Growing roots to the dock in NZ
06 February 2010 | Whangarei, New Zealand
It is a long time since we sent an update and after a stressful passage, we have made it to New Zealand. We spend 5 days in Opua , checking in and getting organized. Found checking in easy and all officials were very professional and courteous. We arrived at the end of the All-Points-Rally to Opua so only got to go to their closing party. The next night we traveled by ferry to Russell to see the town and hear Bob McDavitt speak, (a New Zealand weather Guru) He was very knowledgeable and entertaining which was surprising since we have so much trouble making sense of his Weathergrams (we are working on the local vernacular). The next day we left for Whangarei (pronounced Fong- ga-ray) to get settled before Russ started work.
We are now in Whangarei tied to a dock in the Riverside Drive Marina. Russ has a job in a rig shop (they call it a factory in NZ) and Debbie is working in the office of the same business. We have bought a car and cell phone. Cruising has been great this year, but it is also great to be connected to the grid after a year of constant moving and being at anchor. We like Whangarei which a medium sized city (about 78,000) on the North Island of New Zealand. It is up a river 2 hours from the ocean, so we are here to stay for awhile, since leaving is a long way and can only be done when the tide is right. Since we now have a little car (Honda Civic) we are getting to see parts of the Northland by land trips. Debbie is trying to get used to driving on the wrong (left) side of road and all the round-a-bouts. (Russ grinds his teeth a lot these days.) There are great walking and hiking trails very close to where we are staying and it is so nice to be somewhere where the streets and trails are clean and well maintained.
New Zealanders really take their holidays seriously and all business close for the week between Christmas and New Years, so after working for the company for 3 weeks, Russ had a 10 day (paid) vacation. We spent Christmas in Whangarei, having a potluck dinner with our fellow cruisers in the marina. Dave cooked a leg of lamb on the BBQ and we all brought other dishes to share. It was about 75 degrees out and didn't get dark until 9:30, so Christmas dinner outdoors was very successful. A couple of days later we got in our car and started driving around Northland. The first stop was Hundertwasser's Kawakawa Toilets. Not that stopping for a toilet is such an unusual concept for Debbie, it was the first time she took pictures of the toilet in question. Next we visited the seaside town of Kerikeri which was one of the first places to be settled by Europeans in the early 19th century and is the site of New Zealand's two oldest buildings, the Kemp House and the Stone Store. We also toured Rewa's Village . This is a full-scale recreation of a pre-European Maori village which details traditional aspects of life including a marae, the chief's house, a cooking area, weapons, store, fishing canoe and hangi pit (ground oven). We spent the night camping (in a tent) at a bird sanctuary called Aroha Island (our first night off the boat in a long time). The next day we drove north to Cape Reinga, where the Tasman meets the Pacific Ocean. Great views.
We also visited a Kauri forest and saw the largest and second largest Kauri tree in New Zealand. The forests here are green and lush, with streams and waterfalls. New Zealanders will proudly tell you that it is safe to hike in the woods in NZ because they have no snakes and no dangerous animals. Outside of possums and rats, they virtually have no land mammals, but a wonderful collection of birds. So far, the only Kiwi we have seen was in captivity, but he was in a display set up to be as close to his natural habitat as possible. In the wild, Kiwis are nocturnal and shy of humans, so they are hard to spot. Hopefully we will get lucky before we leave but understand that many New Zealander live here there whole life and never see a Kiwi in the wild.
Since we are working, we are now only doing weekend trips and sightseeing. This is being alternated with the long list of boat projects, we need to complete before we leave here in the spring (NZ's fall). We did get to visit Auckland where we stayed with our cruising friends, the Stuarts, on their boat Lightfoot which is mooring on the Viaduct. They took on a great tour of the city's parks and downtown area and of course, eateries. We had brunch in the Sky Tower in a restaurant that rotates every hour and 10 minutes, giving a constant different view of the city. We watched the cable jumpers leap from the building and plummet to the ground where of course the cables are tightened as the reach the jump deck.
The last couple of weekends have been boat projects, but hopefully more sightseeing next week.