From Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
Brother! I think we're never going to get out of here. We've been sitting at Marsden Cove Marina since last Sunday along with several other boats, waiting for settled weather in order to head to Fiji. It's like being in limbo since we can't really cruise around and relax because we need to be ready to go as soon as the weather looks good enough (plus we have to report with the boat to check out of the country) and it's kind of winter here now so it's good to be plugged in for heat & power anyway. Plus, we haven't used our onboard heating system in so long that we don't trust it until we give it an overhaul & we wouldn't have all the parts we need. Not having the van anymore means we're sort of grounded unless we borrow a car, which we did a couple of days ago. I mean, there's loads of boat projects left that we can do and believe it or not we're still doing them, but at a slower pace. Every day, we all commiserate on the dock and ventilate about how the forecast changes every time we look at the weather and each new day dissolves the "great weather window just a few days out" that we saw the day before. Oh well, I've at least gotten better over the years at accepting this reality of cruising and appreciating each day that we have to live this life, because it is actually a great life.
We're back to aching again, I mean running again after the hiatus when we were hauled out. I had a great run today on a residential route from the marina that follows the water. Then I came back and folded myself up on the dock to help Jon prep the wind generator for paint since after all, we painted it 18 months ago so why wouldn't it need it again?! Anyway, my legs don't like that any more and now they're sore. When we were working on the mast a few weeks ago, I was using a halyard to pass tools up and down to Jon who was at the top of the mast. Then this huge wind gust came out of nowhere and blew the halyard all the way to the stern & right into the spinning wind generator. Ever since, it's had a vibration so we took it down & apart today to replace the bearing and meanwhile, it needs painting- again. The marina staff were kind enough to give us the keys to their big top tent area so we can use that space to paint it and keep it our of the rain. Beautiful days are punctuated with short rain showers lately, just enough to ruin a coat of varnish or paint.
We came up with a list of our favorite things about New Zealand as well as a few things that we wish were better or that struck us as funny. Here they are: Our own personal opinions about what we've figured out these past few months.
1. New Zealand is absolutely beautiful most everywhere you look. It warms your soul. The incredible landscape, varied foliage and just the way you can have ocean, glaciers, rainforest, desert, plains, mountains, beaches, hot springs, volcanoes- it goes on & on but it's all here, on these two islands.
2. NZ is loaded with well thought our trails, outdoor recreation opportunities and attention to detail. We may not have found backpacking that consistently topped what we've done in the US, but the fact that there's a lovely trail everywhere you turn to walk, bike or hike on is something out of a dream for us.
3. The produce available here is top notch. Our friends from England cruised the US after crossing the Atlantic and they told us that they loved the US, but they felt that our food wasn't as good- lots of processed junk and also that a lot of our produce looked good but didn't have any flavor. We were taken aback. But now we're all here and they ask us what we think. Actually.... I think we kind of agree with some things. We've really enjoyed the produce here. We've never had a better carrot, potato or avocado.
4. There is a warm welcome for "yachties" here. The rally from Tonga, the welcome bag, the literature. They want us here, they have what sailors need for facilities, supplies and skilled people, and in turn, we spend money getting things fixed or making improvements so it is a win-win. Whangarei has been the best place we've ever kept our boat, and for whatever reason, dockage is not too expensive.
5. We get the feeling that Kiwi's are happy and that makes us happy. We've talked to many and they say the same thing- they love it here, they appreciate the beauty of it, they do with less because things are more expensive but they have a good lifestyle and are therefore happy. We don't get a horn up our butt if we miss a turn and no one's shot us the bird the whole time we've been here. We can't say that about back home!
The Not as good or just plain Peculiar:
1. We've done what we usually do- get here at the worst of the exchange rate so NZ is expensive. Groceries, meals out, gas, shoes, imported US products, it all costs a bundle. We couldn't afford to live here long term unless we figured out how those Kiwi's keep it simple. In a land of cows everywhere you look, you wonder why NZ cheese is cheaper in French Polynesia than it is here but no one can tell you the answer.
2. I don't think I'll ever get used to small packaging. Everything is so small I have to buy 2 just to get enough. Plus, it plays tricks with your mind- the latest is the cans of varnish. Usually it's a quart or even a liter but now it's 750ml. The can looks almost the same but in your mind you know something isn't quite right. Then you look at the label and see, OMG, they've even shrunk the varnish can! Same with food. Personally, I never had a problem with America's "super-sizing" or customer incentives. You won't find much of that here.
3. Over the months of traveling around staying at campgrounds & marinas using communal kitchens, bathrooms & laundry facilities we continue to be perplexed about NZ's plumbing! For whatever reason, the taps here are often one little tiny cold water spigot on one side of a big sink and then one little tiny hot water spigot on the other side of the sink, all pushed up close to the edge so that you can barely get your hands, or worse yet a pot under the water. You can wash your face in burning hot water or ice cold water, but not both. Showers are most often coin-op and when the time is up, you get sprayed with cold water unless you get the shower turned off fast enough. Plus, you've always got to have change to take one. The washing machines typically only have cold water so your clothes never get as clean. Why do they put up with this? There is a better way!
4. We've done our best to set an example that pedestrians should have the right of way. Sometimes we try to wave someone across the street just to watch the reaction since the expressions on people's faces are hilarious. They think we're nuts for stopping. We've seen it in less developed countries but we don't think it should be that way here. It's not a big deal but there's something bigger behind it.
5. No shoes, no problem! Across the Pacific we saw virtually no other shoe than the infamous sandal or flip flop. The minister, the teachers, the school kids, the police. In NZ, it isn't uncommon to see people without any shoes on at all. In the grocery store, at the mall, downtown on the sidewalk, on a 50 degree rainy day at the produce market, who needs shoes? I have a recurring dream where I must use a filthy public bathroom but I have no shoes. I stand in the doorway trying to make a decision. Well, what is my problem? Here, it's A-OK!
And there you have it. Someday, some way, we'll get on our way to Fiji, just you wait and see.