of some strong controversy here in NZ, but there are still plenty of raw, red gorges, tussock covered hills and rocky countryside to admire.

We timed an arrival at Wanaka, the first of Otago's High Country lakes, just as the lake levels had peaked and the weather cleared to clear blue skies. We skirted around both Lakes Wanaka and Wakatipu (Queenstown) and then made a quick dash down through Southland to Fiordland and Milford Sound. It's the only one of the 14 sounds (correctly called fiords) that tourists can access and can get quite crowded, especially now Chinese tourists have arrived in their thousands.

Although we should have been used to being in the South Island, it's always a surprise to discover just how varied the landscape is. Just when you would think Mother Nature would have become exhausted creating such a surfeit of beauty and put her feet up wih a cup of tea, you turn a corner and the scenery just seems to get better and better. It's certainly like that along the Milford Road. A single kea (NZ's alpine parrot) arrived and attempted to destroy just what could be removed from vehicle rubber. Because of the recent heavy rain, there were waterfalls falling off the sheer walls of the valleys and the sound itself everywhere.

We were lucky to have lovely weather while passing back via Mt Cook and we walked up the Hooker valley to where the Hooker Glacier descends off the Mt Cook massif. There are around 3,000 glaciers in the Southern Alps, the most spectacular around Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring further south, but they are all in retreat, like glaciers elsewhere in the world. It's hard to imagine even the huge Tasman glacier surviving another 20 years.

The other event that has dominated the news here and overseas of course is the explosion on Whakaari / White Island, a small volcanic island about 20 nm off the Eastern Bay of Plenty coast. In a moment of incredibly bad timing, a group of tourists were blasted as they explored the crater rim, killing 16 of them and injuring many more.

We spent a few weeks with Saraoni in 2006 attempting to get to Whakaari. It's not an easy island to stop at, as the only half decent anchorage is on the south side. To anchor there, you need northerly winds, or no wind at all. That puts the boat at a risk as the volcano then sends ash and smoke in your direction.

No doubt when the recriminations and accusations die down, it won't stop people trying to tempt fate with nature's fury. The episode reminded us of of the volcanos we have visited before - Ili Api near Lembata in Indonesia, Vulcan in the Med. near Stromboli, Rincon de la Vieja in Costa Rica, Isabela's active craters in the Galapagos and more recently Yasur on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu (although we only anchored at Lenakel and saved the volcano for 2020!). Any one of them could have blown up in our faces and we would have no-one to blame but ourselves.

* a 'tiki tour' for non NZ ers means a leisurely jaunt by car or bus seeing the sights without too much exertion!



A kea on the Milford Road - the world's only alpine parrot, endangered of course!

In the Moa’s Shadow?

28 November 2019 | Christchurch, SI, New Zealand
Alison and Geoff Williams | Hot and sunny
Photo of a robin coming to say 'Kia Ora' at Cannibal Gorge hut on the St James Walkway.

We are back in Christchurch to check out the house (and cats) we are looking after over Christmas. It was 35 degrees today, 10 degrees hotter than Moreton Bay where Sundari is sitting in Scarborough marina. Beaches at Sumner and Taylor's Mistake were full of sunworshippers and surfers. It's a whiff of the usual weather in the Gold Coast, but it'll probably be raining and freezing here, tomorrow!

We have time for 1 more long hike, or perhaps more, depending on the weather. We've just come down from the Lewis Pass and the west coast where we walked some, but not all, of the St. James walkway, one of NZ's oldest tracks.

Much of this area,which straddles the northernmost of the South Island's 3 passes that cross the Southern Alps, is public conservation land, clothed in southern beech forest.

As we trudged up the sometimes steep track that follows the lovely, raging Maruia River, high above Cannibal Gorge, we heard, then saw, the 3 K's - kea , alpine parrot, kākā, forest parrot and kakariki, yellow fronted parakeet, but not in large numbers. The other 'K', the flightless kakapo, the world's fattest and only nocturnal parrot used to live around here in the thousands, but is almost extinct, but holding its ground in Fiordland.

Our old friends, the little robins, hopped out of nowhere for a close up inspection. Like the tomtits, fantails and weka, we have always wondered whether these birds live in the shadow of the long extinct moa. The behaviour of these wild birds is far too consistently 'friendly' to make sense, unless there is a genetic component to it. Maybe in years gone by when giant birds stalked these same forests, the smaller birds foraged for food stirred up by big feet. We'll never know of course!

We're looking at the weather as usual before choosing the next walk. It looks crappy for the next week as lows roll in over the Tasman.



Lewis Pass tarn and lower Maruia Valley



Suspension Bridge over the Maruia River
at Cannibal Gorge




Cannibal Gorge DOC hut.There was only us, the birds and the sandflies here.



Maruia River on the track to Ada Pass



Maruia Valley



Ada Pass DOC hut, St James Walkway



Ada Pass loo with a view

Blown Away on the Crest of Totaranui

19 November 2019 | Picton, Marlborough, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | Mix of cloud and sun
Fern trees and Queen Charlotte Sound at every bend

We are back in busy little Picton at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, after a 5 day jaunt along the Queen Charlotte Track. Like the Abel Tasman, it's a popular track and one we have avoided before because of its popularity and the expense of getting to the start of it. Queen Charlotte Sound is the main entry point to the South Island from Wellington by ferry and like so many others we have traversed this route and across the Cook Strait many times before, but never bothered to walk its length.

The track follows the northern coastline of the sound from Ship's Cove through to Anakiwa, about 75km in length. In the middle part, it traverses the ridge between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sound to the North. Boats take walkers to different access points along the track, so you can more or less do as little or as much as you want, staying in anything from simple DOC campsites to 5 star resorts. As usual, we chose the cheapest option, loading our packs with camping gear and 5 days worth of food and got a ride through to the far end of the track, Ship's Cove*, where Captain Cook dropped in several times on his various exploratory jaunts to and around Aotearoa.

The track is also the first section of the South Island half of the Te Araroa trail, the 'long pathway' that runs from Cape Reinga in the North to Bluff in the South. The TA has become more popular since we walked a part of it back in 2016 and we met quite a few TA walkers on the track, a nice soft starter before the rigours of the Richmond Range.

The weather wasn't so generous this time, with strong to gale force north westerlies for the full 5 to 6 days of walking. The first night we spent in a picture perfect grassy clearing at Schoolhouse Bay with a feast of mussels on the shoreline, but the wind raged all night, threatening to topple the tent and break its slender aluminium poles. Despite the weather, the scenery throughout was surprisingly unspoiled and we met far few hikers than the Abel Tasman.



Schoolhouse Bay before the gale



Camp Sundaoni above the Bay of Many Coves



Above Roitama Bay looking South



Punga Cove



Coffee time!



Endeavour Inlet

The Sounds are a patchwork of DOC managed conservation land and private property. The first colonists, eager to turn NZ into their version of Merrie England, chopped most of the original forest down, including the huge tōtara trees that Maori had sought out for their canoes and had given rise to the Māori name for the sound - Tōtaranui (big tōtara). They then tried raising sheep, which became uneconomical once the world's appetite for wool and sheep meat waned. Now, much of the land is slowly regenerating, or has been put into pine plantation. It's a hard slog trying to revert this convoluted and steep land back to what it might have been, but there are signs of progress everywhere and the walk itself was rewarding despite the weather attempting to blow us off the track or the campsites at times. As in Abel Tasman, there seemed to be weka around everywhere. Even in places where we just stopped for a breather, one would pop out of the bush looking to see what mischief they could make.



Large rimu tree that escaped the settlers' axe



Tiki?



Hoi - Come Back With That!

We are back to tapping away to make some money for a short while before we venture out again in to the wilds, probably a 5 to 6 day walk in the high country East of the Lewis Pass. We are keeping an eye on the ongoing fire drama in NSW and SE Queensland. We can't understand just what more Aussie politicians need to get in to their thick heads before they junk King Coal and Uncle Rupert (Murdoch) and get serious about climate change. The fires have been catastrophic for the people and habitats concerned, but haven't threatened our two boats, except perhaps showering them with black ash!

* Just missed the arrival of 2 Polynesian ocean going sailing waka and the replica of Cook's bark, the "Endeavour" and the Spirit of NZ in Ship's Cove. It's all part of the 'commemorations' surrounding Cook's 1770s visits down under, and have been a very controversial and thought provoking series of events, with the Endeavour banned by local Māori in several North Island ports.

Glorious Weather Along the Wrecker Weka Trail

04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | Warm and windy, rain soon
Photo shows two flightless male weka facing off against each other at the Anchorage DOC campsite in Abel Tasman NP.

We are in the small village of Collingwood, almost as far north west as you can get along the top of the South Island. Past here is Farewell Spit and the Puponga Reserve, which we will explore tomorrow.

We spent four days walking on the Abel Tasman coastal track in glorious sunny weather. It's one of NZ's 10 (soon to be 11) Great Walks, hiking trails we have always avoided because of their popularity and cost (their campsites and DOC huts are much more expensive than those along ordinary wilderness tracks in the public conservation estate. Camping is normally free and 800 odd non Great Walk DOC huts can be accessed by a 90 dollar hut pass on non Great Walk huts). We assumed because it was only November it wouldn't be too busy. In fact, perhaps because of the weather, it was quite busy with people from all over the world using the trail.

The Abel Tasman coast is atypical of the South Island's other, more rugged, parts. It's more boutique and easier walking than, for example, the North West Circuit of Stewart Island which we have walked twice before, taking 12 days each time.

It's a very lovely walk, easily the best coastal scenery since we walked the Yedi Burun on Turkey's Lycian Coast. The track winds up and down from one golden bay to another, sometimes challengingly steep for our old legs, but plenty of views to keep the camera clicking.

We last walked part of the track in 1986 after packing kiwifruit in nearby Motueka (the island/ motu of the weka!). Since then, apart from the track becoming almost uncomfortably popular, there has been a huge restoration effort to restore the park area to something of its former faunal and floral glory. The weka that so teased us back in 1986 completely disappeared under pressure from stoats in the 1990s, but have since been reintroduced and are now seen everywhere, alternately delighting and enraging campers. Kākā parrots have joined the park to add to depleted wild ones and are merrily making mischief around Bark Bay. Predator control has also meant the return of the orchestra like dawn chorus, as bellbirds chime along in unison early in the morning.

South Island birds like the weka and SI robins seem to be more oblivious to danger than their North island cousins, something which has not helped them after the introduction of mammals. Weka can't stop themselves, poking and prying and stealing or destroying whatever they can find. Even if you chuck something at them, all that does is encourage them to come closer. The DOC warden at Bark Bay said that the kākā there have learned how to turn on water taps when they want to, but don't bother turning them off again.

We are off to Farewell Spit tomorrow while our muscles and joints get some rest, then will plan the next long walk.



It's one lovely bay after another along the Abel Tasman track



and another



and another



and another



and another



Kākā parrot at Bark Bay.This is one that has been recently reintroduced.
Note the bands on each leg.




This lovely Californian quail is an introduced species, but is no threat to other native birds.

Sounding Out the North of the South

04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | Warm and windy
Photo shows "Sounds Fine" steaming down the Kenepuru Sound.


We've been keeping away from ice and snow by moving North in the South Island. Nelson and Marlborough are two of NZ's sunniest regions and the sun has been shining since we left Kaikoura. No doubt that will soon be about to change, but for now we are enjoying the warmth and blue skies.

First stop was the town of Blenheim, where old yachtie friends, Alastair and Vivienne, have comfortably settled in a relatively new house on a hillside out of town, conveniently right next to a vineyard and a golf course. Since selling their 40 foot Island Packet, "Largo Star," they have bought a new, smaller motor cruiser, perfect for cruising the extensive network of waterways in the Marlborough Sounds. They wanted to rename the cruiser "Piwakawaka" after the movements of the fantail, but gave up after learning that according to Māori legend, it was the harbinger of death!

We went for a short cruise up the Kenepuru Sound with them from their marina in Havelock, enough to give us an idea of this potential new cruising ground. Unfortunately, it's not an easy task sailing down to the SI from Northland. A Belgian yachtie we first met in Tenerife was on a mooring in Picton, on holiday from Wellington, 30 nm across the Cook Strait. He crossed both the Atlantic and the Pacific at the same time as us and got work in Auckland, then sailed down the East Coast of the North Island in "Boxing Kangaroo" to take up a new job in Wellington. Bregt single-handedly stopped Saraoni from dragging on to rocks while we were off walking in Isla Isabela in the Galapagos. The boat dragged as the wind got up, then luckily passed a mooring, just as Bregt got to it to tie it up securely.

Next stop is the Abel Tasman National Park. We might come back later to walk the Queen Charlotte Track that lies along the Sound of the same name.



"Sounds Fine" in Havelock marina. The Sounds are more suited to chugging along in a motor boat than in a yacht.



Alastair and Geoff in "Sounds Fine," Vivienne steering.



Kenepuru Sound, looking East



Freddy, the dog, Geoff, Alastair and Vivienne. Geoff's just looking chuffed after not collapsing after a 3.5 km walk near Havelock



Queen Charlotte Sound from the windy road between Picton and Havelock

Kaikoura – A South island Taonga

29 October 2019 | Nelson, South Island, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | warmish and sunny
Photo shows the Seaward Kaikoura Range from Kaikoura's wharf. Mount Fyffe is the lower, broad peak, middle left at 1,600m. Manakau is the highest of the Seawards at 2,600m, middle centre.

We are up at the top end of the South Island, preparing for our first real walk - an easy stroll along the Abel Tasman coastline. It's normally one of NZ's most popular walking tracks, particularly in summer, so hopefully quiet at the moment.

We have spent a few days in Kaikoura on the South Island East coast. We've passed through a few times over the years, but haven't actually taken time to explore the peninsula itself since 1978 (!) Then, the little town was just a fishing village and seals and whales were there to be hunted or shot.

Most of the residents here now make a living from taking tourists out on the sea to see the sperm and humpback whales and several species of dolphins that come close to the coast here. There are also a lot of seabirds, especially shearwaters, petrels and albatrosses. Fur seals have expanded in large numbers all along this coast since a ban on hunting. There must be thousands of seals between Ohau Point, where the larger colony is to the North, and the peninsula itself.





Fur seals on the Kaikoura Coast

The 2016 earthquake resulted in 2 to 4 metres of seabed being raised along the entire coast. The town and the environment is generally only now recovering.

The two high snow covered mountain ranges, the Seaward and Inland Kaikouras, march along parallel to, and very close to, the coast, making for spectacular scenery when the sun is shining. The country between the ranges is one of NZ's latest conservation areas, Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia, easy to access, but rugged once you get there, in the valley of the Clarence River.

We both climbed Mount Fyffe, almost by accident, back in December 1978. It was the first walk we did together and almost the last!

We had camped at the base of the mountain in a hinau forest, then left everything behind to climb to the top. By the time we got near the peak, it was almost dark and there was ice on the track. We found a hut and made a fire and helped ourselves to food and coffee that had been left inside. We didn't know at the time,but this was one of the country's 900 strong back country huts built and maintained for the public to use (then by the NZ Forest Service, now by DOC). In the past, we haven't always used DOC huts and have preferred to camp, but they can be a life saver!



Cabbage trees along the peninsula walk



Looking South along the head of the peninsula, raised seabed clearly visible.



The Seaward Kaikouras across the Northern bay.


From the Mountains to the Sea

22 October 2019 | Christchurch, Te Waka o Māui, New Zealand
Alison and Geoff Williams | Cold and rainy!
Photo shows the Southern Alps rearing up in the background across the city and the Canterbury Plain. The Heathcote Estuary is in the foreground.


We are in the South Island of New Zealand, Te Waka o Māui / Māui's canoe. Māui claimed he caught the biggest fish in the world, the North island, Te Ika o Māui, from his waka while anchored at Kaikoura. Mind you, Māui had about the same reputation for bullshit as Boris Johnson, so there you go.

We have another couple of days in Christchurch before heading up the coast to Kaikoura and then starting a series of walks. The weather has varied from abominable to mildly sunny and pleasant since our arrival, but we have never been down here this early, so we will start in the North and work our way South, alternating between tapping for our kai and heading for the hills.

We haven't been to Christchurch since 2006, before the two bad earthquakes which radically reshaped the city. Christchurch was settled as an uber English colony back in 1856, planned in England even before anyone had a clue about where to place the city. The nearby deep water port of Lyttelton, nestled in one of the two extinct craters that make up the Banks Peninsula, had too little flat land for a city.

The decision was made to build the settlement on reclaimed swampland on each side of the Avon River / Ōtākaro. 165 years later, that decision came back to bite the founding fathers when the soft ground under the city centre and the eastern suburbs liquefied during the two earthquakes, resulting in the death of 185 people and necessitating many of the CBD's buildings, and 10,000 private houses in what is now the Red Zone to the East, to be demolished.

It wasn't the only strange decision made back in the nineteenth century. The settlers cut down what was left of the native trees that survived the depradations of Māori moa hunters, and planted just about every species of English tree that could grow, plus quite a few others,including gums. Just to make them feel more at home, English birds were brought in, like sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes, yellowhammers, chaffinches and skylarks, as well as Aussie magpies.

Christchurch seems to have survived emotionally after the earthquakes and the recent slaughter of 51 Muslims in the two city mosques. The best parts are still lovely and there are huge areas of parks and green spaces scattered around. The Red Zone, all 6,600 hectares of it, between the city and the beach, is finally to be regenerated with wetlands and recreational facilities. There are cycleways popping up everywhere and the number of residents who walk, jog and cycle matches the number of jetskiiers and motor boat users in the Gold Coast - it's a huge contrast.

We've been to see a couple of old friends who live here. Pete and Cathy arrived back in NZ just before us in 2015 on their steel ketch "Waverunner." It's now in the new Lyttelton marina, parked next to Largo Star, Alastair and Vivienne's old boat. Pete and Cathy live 20 km out of the city and are trying to make up their minds whether to put Waverunner on the market. Good luck with that! We also saw Rowan Taylor, last seen up the Ruatiti River at Riamaki, a 1,000 hectare block in the Whanganui back country to the west of the central North island volcanoes, bought by us and several others back in 1978.

Rowan and I (Geoff) shared a tumbledown timber house for a while back in 1975, coincidentally just behind what is now the Al Noor mosque in Riccarton, scene of the March massacre.



Rowan Taylor and Geoff. Rowan was last seen 40 years ago in the Whanganui back country. He now lives a stone's throw from his parents' old place near Lake Ellesmere, where his dad had an eeling business.



Library with a view. The New Brighton library has a great view of the Pacific.



From Red Zone to Green Stripe. The Te Ara Ōtākaro cycle trail is the first step to regenerating the eerie green void that used to once house 10,000 houses along the Avon. The grey shading on the poster is the part of the city most damaged because of liquefaction. It is too risky allowing any rebuilding on this once swampy land, so it will become Christchurch's newest park and wetlands.



A poignant lingering display outside the Al Noor mosque. The Silver Fern flag seems a bit incongruous though.



Can't get away from boats. Largo Star, last seen in Turkey, lies alongside Wave Runner in Lyttelton marina.



Lyttelton Harbour - one of two breached extinct craters (with Akaroa) on the Banks Peninsula



Brrrr! The Haast Pass was closed last night after a wintry blast and the Alps were covered in fresh snow down to 800 m. this morning. That settles whether we go North or South first! Pic from the RNZ website

Sunny Days on the Sunshine Coast

15 October 2019 | Scarborough, Queensland
Alison and Geoff Williams | Sunny and windy from the NE
Photo shows Mounts Beerwah and Coonowrin on the Sunshine Coast from Mt Ngungun

We've always enjoyed gazing at the oddly shaped Glasshouse Mountains that rear out of the flat coastal plain on the Sunshine Coast. Maybe it's because of their evocative names. They had a lot of spiritual significance to the mostly long gone indigenous people who lived in this area and it's not hard to see why.

The Glasshouse Mountains are all eroded plugs from a series of volcanic eruptions about 25 million years ago. A few are easy to climb, like Beerburrum and Ngungun, but the others are rock climbs or tricky scrambles. With a few days of car hire, mostly to sort Saraoni's new berth out back on the Gold Coast, we had a couple of days to spare for exploring further North.

We climbed Ngungun with what it seemed like half of Brisbane (tip: avoid weekend bush trips anywhere within 100 km of Brisbane!) and had all the other 12 or so mountains in sight from the top. Think we scrambled up Beerwah many years ago on a trip into Brisbane from PNG, but it didn't look so easy when we looked up this time and with healthy twenty somethings rushing up the bare rocky slopes we decided to give it a miss!

Should be in NZ in a couple of days, where the mountains are a lot higher and no doubt covered in white stuff.



Panorama of the Glasshouse Mountains. Tibrogargan is the highest, centre left.



Rocky Beerwah, too steep for us today. In Aboriginal mythology, Beerwah was the mother, Tibrogargan the father, Ngungun the (dingo) dog, the other mountains the children.



Culture clash. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is from this weekend officially not climbable, but it might be hard getting Brisbanites to stop climbing these lumps of rock.



Coonowrin, the tallest son of Beerwah and Tibrogargan. Definitely one for the birds!



Forget snakes, spiders, scorpions, crocs, dingos, blue ringed octopi and angry rednecks, around here at this time of the year the main danger is swooping magpies! Cyclists are a prime target so those in the know wear helmets with spikes on!

Sundari and Saraoni Tied Up in Harbour for Now

05 October 2019 | Scarborough marina, near Brisbane, Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams | SE, windy afternoons, calm cool mornings
Photo shows Sundari in Scarborough marina. Saraoni is tied up back in Park Cove in the Gold Coast enduring a steady stream of fender kickers and uncommitted wannabe yacht owners.

We are in Scarborough marina with Sundari on the Redcliffe Peninsula in Moreton Bay. Sundari will be here for the next 6 months while we spend our time over the cyclone season / Southern hemisphere summer getting fit and healthy clambering over the South Island (NZ) mountains and doing a cycle ride from Wellingon to Whangarei. At least that's the plan for now.

Our Tekin GC stalled after dealing with the steady trickle of wannabe yacht owners coming for a sticky beak on Saraoni and counting their pennies (not enough of them!), while a steady trickle of nasty lows emanating from the unusual 2019 polar vortex cut across our route between the Gold Coast and New Caledonia. It didn't look much point so late in the cruising season bashing our way eastwards then hanging off a buoy near Noumea just doing more weather watching before the trip down south to NZ. The last straw and decider was when we did a close check on Sundari's 17 year old genoa. It revealed a rip behind the UV strip on the leech, and the feel of the sail indicated it was on its last legs. That means a new sail has to be ordered, costing anywhere between $2,500 and $4,500. Ouch.

We've hired a cheap car in Christchurch for 3 months and will do as much tramping as our 60 year old legs and backs will stand, then fly back to Brisbane to check out the 2 boats (assuming Saraoni hasn't been sold by that stage) in January. We then fly back to Wellington and cycle up to at least Auckland. We will check out the penguin pad in Tutukaka for measurements. We don't think that it will fit Sundari, but you never know. The marina manager said that he might do a swap with another berth in the middle of the marina to fit Sundari's draft.

We'll be back here on the boat early April, ready for the first weather window to New Cal. and / or Vanuatu. Depending on the Brexit result, that gives us 6 months in the islands before we need to sail down to the Bay of Islands in NZ.

Scarborough is no stranger to us. We left Corsair, our first boat, a 1933 kauri sloop, in Newport marina, just around the corner for a couple of months back in 1988 while we tried to make some money picking fruit in Victoria. It's a bit old-fashioned around here. Redcliffe seems to have hardly changed in 30 years and reminds us of a rather seedy, down at heel, English seaside own.


Not everything in Redcliffe is so English. There are always the raucous cockatoos and parrots to remind you are down under. Here in a quiet part of town is a darter, a little pied shag, seagulls and three penguins (eh?), or maybe they are supposed to be dolphins?


However, Moreton Bay is shimmering in the sun not far away and the sand hills of Moreton Island are only just over 10 miles away across the bay. There are as many dugongs, dolphins and turtles around as we remembered and humpbacks are now using the Bay to give birth and generally have a holiday away from their Antarctic feeding grounds.

We took Alison's sister, Susan, and husband, Nick, across the bay in 1988, a trip they still fondly remember. What they don't remember is the all night vigil we had over at Moreton Island when the wind suddenly turned and blew from the west most of the night, putting us on a lee shore. After bouncing around most of the night, the wind typically died and became a lovely sea breeze coming off the sand hills.

Before leaving the Gold Coast we made the second trip this year into the Brisbane CBD to take part in the international climate strike. Compared to March, the crowd was much larger and more diverse with an indigenous group leading the way down George Street. Coming just after the ravages of Hurricane Dorian you would think governments would be getting the hint by now. Unfortunately, ScoMo, Australia's Prime Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place, beholdened to both Rupert Murdoch's hold on the Australian media and the power of the coal lobby.



Climate strike posters in Brisbane CBD: ranging from the plain to the funny, witty, angry and frustrated.



Some of the 30,000 climate strike march in Brisbane

We caught up with old Sail Indonesia friends along the way to here. Rosie and Mike now live on Lamb Island in Southern Moreton Bay, but haven't entirely swallowed the anchor as they still have a yacht they bought in Trinidad. Catherine and Peter on "The Southern Cross" had just sailed back from Noumea and are on their way down to Sydney, contemplating their next move. Ralph, who we met up with last year as he was single handing "El Misti" down from Indonesia, has tied up to a mooring just out of the marina in Deception Bay

Much of Southern Moreton Bay is relatively free of the encroaching sand banks of the Gold Coast and we have at last had an opportunity to put Sundari through its paces.It is certainly a delight to sail.

Vessel Name: Saraoni (1) and Sundari (2)
Vessel Make/Model: South Coast 36 and Beneteau 473 respectively
Hailing Port: Tutukaka, New Zealand
Crew: Alison and Geoff Williams
About:
Saraoni is named after an island in Milne Bay which guards and protects one of our favourite anchorages - Kana Kopi Bay - frequently occupied by us while we were teaching in Alotau, PNG. We have lived, cruised and worked for the last 30 years on three very different boats. [...]
Extra: CONTACT DETAILS Telephone / SMS number +61 477 285 361 (Australian mobile no.) +64 28 432 5941 NZ mobile no.) Email saraoni@gmail.com (main email address)
Saraoni (1) and Sundari (2)'s Photos - Saraoni is for sale - interior photos
Photos 1 to 10 of 10 | Main
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Main saloon
Saloon looking aft
Saloon starboard side
Galley
Forecabin
Aft cabin
Loo with MPPT solar controllers and 1000W inverter
Engine room
Nanni 38 hp diesel
Cockpit
 
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Sailing Into the Unknown

Who: Alison and Geoff Williams
Port: Tutukaka, New Zealand